PANIC at Multiverse High! may be the most ridiculous visual novel yet

After a couple of years of silence, Dead State studio DoubleBear Productions has finally spoken up about its forthcoming project—and it’s actually several projects. We’ll get a taste of it later this week with PANIC at Multiverse High!, a visual novel in the vein of Hatoful Boyfriend which will help fund a forthcoming JRPG-inspired base defense game set in the same universe.

PANIC at Multiverse High! is best described as a parody “otome” visual novel, and marks the first outing in the PANIC Multiverse. Unlike the bleak realism of Dead State, the PANIC multiverse will take on the lurid, hypercolour aesthetic of Saturday morning cartoons. According to writer and designer Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda, PANIC High will follow a character who is "inexplicably tossed into their first day of high school with no memory of their past, and a very suspicious bully named 'Chad' who declares himself their rival.”

She continued: “Faced with strange teachers and staff (who obviously know more than they’re letting on) and a nagging feeling that something about the situation they’re in isn’t right, the player has six clubs and eighteen potential best friends to choose from in their quest to face down Chad at Prom (because where else?) and defeat him.”

The visual novel will serve as a side story to PANIC in the Multiverse (or PANIC Prime for short), which is the forthcoming JRPG-style tactics game mentioned above. “I started experimenting with the RenPy engine as a means to test out game cutscenes before we developed our own internal tool for it,” VanderMeer Mitsoda said. “My first creation was King Sha’art trapping you in a high school and laughing at being your bully, and Brian [Mitsoda, studio founder] thought it was suitably hilarious. When we changed direction with the prototype of PANIC Prime, we decided it would be a fun idea to make this demo into a full-fledged side story, and thus PANIC High had its genesis.”

The visual novel is designed to gauge interest in the universe, and to get players accustomed to the cast before the arrival of PANIC Prime. "We decided to take this route instead of Kickstarter so that no matter what, people would have a game to play, and get to know the characters and setting more directly," VanderMeer Mitsoda said.

Annie and her husband Brian have worked on some of PC Gamer's favorite RPGs, including Alpha Protocol, Guild Wars 2, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, and expansions for Neverwinter Nights 2, so we're looking forward to seeing how RPG veterans handle a more lighthearted story. PANIC High will release on Steam tomorrow.

Above, a glimpse of PANIC Prime, the JRPG-style tactics game that DoubleBear hopes to create after PANIC High.
Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.