Visual Novels announced on Kickstarter are hit or miss—either they fail terribly without rewards being guaranteed and backtracking on promises, or they do well enough; they aren’t marketed well enough to reach a large audience, however. There are also projects where the art is…acceptable but not great.
TOUCHSTARVED lives to disprove all these fears.
TOUCHSTARVED is a dark romance visual novel by Red Spring Studio. The game will be released in Q4 2025. Though much can change in two years, people are already screeching across the Internet, making fanart, fanfiction, and Original Characters (OCs) who will be thrust into Eridia.
Story — Hottie Monsters
The demo encompasses the opening chapter, introducing the Love Interests (LIs), the world, and the cursed Main Character. As there is no predetermined name or gender, I’ll be using they/them pronouns and referring to the Main Character as MC.
MC is cursed. Anyone they touch with their bare hands goes mad. To keep others safe, they wrap their hands in bandages. No matter the background, they journey to the Senobium to find a cure. There, they meet five strange individuals, all with their own motivations and secrets.
All five of them are monsters, but in what way?
TOUCHSTARVED is different than most visual novels in that it offers background options for the MC, akin to Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games. MC can be The Unnamed, an oracle for a temple; The Hound, a criminal raised on the streets; or The Alchemist, where an exiled Senobium mage takes you in. Each background offers different observations though we do not know how it will affect future routes and choices.
We meet our five monstrous Love Interests in the span of a day, and we’ll talk more about the pacing of the demo. Kuras is a kind doctor who heals for free in the slums of Eridia. He is an angel who has lived for centuries. His secret is that he is trying to atone for a past mistake. Leander is the leader of the Bloodhound gang. He is also a Mage, though he cannot cure the MC. He is good and kind without any overly suspicious, but in a world full of monsters and greed, nothing good comes freely.
There is also Mhin, our nonbinary Soulless Hunter. The Soulless are Monsters without strong consciousness. Mhin is cursed with a monster living inside them (it’s unclear what that means). Depending on the MC’s background, they can glean that Mhin was once a scientist. Mhin hunts for a cure, just like MC.
The last two LIs are monsters and the ones I am more excited about. There is Vere, a kitsune/fox-like Monster, chained by the Senobium for centuries to sniff out Soulless. Lastly, there is Ais, the demon who harbors an eldritch horror.
As for the five LIs, four of them use he/him pronouns, while one uses they/them. There are two DLC characters, and one uses she/her, while the other uses he/him. The game is unevenly split between gender expressions. I would have loved for Kuras, Vere, and Ais to use he/they pronouns because of being centuries-old Monsters. Does gender really mean anything when your true form is a million eyes on wings or a large beast?
There are a few plot holes, such as MC not using gloves to prevent touching someone. They could have worn gloves before traveling to Eridia, and a Soulless attacked them, causing their clothing to be destroyed. The writers may be using the bandages as a quick way to cause tension in dire situations; it is unbelievable that the MC wouldn’t wear gloves.
There is also mention of MC kissing someone, but the touch of their lips doesn’t curse their lover. How? Is it only by touching hands that they curse someone? Does the curse extend to their arms? If MC were to stand on someone with bare feet, would the person be okay, or would they be cursed?
All of the LIs meet together at the bar towards the end of the demo. It is confusing as to how some characters got there so quickly (looking at you, Ais), but for the sake of the characters all being together, I’ll let it slide for now.
The demo has issues with pacing, as well. We encounter all 5 LIs within the span of a single day. It would be better to have breathers in between each character and allow us to get closer to them. It would have been fun to meet Kuras and Leander on Day 1 and catch glimpses of Mhin while traveling to the Senobium. Day 2 would be for the Vere and Ais, exploring more of the lore of Monsters and Senobium’s control. Mhin could be revealed as the final LI on Night 2 and escort the MC back to the bar, where everyone is gathered.
Gameplay — Read at your leisure
Gameplay is standard for visual novels: click the dialogue youlike; otherwise, read. There is no customization for the MC, which some people have complained about.
It’s hard to tell how much weight each of the choices has, as well. While some dialogue turns red if the player picks the right ones, it’s hard to tell if it increases Affection for that Love Interest or if it’s only special dialogue. I also hope for varied Bad Endings instead of “you died” like a Soulsborne game. Which a projected game time of 15 hours per route, so there is a possibility of 75 hours total; let there be Bad Endings with CGs. Let MC suffer; let LI suffer. Let our choices mean something, especially as there is a threat of something worse than death.
The Hound is my favorite Background. However, it needs to be reworked. There needs to be aggression, either in dialogue choices (it would be incredible to have specific dialogue options tied to backgrounds) or in thoughts. The Hound, our thief on the streets, is timid and shy like the Unnamed. They deserve to have more bite.
Graphics and Audio — Stunning and Simple
In terms of art style, the sprites of the characters are beautiful. The backgrounds are simpler, allowing the characters to pop. At times, the backgrounds feel too flat and plain. Sometimes something was described, and the background was zoomed in but did not show what was described. Hopefully, this will be changed in the final game with either more backgrounds or more details in said backgrounds.
The game will be at least partially voice-acted, and listening to the YouTube stream of the voice actors saying lines was fun. I especially liked [BLANK]. The soundtrack, as it currently stands, is minimal, though the track you hear upon encountering Ais is dramatic. There were issues with the music having noticeable loops that will be addressed for the full game.
Red Spring Studio is a powerhouse regarding marketing and employees’ past resumes. While TOUCHSTARVED is their first project together under this new studio, I have high hopes for this game and their future.
And I’ll wait, touch starved, until 2025.