Plenty of damage can be done in just 30 characters, from ill-judged tweets to drunken texts to your mother. but factor in time travel and those messages become the flutter of digital wings at the heart of a world-rebuilding butterfly effect. or so goes the central hook of Steins;Gate, where a tokyo teen's microwave oven naturally develops the ability to zap emails back in time. it's kind of like head-messing sci-fi gem Primer recast with bickering teenagers with weeny noses. aKa: a disaster waiting to happen.


as a visual novel, an illustrated radio play of sorts, it's about as interactive as a sunset. actions are limited to answering calls or emails, each tiny tweak potentially splintering the story. branching paths aren't signposted, a fact that feeds into the danger of timeline changes, but one that might irritate people looking to easily explore the routes. Finding the 'true ending' (which, incidentally, is the story of the anime, should you want to avoid spoilers) takes considerable luck or, more likely, a peek at an online wiki.  it's not cheating, it's closure.  

Crucially, it's a story you'll want to see through. told at a slow pace and peppered with bizarre otaku antics and scientific theorising (both complex enough to warrant a glossary ), it lets its heroes really take root, so that every mistake is a sucker punch to the soul. For a game where 99.9% of interaction is pressing  to unspool dialogue, it conjures a spectrum of emotions: laughs at teenage dumbness, guilt at naive errors and sheer dread at the ping of a microwave. Forget texts, with a cast of just ten characters, Steins;Gate does some serious good.