Thank you for playing! Although I'm not sure what happened to the luminosity / contrast, the sprites and BG seem often obscured or far too bright. I apologize if this was on the game's end, though I've never seen that happen yet.
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Whether the icon is appearing or not, if you go to the very beginning of the game before the route split down to that lock, the choice should appear, as long as you are on the file that is marked with a "TBC". If you don't have a file with "TBC", you simply have to autofill onto a specific segment (at the exact rightmost one you've played through already) and it should work.
To achieve the bottom route, you need to use a special save file that should have some mark not present on most of them. However, due to a known bug, the key doesn't appear on the bottom-most path when you're on that file, but if you access the beginning of the game, you should have a choice come up.
That is a lot of questions! I believe I can answer some of them, others may be answered in a future game and some of them are legitimate little mistakes that can probably be handwaved by someone with cleverer ideas than what I can think up right now. But I don't want to put them all into a long form comment, so if you'd like, please hit up the Discord server and I'll go over what I can in the spoiler channel. More importantly though, I hope you've enjoyed overall despite this list!
PS: the preview actually shows some names so if you'd like you can edit another line for your second paragraph so they're utterly hidden under "View rest".
Unfortunately, I can't hand out keys for the original at this point in time. It only was free as a limited time offer if one purchased the remake on itch.io when it came out.
It's a deprecated version that can really break the save folder for the remake if not handled correctly (using backups and avoiding the Steam cloud). I consider it more of a museum exhibit of the project's origins as everything in it is of much lesser quality than the remake, and the current fee is only symbolic to avoid giving away the entire plot to anyone and everyone for free just yet. Even if the remake went through several revisions to bring it up to par, it would be difficult to convince people to purchase an upgraded version when there's a totally "free version" out there, despite the fact it's inferior in every way.
If you're interested in it but would rather not spend anything, I do plan on making it free eventually, perhaps when the entire franchise has concluded and I'm less bothered by the free-version situation. That is a fair ways off, though.
That was a limited time offer in the end because I couldn't have the sale run forever, but I may be able to provide a key for the full game after I verify a few things to ensure you own the original and your purchase was within the time limit for the offer, if you weren't able to claim it in that month.
If you want the game for free and don't care for the Steam key, I can sort you out. Otherwise, I'm afraid itch.io doesn't give access to Steam keys for free purchases (either from a 100% sale or from an itch.io key being given). That was a thing I did not know and I wish I had a better workaround.
And not only that, but I can't make the sale be the cheapest possible (99% off for 20 cents) because minimum purchase price for a sale is 100 cents (and 95% off gives 99 cents).
If you enter a new file, you should be able to select your choices in the visual novel itself until you have selected all options that change TRUST values. From that point on, you will be able to select choices on the flowchart itself (this is to prevent people switching options but never seeing the event that happens after they pick an option). The help button on the flowchart explains how the flowchart works, hopefully it may be of further help!
Both games technically spoil each other, and also technically don't spoil each other. I would say Birth ME Code to Head AS Code is simply a different experience than Head AS Code to Birth ME Code. Different things will be suspicious, different characters may be interesting, and some twists from BMEC will be more relevant if you played HASC while other twists from HASC will be more relevant if you played BMEC.
If your screen is a bigger resolution than 1920x1080, it currently doesn't stretch to fit the screen properly. I might fix it in a future patch since I figured a way to do that, but since it'll require a good amount of recoding for other things, I might not be able to.
I will eventually update the demo with some more stuff in it, and the puzzle will most likely be slightly modified further. From testing with someone who plays a lot of puzzle games, this seemed decent difficulty to start things off.
The comment above hasn't aged very well, but I do still intent on bringing the game to Steam at some point. It will most likely be around the time when I'll be releasing Birth ME Code on Steam too, which is the second entry in the series.
I'll be taking a look into it momentarily then get back to you. Have you played the demo yet? Edit: I checked a few times and the transition should be seamless. If you hadn't played the demo yet, it's part of the full game anyway; it's just the very first parts of the game.
I will attempt to bring it to Steam as early as possible and I'll also be looking into a way to grant those who purchased it before then access to it when it comes out on Steam, but it won't be until at least one more month has elapsed.