Whenever I have the opportunity to review a game, I oftentimes see myself writing during the night and the early morning. Perhaps I enjoy the miracle of silence that transpires while the lights are off. Or maybe the work and family keep me up, which happens often.
The truth is that there is something about the night that evokes various feelings that, more often than not, will find themselves in total contradiction. You have the peacefulness of the slumber, but also the noise of overthinking. And, most poetically, the horror of the sudden shadow moving across the wall, or even the sound of a pin falling on the ground. All of this is what I felt while playing Little Goody Two Shoes.
While you could mistake the title of this game for the lovely tale of Margery finally getting a second shoe, marrying, and living happily ever after, the truth is that Little Goody Two Shoes is an example of an accomplishment in something that many attempt, but fail: to encompass various genres and making them work. A beautiful world only serving as a front for witchcraft, death, rituals, and horror. The latter of which was handled masterfully thanks to the use of the unexpected and the constant sensation of “something feels off.” Without further ado, here is my review of Little Goody Two Shoes.
The tale that branches out to the unknown
Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the story that takes place in the apparently peaceful village of Kieferberg. This is a self-discovery tale of a little girl who grows up by getting to know and learning to love the people around her. At the same time, the story plays with the innocence of youth, desires, shallowness, and the true value of things. All wrapped up in a supernatural story, using elements of horror in a very balanced and effective way.
You play as Elise, a girl who helps everyone she can while earning a couple of Tiffel and the occasional free bread. Things change unexpectedly when you meet a gal named Rozenmarine, who becomes the catalyst for the romance part of the game, as well as for the supernatural, horror, and occult aspects of the game. Through her and a weird Old Hag, you will discover Him, an entity that requires a specific offering to grant an ultimate wish, which happens to be Fortune for Elise.
If there is a word I could use to describe what playing Little Goody Two Shoes felt like, I would say “branching.” You start with the mystery of Rozenmarine. You then meet the other townsfolk, including Freya and Lebkuchen, your other possible romance options, and then everything goes borderline demonic and nightmare-inducing. With ten possible endings, you are free to experiment with each of the dialogue options, decisions, and romances in the game. All of it is done with class and attention to detail, with the various genres of the game gaining protagonism whenever needed — especially the horror.
The beauty of horror
Let’s get things clear. Horror is not an easy thing to pull off. I mean, we all get scared by the Five Nights at Freddy’s jump scares, and the gruesome and borderline insane scenes from Saw will make us feel repulsion. But what makes horror, well, horror, is the constant feeling of fear. And fear is nothing else than that sensation you have that something is about to go wrong. That sense that someone is watching you and you won’t ever turn your back to find out who or what is lurking in the unknown.
While the story of Little Goody Two Shoes is masterfully crafted to subvert our expectations and basically destroy everything we and Elise know and love, the true horror lies in the arts and graphic choices that the folks behind the scenes decided to include in the game. Most of the time, you are exploring the world in pixel art, with the beauty and innocence that we’re all accustomed to. But all of a sudden, a creepy monster will appear and move completely unnaturally compared to its surroundings, or Elise will break into song and we will cut to a real photo of an Elise doll — that is, not generated by a computer.
The fear of change
You see, it’s all about context, and jumping from an anime style — which you will notice can transform into something truly terrifying, especially during Witching Hours — to pixel art to real pictures and footage makes it extra creepy because you are not expecting a change as extreme as that. Reminds me a bit of the “Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared” videos.
Just picture this: you are playing the original Legend of Zelda, and all of a sudden, the screen turns black, and then you are hit with a close-up of a hyper-realistic zombie from Resident Evil. I bet that you and I both would jump out of our seats. And yet again, if you saw that image while playing an RE game, then you wouldn’t feel as creeped out.
That is the beauty of horror. It is the ability to make artistic decisions that themselves evoke uneasiness, fear, and the feeling of not having control, which most of us find impossible to tolerate. And having the concept of destiny as a central theme in the game makes it all just perfect. In a very disturbing way, that is. In general, the village of Kieferberg will make you appreciate its horror, both by image, sound, and context.
You will witness death, one way or another
Playing the game felt as natural as things can be. While I sometimes felt a bit disoriented thanks to the environment that usually hides pathways to take, it might as well be a non-issue. The sense of disorientation ends up feeding into the overall dread both Elise and the player feel while exploring the woodlands. And if you are exploring the woodlands, if you are not careful enough, this game could become a succession of “Game Over” screens, really fast.
I mean, why would you not let me upgrade my health to be more resistant? Why can’t you grant me a couple of extra hearts? Well, maybe I do suck at gaming, but moving on. The game will not forgive any false moves while in conflict or during the mini-games that represent Elise’s tasks. Any boss can easily knock you out just as a rat doll can kiss you. In-game reference, by the way. The game punishes your inability to input commands, which makes you play the game on the edge of your seat, adding more drama to a plot that is just about to explode. This will ultimately see you managing food items and all kinds of resources to attempt to survive hunger, beatdowns, and even madness.
While not genre-bending or era-defying, what you can do in the game and how the rules work make this a perfect complement to a story with enough twists and variety to make it engaging while not overwhelming the player with mechanics that could only act to the detriment of the game.
Originally, the game caught my attention because of how well the art was used to craft a memorable world. What kept me engaged with Little Goody Two Shoes was how well-defined the characters were. Moreover, the structure of the story allowed me to connect with it more easily. The amount of content you can get out of your playthrough — and therefore the amount of content you can miss — is mind-boggling. After all, the game has a total of ten different endings, each of them having you in total control of the situation. Ultimately, this can make you feel disgusted, disappointed, and of course, rewarded.
If you have the chance to submerge yourself in a world where you might as well learn something about yourself and what you might think you want out of life, give Little Goody Two Shoes a chance. It impressed me quickly and I never looked back. Unless you count the many times I had to, fearing that the Old Hag was standing behind me, ready to haunt me for the rest of my life.