Little Misfortune pales in comparison to Fran Bow, as it essentially underperforms in almost every way. But it has voice acting! *Glitter*
Genres: Interactive Story, Point n Click
Developer: Killmonday Games AB
Publisher: Killmonday Games AB
Release Date: 18 September, 2019
This is quite the strange coincidence, but I recently played Fran Bow (FB) before going into Little Misfortune (LM), completely unaware that the two games were made by the same developers. The first is a game I had in my inventory for a few years, and I recently got a spare, unexpected copy of LM to review. As I first launched LM though, I noticed some recognizable creatures, and was pleasantly surprised to see the connection. I initially wanted to avoid drawing too many comparisons between FB and LM, but there’s so many interesting similarities and divergences that this review winds up contrasting the two games much of the time.
LM is kind of a strange game to describe, as it’s not quite a point and click game, but the story isn’t text-heavy enough for it to be considered a visual novel either. With how heavily it promotes the choices available, the importance of the narrative, and there not being much to the gameplay, it is more of an interactive story than anything. In different sections of the game, there will be a gameplay mechanic that requires more interactivity, such as hitting an alarm with a slingshot. However, these are infrequent and quite brief in duration, like a minigame. I must admit that I expected more input on my part, thinking it’d be more like the point and click style of FB, instead of something so casual and effortless.
You have the option to play LM with either a keyboard or controller, and for the most part I used the controller. Either way, there’s not much to do in LM, as you mostly just walk left and right with the ‘L joystick’ and occasionally hit the ‘A’ button to check out a background object. Glitter can be thrown by hitting the ‘Y’ button, and holding down ‘X’ or ‘B’ picks between choices given throughout the game. As suggested by the various minigames, there are short events that change up the game’s controls. These prompts always reflect the keyboard controls, but it’s pretty easy to figure out how to do it on the controller. Plus, the stakes never seemed that high, though I’m uncertain if some events can be failed or not.
I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but LM is rather short and reviewing its story winds up covering many of the plot points. It takes place within the same canon as FB, and I’ve seen comments suggesting it’s 5 years into the future. The main character is of similar nature to Fran, an 8 year old girl named Misfortune who also is strangely naive, optimistic, and in this case has a cavalier attitude towards grim events. “Oh no mister, your son died, and you too are dead? Well, in that case, I’ll let you know that your puppy was kidnapped, try not to get too hung up on that.”
It doesn’t take long for the narrator of LM to start breaking the 4th wall, and calling into question how meta or strange the game is going to be. By the end, you learn that there’s a good reason for everything to seem so bizarre, and it’s not solely because the setting for these games is unusual. For me at least, this revelation hurt the world building of LM, as there were signs that something truly sinister was at work in this town. Everybody in town wears a mask to cover any unhappy facial expressions, LM is told to always smile no matter what, and she’s not surprised at all of the sudden, tragic events taking place around her. She’s desensitized to horrific misfortunes, which made me think she was a jinx of some kind. However, with the game outright telling me that you can’t trust anything shown throughout 98% of it, I’ve no basis to distinguish between what was the realistic depictions and where it deviated into nonsense. It’s almost like the developers found out that ambivalence worked well in their first game, so if they gave a similar experience, it’d be met with more applause, without caring if it undermined the whole point of the game.
The art style of LM is quite similar to FB, as it has a light, childish air to it. However, though there are moments where things look bleak or perplexing, it’s much more subdued in LM. Instead, it’s the comments that LM makes about her environment that tends to be more macabre than what inspired her to make her statement. “That’s a lovely drawing of a cow. Reminds me of the time a cow kicked over an oil lantern, setting the entire barn ablaze, and killing all of the farm animals inside. That was so sad because I couldn’t pet them.” Either way, if you liked the aesthetic from FB, it’s much the same in LM.
There’s a nice bit of variety to the game’s music, as not all of it follows a creepy or eerie pattern. However, I’m not sure if the tone comes across as the developers intended. With how unconcerned LM can be about terrible things happening around her, and the accompanying music being jolly and gleeful in spite of pertinent problems, it can come across as callous and tone deaf. Perhaps it’s supposed to reflect that ignorance is bliss, which suits the naive LM, but in some ways I find her crazier than Fran was, as well as less likable. With regards to the voice acting, I think you’d either love it or hate it, as LM’s voice is cloyingly sweet.
- Benjamin is a handsome fox, and perhaps even a bit of a bad boy. Be careful little ladies that he doesn’t swipe your heart.
- There’s some humor in the writing, which uplifts some of the darker moments.
- If you don’t care about the main character’s cutesy commentary, this game has absolutely nothing to offer you, as that’s about 80% of the game’s content.
- The choices have some impact on events, but it’s all a shell game. It doesn’t change the ending or anything of significance.
- This spiritual sequel costs more but delivers less than FB did. That’s not a reasonable ask from a game developer.
- It’s possible to get all the achievements in a single playthrough of LM, but you’ll need to carefully follow a guide in order to do so. It’s not really difficult, but you have to save and reload at specific places and in just the right way.
- There’s a few places that it’s helpful to save at, such as before trying to sneak past the zoo guard. It’s really easy though, so it should be foolproof.
Honestly, coming fresh off of FB, it feels like the developers took a few steps backwards with LM. Voice acting might be a nice touch, but it hardly makes up for the trade-offs in most other areas. The gameplay is watered down, it’s significantly shorter, even though it’s a spiritual sequel to FB it does almost nothing to advance the world or plot, the tone and story isn’t nearly as poignant or interesting, and I feel disappointed having played it. 3-4 years isn’t a terribly long time when it comes to game development, but that’s all a matter of scale. Shorter games without many features don’t take as many man hours, and when there’s a larger storyline branching between games, it’s important for something to happen if such a gap takes place. With so few games put out so far, and the 2nd one giving so little, I’m not really hopeful about uncovering more about the 5 realities and whatever the Hell is going on with all that. It’s not a good sign for a game developer to give diminishing returns, so I don’t recommend playing LM, especially since it costs more than its superior predecessor.