Kismet Reviews Of Sense and Soul's Extended Demo


Main menu screen for Of Sense and Soul

Images are from Of Sense and Soul by Forsythia Productions


I'd seen this project on Kickstarter and meant to play the extended demo in time to support it, but things got in the way. By the time I tried the demo, the initial campaign was over but the Backerkit campaign had just begun. Spoiler alert: I hopped on it because the demo is that good. If you enjoy the Victorian era, historic romance, and queer tales, you should give it a go!

Now then, onto the review.

Of Sense and Soul takes place in the Victorian era, and the novel fully embraces the setting. From the furnishings to the costuming to the attitudes, everything is selected with care to reflect the times, making it a wonderful experience. One thing that turned me away from another project not long ago was having the story set in a historic era but finding most of the character designs out of sync, with hair in neon colors and costumes from other times. This VN doesn't do that, and I was so glad to remain immersed in the era.

Hugo looking in your direction

Hugo sharing a glance with the reader

Dear Hugo is a bachelor and editorial writer for a newspaper in London (and a precious cinnamon roll who must be protected). He's quite comfortable with his rented room and his books, but his cousin shows up to express real concern for him. It's not just that he isn't married, it's that he isn't connected to many people at all. His cousin gently insists that he deserves companionship, and it's true. He's rather sweetly urged to have a look around, so he does, in one of the most Victorian ways - he checks the personal ads in the paper. Just when it seems like he won't find anyone he can bear, an ad stands out - seeking a mild, artistic gentleman for "future happiness" - but the writer isn't quite whom he expects. This is how he meets Seamus, a gentleman he probably wouldn't have met otherwise.

Just how and where their relationship will go is going to be worth the journey. Along the way, we get to see more of Hugo's work and Seamus's upper echelon of society as the tale switches perspectives from time to time. This lets you peer deeper into each of their lives and adds to the fun of the experience.

Beneath the restrained words and expressions of the characters is a roiling ocean of feeling (as it should be!), and I couldn't help but respond to it. In particular, the yearning for connection shines through with its timeless power. Though not all is well with everyone and not everyone is kind, this is overall a kind and human story, and I for one want to see all of its permutations and endings.


I found everything about the art in the demo to be utterly charming. The Kickstarter says Of Sense and Soul has "Detailed watercolour-inspired artwork, including backgrounds, semi-realistic character art, and 18 scene illustrations/CGs, accompany the story with attention to historical detail" and it isn't kidding.

The character designs are perfectly suited to the setting but are also full of personality. Their subtle expressions convey a lot of emotion, from Hugo's tight-faced fear to his cousin's rosy-cheeked sweetness. When the characters seem to glance in the reader's direction during difficult moments, it makes you feel like they're taking you into their confidence without them actually addressing you with words. Sprites are animated, mostly around the face, and scenes have some dynamic motion, as well.

The backgrounds are well detailed, with period furnishings and sensibilities (or what seemed right to me for the period; I'm not a proper Victorian scholar). They're elegant, interesting, and well executed; despite it being a demo, nothing felt unpolished.

A gentleman's study room

An example of the decor and detail


The music is very well done, and there's even a gallery where you can listen to the tracks and get information about each of them (a touch that I loved and would like to see more often!). The full soundtrack will have 18 original pieces, and if what I've heard is any indictation, they rest will be thoroughly enjoyable.

There's partial voice acting in the demo, moving between barks and fully-voiced key scenes. All of it serves to suit the story.



Of Sense and Soul has "Multiple accessibility options including text font options, speaker sprite highlighting, audio captions, and timed choice toggle to help tailor your gameplay." Additionally, you can be notified visually when voiced scenes start and end, enable text-to-speech, and adjust the line height of text. This project may have the most accessibility options of any VN I've seen so far, which is great!

Characters & Relationships

Hugo and Seamus are the lead characters: two men from different echelons of society in need of connection, even more than they realize. You don't get to customize their names or looks but I didn't miss those options. They are well-realized as their own people, and the novel makes you want to get to know each of them better.

Dr. Lewis, an educated man of color

Dr. Lewis, an educated man of color

Secondary characters - like Hugo's cousin and his boss and Seamus's friend James - each have their own views and goals. While you might know what to expect from Hugo's boss right away, that doesn't make him boring. The cast also has some diversity, in keeping with the place; London has long been a destination for folk around the world.

Choices & Endings

While there aren't a ton of choices to make, there's a decent number, so I didn't feel trapped or lose interest in where things were going. I believe I played through 3 endings in the demo; I'm not sure how many are possible to obtain in it. Either way, the extended demo felt substantial. It's one of the longer demos I've played but I never felt bored.

Unique Systems

The unique system in this game appeals to the English major in me hardcore: you get to choose how letters and diary entries are composed, one chunk at a time. The text varies in tone, from friendly and familiar to cold and distant. You generally want to pick something appropriate for the relationship between the characters. You may also want to push a little toward more intimacy, if that's what you want. The visual novel's description says that this influences the future but I didn't play through with the intent of finding out how or how much. If you have trouble understanding social cues and tone, this might be a challenge but could also help you learn these things in a relatively safe context.

A composition screen

What the composition options look like

Unlike actual Victorian writings, however, the entries aren't densely written or lengthy, for which I was grateful!

Of Sense and Soul also has some timed choices, but you can turn them off in the settings if that doesn't appeal to you.

Content Warnings

As per the novel's description: "Rated 15+, with no graphic themes or imagery. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the developers' imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Although the setting is intended to be believably historic, our narrative does not display or provide a platform for discrimination of marginalised peoples, moralistic perspectives, or other prejudices of the time."

I had no problems with any of this. Hopefully, you won't, either. Yes, I know that historically, people have often been awful to one another; as a lifelong student of history, I am all too aware. I also don't tend to have problems with discrimination being shown in fiction when the author and their target audience wish it to be part of the tale. But part of the magic of fiction is that, when we desire, we can create visions of the world that are different. Whether these visions ever existed or will exist in real life is irrelevant. We choose what we allow and exclude, and hopefully we have well-considered reasons for those decisions. It's okay to see a kinder world here. If you want a darker, grittier view of Victorian London, there are plenty of other places to find it.

That being said, there are some carefully restrained instances of bias shown in the tale. The concerns for how Seamus's and Hugo's meeting might look to others could be in response to the homophobia of the times, but it isn't made evident. Hugo's cousin alludes to the difficulties of being a woman in that place and time but doesn't belabor them. There's a character with an apparently anti-science bent, but it's tied to his business leanings rather than other aspects. The novel isn't completely divorced from ideological conflicts and discrimination, it just doesn't play them up. It's a careful dance, but I appreciated it.

Words & Length

For the full visual novel, the Kickstarter says: "Each of Hugo and Seamus' player routes will be 12 chapters long, including multiple unique endings per route. Of Sense and Soul will contain about 100,000 words of story in 24 total chapters, comprising approx. 8-12 hours of gameplay." It's ambitious, but the result will be perfectly engrossing, I'm sure!

My Final Word For Now

Hugo under pressure

Hugo's boss wants to make a bestseller out of him for his own reasons; I support this VN for everyone who will enjoy it.

The obvious love and attention to detail makes Of Sense and Soul stand out from the opening screen through the end. I scrambled to support it on Backerkit and may have to look into adjusting my pledge because I don't think I opted in for the original soundtrack, and that just won't do.

It's safe to say I love this visual novel and want to help the creators get the attention they deserve. If this appeals to you, please try the demo, wishlist the full novel on Steam, and share the project with others who are likely to appreciate it. Something as lovely and sweet as Of Sense and Soul doesn't come 'round every day.


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