Mission: It’s Complicated is the LGBTQ, Neurodivergent Super Hero Story We Deserve

This is part of our series reviewing visual novels and storytelling games. You can watch our streams and hear our live reactions on Twitch.

Mission: It’s Complicated from Schell Games is the fun superhero romp through the wilds of romance that comic fans have been hoping for. Play as Professor L, a poor grad student who has just received a message from an alternate universe self with news that our Earth will soon be destroyed (whoops!). You are tasked with assembling a team of superheroes capable of defeating this universe-ending catastrophe–through the power of love! 

The cover of Mission: It's Complicated shows the five main superhero characters. From left-to-right Zael, an alien with yellow eyes and a kind smile; Zirconia, a buff woman in purple and white spandex; Nightgaunt, a pouty man wearing a dark trench coat and an eye mask; Wifi, a human wearing a yellow jacket and headphones; and Riptide, a man with watery blue hair, a shark's fin on his head, and sharp, shark-like teeth. Behind the team is the Earth floating through inky black space.

As Professor L you are tasked with guiding your superheroes through a series of missions both harrowing and hilarious while also saving enough energy for a few dates during the day. As they grow closer the heroes’ bonds will strengthen, enabling them to stand together to defeat the Big Bad, Gidheron, at the end of the game. 

Each day leading up to the arrival of the Gidheron you will encounter a city under siege from maniacal supervillains, strange military experiments, sea monsters run amuck, and even a car commercial in need of actors. Together, you and your heroes must keep the city safe from problems both big and small.

Rather than a typical dating simulator where you, the player, are able to romance each of the NPCs, Mission: It’s Complicated is more of a match-making simulator, and an exceptionally well-executed one. 

The gameplay of Mission: It’s Complicated is typical for the visual novel genre. You are primarily reading text and making choices that have effects on the immediate and long-term story. A choice to send in the diamond-hard strongwoman Zirconia rather than the water-controlling shark boy Riptide to put out a fire may have unexpected consequences. Riptide may seem the more obvious choice, but if he finds himself overconfident it could spell disaster for the mission and leave Riptide too exhausted (and injured) to go on a planned coffee date the next morning. And remember, coffee dates (and the bonds they enable the heroes to form) are a matter of life and death.

A screenshot from the game. Riptide and Nightgaunt both pose in natural landscape wearing civilian attire. Riptide looks like he is running forward joyfully. Nightgaunt looks more unsure, and is posing as though ready to fight.
Even superheros need to frolic through a field once in a while.

Visual novels need strong writing, and Mission: It’s Complicated has some of the strongest, most compelling writing we’ve seen recently. The writing is mostly humorous, with excellent comedic timing that plays with tropes that will feel relatable to people who identify with the queer community or who are dealing with mental illness. But these tropes are never the butt of the joke–no one is being mocked for experiencing the PTSD that comes from your standard superhero origin story, or being ridiculed for their choice of pronoun or partner. Instead, these real-life issues, which can often feel heavy for the people experiencing them, are dealt with respectfully, honestly, and openly. We were impressed when Mission: It’s Possible specifically named and discussed what it is like to live as a person with Bipolar Disorder, for example. The writing was honest about the potential complications that can arise while also staying true to the premise that with love (and communication) it is possible to overcome any obstacle. 

Although this is primarily a text-based adventure, the character design and CGs captured the mood and the genre of superhero comic books. Each character was based on a familiar corresponding archetype in superhero comics, and their design reflected that. For example, the dark and edgy Nightgaunt, with his tragic backstory, brings up echoes of characters like Batman, Nightwing, and Black Widow. However, the writing adds a depth to the character as we are offered glimpses into Nightgaunt’s inner world not only during missions, but also out of (spandex) uniform during dates. Nightgaunt’s PTSD is openly acknowledged and taken seriously–even named!–in a way that rarely, if ever, happens in official comic releases.

Overall, we had a great time playing this game. It was enjoyable and fun, and the replayability means you’ll keep coming back in hopes of getting the true ending that only emerges after getting the ending for each possible pair of heroes. If you have fun playing this game you may also wish to check out Schell Games’ other title Orion Trail, a game where Oregon Trail meets Star Trek. After being impressed by the writing and execution of Mission: It’s Complicated we’ve definitely added this to our to-play list!

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