Goodbye Volcano High takes place in a world of anthropomorphic dinosaurs living in a modern world like ours. The player controls Fang, a non-binary pterodactyl teenager entering their senior year of high school while trying to get their band, Worm Drama, off the ground.
However, in this volatile time of attempting to pave a future for themselves, the world is shaken by the announcement of an asteroid on track to hit the planet and destroy life as they know it.
Goodbye Volcano High is a colorful and zany, but also shockingly grounded and subtle, story about teens figuring out who they are. Fang has to face the fears of establishing a future for themselves while slowly realizing they’re growing apart from their best friends as ambitions and interests start to diverge.
As a visual novel, this game is obviously made or broken by its story. And Goodbye Volcano High knocks it out of the park. The plot is thin at times, and the timeline can be confusing, but this is a character-driven narrative, and the characters absolutely shine.
The protagonist, Fang, has a vibrant inner life with flaws and conflicts that are painfully relatable at times. They’re dealing with the looming threat of adulthood, pressured by the adults around them, especially their parents, into choosing a ‘realistic’ career path.
And as a queer teen, they’re also dealing with their gender identity and their traditional parents’ inability to accept it.
And Fang isn’t the only character with this kind of depth. All eight of the main cast have this complexity, with their own defined personalities and goals that suck you into the high school drama.
But honestly, the most interesting struggle these teens are struggling with is the advent of an apocalypse. The incoming asteroid taints the lives of these teenage dinosaurs with a threat to their very existence. The characters are asked to worry about college applications, but it seems useless when they could be dead within the year.
It may seem extreme, but this is a genuine problem for young people now, being told to worry about a future they aren’t even sure will exist. I’m delighted to see a game tackle this issue in such an accessible way. A story that discusses this with such a nuanced touch while letting the player make their own decisions throughout feels significant.
The story isn’t perfect. The dialogue can sometimes feel stilted, and the story probably wanted to be longer to flesh out the side characters and give certain relationships more space to breathe.
But in all, this was a story I loved working through, and it left me with a lot to think about.
My Life as a Teenage Dinosaur
This is a classic story-adventure game, a la The Walking Dead. You make choices as the story progresses that impact the direction and outcome of the plot. Every now and then, you’re prompted to choose what to do or say to advance the story, often on a timer, and those choices will affect Fang’s various relationships.
You can keep track of these on the main menu through the affinities tab, which shows the strength of your friendships. At the end of the story, all of your choices will add up and determine whether you’ll be able to resolve the issues that arise.
There are also stretches where the characters play Legends & Lore together, the dinosaur teen equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons. In these sections, the player makes choices in their fantasy game, rolling dice and directing the party through various scenarios.
These story sections are all your basic visual novel affair, but in tense situations, the choices become obscured or harder to pick. If Fang’s going to act out of character, the player has to try harder to make them speak.
Sometimes the choices fuzz out and change to reflect Fang’s mental state. It adds a layer of immersion to the storytelling. It’s hard to get this stuff wrong, and Goodbye Volcano High implemented it well.
And, of course, this is a story rhythm game. In most chapters, Fang (usually with their band) will perform songs at turning points in the story. During these story beats, the player engages in extended rhythm sections where you hit buttons to the music to reflect the performance of the characters.
I really enjoyed these parts. As a rhythm game super fan, I was impressed by how these sections played. The song/note calibration was precise, and the controls felt good to navigate.
The gameplay is challenging too, with the songs progressing in difficulty quickly. This isn’t a game for novices, and could take a few tries to get right. But it’s satisfying to nail the tracks and get into the groove.
The only criticism I have for how this game controls is how easy it can be to cut through dialogue. The game will play like a movie if you put your controller down and let the characters speak, but you can click through if you’re a fast reader.
Unfortunately, this makes it really easy to skip over dialogue, and there’s no transcript to make up for that. Transcripts are a mandatory feature of any visual novel, and it’s a harsh strike against those that don’t have one.
A Splash of Color at the End of the World
One of the first things you’ll notice about Goodbye Volcano High is how pretty this game is. The character designs are bright and appealing, with their candy-colored skin tones and diverse appearances.
Goodbye Volcano High goes out of its way to feature characters with all kinds of body types (despite being dinosaurs), and the cast are all distinct from each other. You can tell a lot about each character just by looking at them, which, in my books, is a mark of great character design.
The game is generally stunning, with vibrant background and scenery, plus full animation throughout the playthrough. At times, it felt more like watching an animated movie than playing a game.
I’m also in love with the L&L sections. During their tabletop roleplay, the character portraits get alternate designs where they’re dressed up like their L&L characters, and the art style changes to impart a different tone. It’s ridiculously charming, and I couldn’t get enough of it, especially how Reed, the DM, was dressed up as the various NPCs.
As great as Goodbye Volcano High looks, there were issues with the graphics. It was rough around the edges at times, with backgrounds loading in blurred before smoothing out, which was very noticeable.
And a couple of times, I’d start a new scene, and the character models were hovering in the middle of the screen before jumping into place. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but it frequently broke my immersion.
I feel silly complaining about it because this was essentially a play-your-own 2D animated movie, and I can only imagine how much work went into it. Still, the animation could look uncanny at times. The dinosaur designs are excellent but don’t always move well, and things could look stiff or unpolished.
These are problems, even if they’re excusable. They leave the game with an ‘unfinished’ quality that keeps it from feeling great.
Worm Drama’s Greatest Hits
This is a rhythm game about a teen band, so the music had better kick some serious ass. And it does!
The music in this game is excellent. Worm Drama’s songs have a chill, indie feel that blends brilliantly with the story’s tone. You get to spend a lot of time listening to Worm Drama’s music, even writing some of it, and it’s all super catchy. It adds to the desire to see Worm Drama succeed, knowing they have good music, further immersing you into the experience.
Beyond the music though, this game is fully voice-acted — excluding the L&L sessions where Reed is the only one with voice lines. The whole cast gave fantastic performances; every character has a distinct vocal personality to complement their characterization. I was especially taken with Jensen Trani and Mark Whitten’s performances as Sage and Reed, respectively.
The voice direction did feel slightly off at times, though, with some lines wanting another take. I also noticed some audio compositing errors, with lines cutting off, or one occasion where Rosa had a line and they just forgot to put it in.
You could also hear the lines load in occasionally, like when Naser spoke over a sound system, and the effect on his voice kept cutting in and out as his next line loaded in.
This suffers the same fate and the visual errors. It’s not a deal breaker, and I still appreciate the immense work and talent that went into everything that went right. But every time these issues crop up, it completely breaks immersion.
I’ll Get it Right This Time
As a choose-your-own-adventure, Goodbye Volcano High features excellent replayability value. You can’t see every piece of dialogue in a single playthrough, and there are even different songs to hear depending on your setlist choices.
Repeat playthroughs will allow you to unlock scenes you haven’t seen before, complete the flashback and photo galleries that fill depending on the events you encounter, and even see different endings to the game.
It’s hardly endless replayability; once you’ve seen everything the game has to offer (and it’s not a big game), you’ve seen everything. But there’s still incentive to go in for a round two, not to mention reexperiencing the story again down the line.
More Games to Jam With
If you loved Goodbye Volcano High, or are just a fan of story-rich games, you should check out the following picks!
- Night in the Woods
- Lanota — This is also a rhythm game
- Coffee Talk
- Until Dawn
- Telltale’s The Walking Dead
- Catherine: Full Body
I wish I could give Goodbye Volcano High an 8 because everything about the game’s content is great! The story is strong with fleshed-out, engaging characters, appealing, colorful designs, and top-notch voice acting. Unfortunately, it has glaring technical faults that keep me from bumping that score up.
That said, this is an excellent game, and those faults are easy to overlook. This game feels like playing through an animated musical, with grounded concepts and superb animation that really sticks with you. If you enjoy visual novels or rhythm games (or both, like me), this is a game you shouldn’t pass up on.
Pros and Cons
- Fun yet grounded storyline
- Interesting, fleshed-out characters
- Bright and colorful visuals
- High-quality rhythm gameplay
- Wonderful soundtrack
- No dialogue transcript
- Notable visual errors
- Distracting sound composition
- Uncanny character animation
Question: What Platforms can You Play Goodbye Volcano High On?
Answer: Goodbye Volcano High is available on PC and PlayStation 4 and 5. There is currently no suggestion it will be released on Nintendo Switch or Xbox.
Question: Who Made Goodbye Volcano High?
Answer: Goodbye Volcano High was produced by Montreal-based game developer KO_OP.
Question: How Long is Goodbye Volcano High?
Answer: A single playthrough of Goodbye Volcano High will take about 6 hours. But it could take less if you’re a fast reader and click through the dialogue.
For this review, I played through the entirety of the PS4 version of Goodbye Volcano High. It took about 5-6 hours from start to finish, and I accrued about half of the achievements on that first playthrough, including every achievement for acing the rhythm game sections.