Rule of Rose
Description official descriptions
The events of the game take place in England in the 1930s, and its story crosses the borders between reality and imagination. Jennifer is a young girl who has lost her memory and now finds herself on a bus, holding a storybook given to her by an enigmatic little boy. Following the boy into the dark countryside, Jennifer discovers a strange orphanage. Soon she finds herself trapped in an area controlled by a group of twisted orphan children, who call themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrats. Unwillingly, Jennifer has to obey the rules of this society's hierarchy, re-discover her own past, and distinguish between reality and nightmare...
Rule of Rose is an adventure game with survival horror elements. Jennifer is exceptionally weak even for a typical protagonist of this genre; though she can fight (sometimes with improvised melee weapons, such as pipes), often the alternative to fighting is running away. A unique gameplay feature is Brown, a Labrador retriever dog who accompanies Jennifer throughout the game. The player is able to issue commands to Brown. Though he cannot fight, his growl will deter many of the enemies Jennifer may encounter. Brown's ability to track items is also widely used in the game, whether for plot-related purposes or for finding health restoratives, raising Jennifer's chances of surviving.
Credits (PlayStation 2 version)
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Average score: 65% (based on 15 ratings)
Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 14 ratings with 1 reviews)
When you begin to watch the intro to Rule of Rose, you realize that you are being invited into something special - not necessarily gameplay-wise, but most certainly from the point of view of pure artistry. Indeed, Rule of Rose is one of those games that screams "I am art!". While some of these products end up being pretentious, unplayable messes upon closer inspection, this game at least tries to offer solid idea in the gameplay department.
The atmosphere in Rule of Rose is quite fascinating. Unlike most comparable games, which achieve this effect through graphics, Rule of Rose relies on storytelling to convey a unique palette of contradicting emotions that accompany us during gameplay. The in-game graphics are rather modest and would hardly win any awards; the slow building up of extreme suspense is achieved by masterfully alternating desolate, grim gameplay segments with frequent, enigmatic, and for the most part very scary cutscenes. The mature content in the game goes far beyond cheap sexuality or excessive gore. Rule of Rose is expert in psychological horror, which can be much more terrifying that hordes of deformed monsters attacking the helpless protagonist.
The game's general creepiness is derived from its unorthodox, disturbing premise: a young woman is being subjected to a series of strange, mostly unrealistic, humiliating tasks given to her by children, who mysteriously take entire control of a giant airship. The main theme of the game resembles that of the classic novel Lord of the Flies: children left without any supervision and moral guidance turn into monsters. However, the setting of the game is darker, and the storytelling much more surreal.
On par with the story are the fantastic cutscenes. Cinematographers and computer graphic designers have done a great job. A full-fledged CG movie could have been done with the game's movies. Complementing the artistic tendency, the music has an inclination towards pseudo-classical chamber style, with only violin and piano used sparsely; the effect is at times stunning, enriching the game's atmosphere and contributing to its creepy, disturbing quality.
The gameplay is certainly not the game's strongest aspect, but it has a few bright sides. For once, the idea of using a dog as a gameplay tool is very interesting, and its execution is better than one would expect. There are many optional items in the game, including sparse health-restoring food. Training your dog to sniff various objects that have some connection to these healing items proves to be quite rewarding and even addictive, leading to thorough exploration and meticulous collecting. This feature also somewhat reduces the tedium of re-visiting locations, hoping to trigger a story event. All you have to do is give key plot items to Brown, and the intelligent animal will always lead you to the next destination. Many Japanese adventures could have used such a dog in them to prevent aimless and boring wandering.
Having the dog around also provides a unique contrast to the game's somber atmosphere. The overwhelming hostility that surrounds Jennifer, the constant fear and humiliation have a steady counterpart in this faithful companion, the only creature the protagonist can trust and depend on in the horrifying world she has been thrown into. It is also one of those instances where a gameplay feature is revealed to be an inseparable part of the game's story.
Rule of Rose is a textbook example of game design in which an almost complete focus on art and narrative resulted in serious gameplay deficiencies.
One could argue that the bulk of the game consists of running around, sending the dog to find items over and over again, and ceaseless backtracking through monotonous environments. In essence, Rule of Rose is the same old Japanese adventure we've seen many times in the past, only dressed in different, superficially more interactive clothes. Rather than creating a mental challenge, the designers have decided to stick to the ubiquitous formula of aimless wandering, requiring you to re-visit places until you've stepped on that magical stone that triggers the next cutscene.
There are no real puzzles in the game, which severely diminishes its value as an adventure game. You don't really need to think in order to solve it; all you need is patience and determination to go everywhere, and in the end you are pretty much guaranteed to stumble upon the "solution". Therefore, the only actual challenge remaining in the game is combat - which is, without doubt, the single worst aspect of the game.
Quite simply, combat in Rule of Rose is poorly conceived, poorly executed, irritating, and generally redundant. Throughout the whole game I couldn't get rid of the feeling that battles were hastily pasted into it shortly before release, perhaps for fear that a game completely devoid of action would not be popular. This resulted in sloppy mechanics with awkward navigation, bad collision detection, and no sense of timing. The game's environments were clearly not designed as battlefields; objects are in the way all the time, camera angles are terribly uncomfortable, and the whole thing feels nearly broken. Thankfully, combat is very sporadic, and most enemies can be avoided. But several obligatory boss battles are, unfortunately, mandatory. Those pitiful exercises test your patience, forcing you to reload several times following inevitable failure, and making you wonder how a company that employed such talented artists and cinematographers could tolerate unprofessional combat design.
The Bottom Line
Rule of Rose is one of those games in which storytelling and art clearly prevails over gameplay. Those looking for an unconventional aesthetically fulfilling experience in the shape of interactive entertainment might want to check this product out; those who want playability in their games should probably stay away.
PlayStation 2 · by Unicorn Lynx (180476) · 2016
The UK version was supposed to be released on 24th November 2006, but on that day publisher 505 GameStreet announced to have cancelled the game due to several European politicians lashing the game's obscene cruelty and brutality. For other European countries, the ratings boards PEGI and the Interactive Software and Video Standards Council still judged the title suitable for release, however. Three days later distributor Red Ant Enterprises Pty Ltd. confirmed the game was cancelled in Australia and New Zealand as well. It was scheduled for a February 2007 release there.
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- MobyGames ID: 24722
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Carl-Henrik.
Game added November 2nd, 2006. Last modified November 19th, 2023.