My Big Sister
The retro RPG look of this game is really nice. If you like this kind of graphics, you’re in the mood right away.
The game at a glance
In terms of graphic style and gameplay, the game looks just like any of those old school rpgs you could find on a SNES and plays pretty much like them for the exploration/interaction part, except there are no battles of course. It looks charming as far as retro goes, both colorful and dark, as would imply the contrast between the two main characters: Luzia, the cheeky and smart little sister we’re controlling, and Sombria, the gloomy big sister at the heart of this story. Both refer to light and darkness. What also contrasts in this game is how it can be dark and gory at times while still being cheerful, meeting with people and weird creatures, and having jokes here and there even in dire situations.
A japanese horror story
Between the graphic aspect of the game, the references and the dialogues, this game looks like it could be a kid horror story. Colorful, cheerful and not very oppressing, the story unfolds pretty smoothly alterning bewtween scenario phases and exploration/puzzle phases, keeping a nice pace all around. You evolve in a very classic japanese horror setting (shrines, ghosts, curses,…) with a lot of victims along the way, and even you are not completely safe: even though this looks like a safe exploration/story driven game, there are quite a few ways to die, punishing too much curiosity, bad choices or even inaction. As for most japanese horror stories, the main element is a curse you cannot seem to escape from, and while breaking it is the main objective, it is not quite clear how you can properly do it. Truth is questionned quite a few times and you end up not knowing who to trust or not anymore.
I just love this japanese vibe in the settings… A lonely shrine in the woods with a spirit you appease by offering noodles…I can never get enough of those things.
Very anime like
Despite its retro RPG looking graphics, this game felt a lot like following an anime story to me. When i first saw the design of the screen borders, the ghosts, the dark but colorful horror, i instantly thought about “spirited Away”. I got the same kind of feeling from this alternate world filled with friendly ghosts and spirits you interact with and how you’re being chased by dark entities out to kill you.
The pictures in between chapters and some artwork here and there also contribute to this anime/manga feel overall.
Cute and bloody
While I kept saying this game is nice and colorful, with jokes and all, it remains a horror story. It has its fair share of gore, blood and death. I was actually pretty surprised when I first saw so much blood and body parts lying around (and even more surprised to see a little girl not scared of all that and even pick up items from those bloody parts xD). It happens throughout the wole game and keeps you in the horror atmosphere, reminding you that despite its looks, this is a dangerous world you’re in and death is at every corner.
The contrast between all this gore and the innocence and witty comments of luzia make for a nice combination of both being in a serious situation but also not feeling the pressure and urgency of escaping death.
My favorite bits in this game
I clearly love survival horror (and even some horror games) so it makes sense my favorite parts are the ones with a lot of mystery, uncertainty, and blood. I just love those moments for those psychological sparks they provide: Am I in danger? Do I need to run or fight a way to fight back? What happened here? Do I need to hurry or can I explore safely? What could I do to proceed? etc… I also enjoyed some humorous parts such as the dialogues between the butcher and Luzia. One is a monster supposed to kill and chop and be scary, and the other one is just a powerless little girl supposed to be scared. Yet their exchanges are priceless: the big bad guy sees that he has no effect on her whatsoever and even gets her some candy, and the little girl pretty much does what she wants completely ignoring all the scary parts.
My Personal Rating
- Gameplay None% None%
Not much to say when it comes to gamplay here as it’s pretty much just interaction between characters and objets for this kind of game. No fights, no minigames,… all you do is talk to people, pick up items, and use them from your inventory. As this type of game isn’t exactly supposed to have much gameplay going on, I’ll leave this slate blank.
- Audio 70% 70%
Audio for this game is not too bad considering what it is, but it could honestly be better. Nothing really had any impact on me whether it’s sound effects or music. The mood and atmosphere are still pretty good, but nothing outstanding in my opinion.
- Graphics 90% 90%
Pretty nice and charming for this type of game. I love those retro looking games, and the contrast between colorful/cheerful and dark/gloomy really enchances the experience for me. The Spirited Away feel of the ghosts also added to the nice atmosphere this game has to offer, and to me, in a horror type of game, atmosphere is everything.
- Lifespan 70% 70%
While unfortunately pretty low, it’s still pretty decent for a game of this scale. Also, there are quite a few different endings to unlock and see meaning the game does have a variety of choices and actions for you to try out.
- Writing 80% 80%
Not the most mind blowing scenario I have ever seen but still very nice. I really enjoyed it. The trip back home, the curse of the sisters, the numerous side characters involved in this curse, evil and friendly ghosts to communicate with, and several possibilities to end this story. Really interesting overall.
- Trophies 80% 80%
Ratalaika games have a tendency to be extremely easy (don’t even need to complete half of the game to get the platinum easy) to finish, but this game was surprisingly normal in its trophy setup. While I was not very happy with the way they handled trophies in other games (like I explained in my Metagal review) I like how they did it here. You actually have to get all endings this game has to offer in order to get everything. I hope this will be the minimum those games get from now on, because most of them deserve it.
The final word for Sombria
“ I’m so hungry… ”
I’m not too much into games without any kind of fighting or action at all, even if I love a good story. But I have a weak spot for horror, specifically japanese horror, and I enjoy little games like this. A nice story, good characters, curses that involve background stories to explain, and a dark atmosphere to keep things interesting. This type of game is a pretty rare but welcome change of pace from action from time to time. I’ll always have the curiosity to discover such games and enjoy their unique story telling.