Meet Misfortune Ramirez Hernandez.
At only 8 years old, her imagination is prone to running wild – especially when it comes to embellishing her not-so-wonderful life. So of course, when the Voice shows up in her head, she considers him her new friend and quickly heads off to adventure with him. Mr. Voice has made Misfortune a promise, you see. They’re going to play a game. If she wins? She’ll earn herself Eternal Happiness – a prize she’s ready to bring home to her mother. But who – or what – is Mr. Voice? Is he really just a friendly imaginary figure? And who is the fox that Misfortune keeps seeing – the one that Mr. Voice insists is going to hurt her?
And thus begins Little Misfortune – the newest game from KillMonday Games. KillMonday is known mostly for their previous point and click horror, Fran Bow. While I have yet to play Fran Bow, Ive heard so many positive things that I was really eager to check out this new little experience, which takes place in the same universe.
On the whole Little Misfortune plays like a walking sim – the player can examine plenty of things as they move forward, but the majority of gameplay is simply interacting along a straight path. Occasionally, you’ll get some very light gameplay such as hitting a button with a slingshot, or sneaking past a custodian. I ran into about 4 or 5 different active gameplay challenges. For most of the game, however, your gameplay will consist of choices. At the beginning we’re given a warning – there are no good or bad choices, only consequences.
The “choices” angle was actually handled quite interestingly. For example, I made a choice earlier in the game that came to affect me twice (that I noticed) later on in the story. I’m not sure how much of a ripple effect each choice has, but after a peek at the trophies, I get the feeling that there are lots of little places that affect your story. While the completionist in me always panics a little at the thought of missing various snippets of story, there’s something far more compelling about feeling like your decisions in a game actually matter. That said, the decisions seem mostly shallow – in two playthroughs, I was only able to see some minor differences – but for the short replay time it was definitely fun to see what I could do differently on the next round.
The story of Little Mistfortune was both compelling and sad. Hints are left throughout your journey, and I constantly tried to piece them together to figure out what was going on or what might happen. Misfortune’s life – described through an 8-year old’s eyes – is rather heartbreaking, and certainly a good entry point for what is essentially a horror-lite game. However, it leaves a lot unanswered, and despite playing through twice, I still have so much I want to know about both the story and the universe (although I suppose it’s possible I’ll find some of that out in Fran Bow, which I have yet to play).
There are two things that really hold Little Misfortune back.
The first is the slowness of the game. On a first playthrough, it’s mostly well-paced, although there were a few parts that felt like they dragged on between dialogue lines and the ability to move forward. In hindsight, this may be a rather minor thing, but it was one that occasionally made me wish I could fast forward the dialogue a little – when there are subtitles, I often read pretty quickly and am ready to move on to the next line.
The second is the dialogue. A huge chunk of Little Misfortune’s dialogue is actually quite interesting and surprisingly realistic (also, can we give props to Mr. Voice’s… voice?). The setup in Misfortunes journal was wonderful and seemed to portray a pretty believable perspective of a childs life with too much alcohol, violence, and danger in it. However, much of Misfortune’s dialogue felt strange – like an adult trying too hard to mimic an 8-year old, but with an edgy flair for humour purposes. The end result was a character that felt less childlike, and more of an awkward mix between too wise, too uncouth, and too innocent all at the same time. Often she didn’t quite feel real, which was unfortunate given that I wanted to love her character – an overimaginative child who is the unfortunate product of abusive, neglectful parents. It also included some strangely tacked-on crude humour – the body humour (the cows in the field, the buttcrack incident in the cabin, the dog poop in the park) appears randomly and without much purpose. At points I wondered if, like the dialogue, it was just meant to shock the player and try to add in some edgy realism. These details seemed unnecessary for a game that already does a respectable job at setting its scene and exploring some incredibly dark themes and fantasies.
When these are set aside, it’s a perfectly playable little game with beautiful artwork (really – look at the sky!) and incredible music (the first stage featured a strangely sad, yet hopeful track that I look forward to listening to again). The sound was actually one of my favourite features of the game – from the background music to the chirping birds in the beginning, it was surprisingly lovely. The mini-games are fun, though sparse, and I love that small choices can affect what opens up to you on your adventure. Much of the writing was interesting, and the story had me wondering what might come next each time. I’m also not ashamed to admit I did cry a bit at the end.
If we’re looking at it realistically, I think Little Misfortune is definitely a fun game for the right kind of player – expect less gameplay and more dialogue, and somewhat limited (though definitely present) replay value. You’ll also definitely need a high threshold for dark humour and shocking imagery (which I do, so I often forget to warn others just in case).