I just played the recently released Katawa Shoujo, and it completely surprised me I absolutely loved it! I have played a few visual novels before and I didn't care too much for them they were either too short to leave much of an impact or most of them where crappy hentai games. :/
Before I talk about the game I wanted to talk about the characters first. they all seem very well written (I only played though once so I can't vouch for all of them but I'll assume they are all well done) Each character is very unique and much more then being moe-blob with X disability.
Hanako is scarred over most of her body and is incredibly shy. I saw her the least out of all the characters during my play so I cant say if her shyness seems accurate or not.
Lilly is blind and aside from that she seems like the typical "kind rich girl" character.
Emi despite having no legs is the star of the track team. She is a sweet and energetic (but stubborn) girl.
Rin is an "Osaka" type of character who always says strange and irrelevant things. Despite having no arms She is into panting and is very artistic.
Shizune is the student console pressident. She seems rather srong willd an confident showing much expression in her face to make up the fact she is deaf and mute. Whatever she sayes is allways represented with the text "..." witch is then translated by Shiina.
Shiina is Shizune's interpreter She doesn't seem to have a disability, but She has trouble with some words so perhaps she has a learning disorder? She is a rather hotheaded character and unfortunately the only main character without a path of her own. T^T
As for the game itself it plays like a typical visual novel. You just read the on screen text and at certain branching points you are given a multiple choice option to select witch often has major consequences on the story.
Previous VN's that I have played the story only varied at key points depending on what path you take. However with this game only the first act (of four) is like that and after you end up on a specific path the story becomes very character specific. The length is quite long as well. My game play time was about seven hours, of course I didn't play straight through so overall it was even longer.
The game does include H scene's and I was a little worried that they would ruin the game for me as stuff like this tends to do, however they are rather tastefully done and seem fairly "natural" and did not distract from or ruin the story. If you still don't want them you are given the option of turning them off.
I was originally trying for Hanako's path but I ended up with Emi and I'm glad I did as she is such a sweet character. I loved her so much. I really liked her mother as well Why must there no path for Emi's mom?
Overall I verry happy I played Katawa Shoujo It's the best visual novel I have ever played (perhaps it will be the best I ever play) I will definitely play it again for the other characters eventually. But at the moment it seems a bit odd to play again and "fall in love" with another character so soon.
If you are interested in playing the game you can get it here.