I Was a Teenage Exocolonist

released on Aug 25, 2022

Spend your teenage years on an alien planet in this narrative life sim with card-based battles. Explore, grow up, and fall in love. The choices you make and skills you master over ten years will determine the course of your life and the survival of your colony.

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This game was infinitely more queer and horny than I was expecting - 5 stars

thoroughly entertaining while i was sick from the vaccine

French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir argues in her 1947 book The Ethics of Ambiguity that 'existence precedes essence;' that the personality and the core beliefs of each human individual is defined through their environment and their actions, and that the challenges that allow those personality-shaping events are the ones that truly test the scope of the limits between their limitations and potential, their past against their future, the comfort of familiarity against the fear of the unknown.
"I Was a Teenage Exocolonist" is a quiet meditation on this and other questions asked by de Beauvoir and her fellow existentialists, packaged stealthily in the wrappings of a Solarpunk-themed dating game. Beneath the cotton candy colored environment of Vertumna and the egregiously tumblr-era character designs lies one of the best narrative experiences I've had in years, one that manages to succeed at the challenge of remaining both replayable and emotionally impactful. IWATE introduces the concepts of string theory, mortality, identity, collectivism, and on and on and on as each character you meet lives, grows, dies, lives again, and becomes a different person entirely.
When asked about the passing of her lover, the famed philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, de Beauvoir simply said "His death does not separate us. My death will not bring us together again. That is how things are. It is in itself splendid that we were able to live our lives in harmony for so long.” Vertumna asks you to spend ten years with it before it lets you go, and readily welcomes you back again for the next loop of a cycle that continues on into infinity. But each of those cycles of ten years creates a unique you, and the life you live with its people is truly splendid.
ps: rex is best boy, even with the dumb tattoo, fight me

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I was a teenage exocolonist (which I will call “exocolonist” from now on because that name is too long) is a beautifully queer game.
Just how queer it is becomes obvious immediately during character creation. The game not only lets you choose your pronouns, it lets you customize them. You can have neopronouns. You can have he/him pronouns but use feminine terms like girl and mother. You can have she/they pronouns and use a mix of feminine, masculine, and neutral terms. Literally every single instance of this game using gendered language to refer to the mc is customizable. And your appearance and physical sex are customizable separately from all of this.
The relationships you can have with the other characters (and that they can have with each other) are also beautifully multifaceted. No romance option is gender locked. Some characters will start (queer) relationships on their own, no one is throwing themselves at your feet. There are multiple trans and nonbinary characters. One character is aroace. Not every romance starts at a high friendship level. Not every “romance” is a romance, some characters are happy to be your friends with benefits. Multiple characters are polyamorous. And some relationships in this game are queerplatonic, which is what queer people call relationships we can’t describe properly but they’re really beautiful.
Exocolonist has the best portrayal of gender, love, and sexuality out of any game I’ve ever played, except for maybe Heaven Will Be Mine.
is that what I want my review to be about? Isn’t this game so much more than just a dating sim?
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Exocolonist is a beautiful game about growing up.
Your experiences shape you. The memories you make become the cards you end up using to win the challenges later in your life. I wish the game wasn’t as committed to being a game in some parts because removing some treasured memory because I need to optimize my deck kinda sucks.
This alone already tells a beautiful growing up story, but what makes the game really special is how your relationships to the world, and especially the other children around you change. You start out doing either simple tasks or learning in school and end the game doing things that require highly specialized skills. Most of the adults go from treating you like, well, a child to treating you like an equal.
Your childhood friends will all develop in vastly different directions. Friends thought to be inseparable become bitter rivals. Some go down dark paths and you desperately try to stop them, not always succeeding. But some also grow to lead happy lives and you’re happy for them.
Exocolonist portrays the journey from child to young adult, both the good and the bad.
did I just write this entire review without mentioning that this is a cool science fiction story?
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Exocolonist is a beautiful political science fiction story.
You live in a Utopia that is unlike anything possible with our current technology. There are some interesting political thoughts in this game like how to encourage art in a (mostly) moneyless society, but it unfortunately doesn’t ever dive too deeply into any of them.
The game is also kinda weird about violence. It presents the positions of “violence is good when justified”, “violence is always bad”, and “violence is always bad but sometimes it is still necessary and justified” but there are multiple instances where you are forced to choose between the first two.
As a sci-fi story it has everything you could want. You’re one of the first children born in space, you and everyone else has cool genetic enhancements, you are part of a small group who are trying to be the first humans to life on an alien planet, there are cool aliens and the story explores the theme of living in harmony with nature or bending nature to your will and there’s a cool AI you can befriend and a wormhole and…
A wormhole
Yes, a wormhole. What was so special about this wormhole? Come on, tell the people
Yes, I know how to review this game now, but I’ll have to spoil a game mechanic that you might discover as early as reloading an old safe or as late as starting your second run. I had it spoiled for me before I started playing the game and didn’t mind at all but if you want an unspoiled experience I recommend you stop reading and start playing now
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Whenever a game has multiple routes/endings, people will replay it over and over. Some games use this to pad their playtime, some use it to tell the same story from different perspectives, and exocolonist deconstructs it to a degree.
In exocolonist, the mc retains some knowledge from previous playthroughs when you start a new game. This allows you to save people you couldn’t save the first time, take shortcuts to things that took a long time to solve previously and just generally makes your life easier.
This recontextualizes replays from being something you the player are doing to see all the content in this game to something the mc is doing to improve their life. No ending is perfect (though some are much closer to perfect than others) so there is always a reason to come back and try something differently.
Unfortunately for this game I played it after I played Everhood, so now a story about constantly relieving your life to chase after some unobtainable perfection feels slightly wrong to me. There is a way to break this loop, but the game portrays this as a bad ending and offers you to restore the loop with basically no consequences.
I’ll just pretend that after I got the ending that is as close to perfection to me as possible, the mc decided to stop this loop. I won’t replay the game again anytime soon. Solana’s happy.
That’s a pretty decent review but I still feel like it doesn’t do the game justice
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No review can do this game justice. It is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a queer dating sim, it’s about growing up, it’s a political sci-fi story and it’s a cool meta game, but it’s so much more than this.
This game is really special. Go and check it out.

blasted through this in 2 days like some sort of deranged nolifer but i think that's mostly due to how fun this game is! the story is surprisingly easy to sink your teeth into, the characters are alright, and the card gameplay is great too. seems like there's a good amount of variation also, but for now i need to like lie down or something

god this game is incredible. a whirlwind of teenage traumas, growing up, alien adventure and political strife. so full of life. if you're expecting a defanged novel about love or something, you'll be pleasantly surprised!