“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.” – Michel de Montaigne
Developer: Killmonday Games AB
Released: 18th September 2019
Price: £15.49 – £17.99
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
NOTE: This game touches on sensitive subjects, such as domestic abuse, alcoholism and death.
Little Misfortune is a deceptively sweet point-and-click adventure featuring a pettable Kraken, monsters, missing children, a crush on a fox and more sparkles than Ru Paul’s Drag Race! Players can step into the tiny shoes of Misfortune Ramírez Hernández as she embarks on a dangerous game of consequences with the mysterious and disembodied Mr Voice in order to win ‘eternal happiness’!
Little Misfortune is primarily a point-and-click adventure, with a focus on choices and outcomes, with numerous decisions to make and branching consequence trees. Choices range from the seemingly inane to critically important, however, the obvious cannot be considered so as results can be highly unpredictable and what may seem like a safe choice, often isn’t.
Unlike a lot of titles within this genre, including the developers’ previous title Fran Bow, Little Misfortune does not have an inventory system. Certain objects can be picked up and will make different choices available to the player throughout the course of the game but they cannot be viewed or accessed in any other way. While this means it is possible to lose track of which items have been collected, the game will always present different choices based on inventory contents so it is not possible to miss item-related decisions.
The game also incorporates environmental puzzles, often with multiple solutions, which the player must solve in order to progress. Additionally, there are two types of collectables and a selection of mini-games within Little Misfortune, these include fox bashing and a dance-off with a hamster stripper! Most of these sections are fairly easy to complete, but the mix of activities and engaging themes ensure that progress remains satisfying.
As the game begins, we are told of young Misfortune that “today is the day she will die“. This is explained by Mr Voice, before he encourages her to play a game and informs her that the prize is eternal happiness! This character, whilst seemingly friendly, also raises misgivings and feelings of unease. This is reflective of the whole game in that everything is very sweet and twee on a surface level, yet it only takes a little digging to reveal much darker undertones.
Juxtaposed against a cute facade of sparkles and furry friends, the game explores sensitive and mature subjects including domestic abuse, alcoholism, drug use and death. Distressing revelations about Misfortune’s upbringing and surroundings are often revealed when least expected, after an assumed wholesome decision or during a particularly adorable moment, making them feel more poignant and adding some shock factor. Similarly, the protagonist’s naivety and inability to grasp the significance of the things she says, add an uncomfortable air of nonchalance to some otherwise harrowing discoveries.
Little Misfortune has a distinct cartoon style, in muted autumnal and winter colour palettes. It works perfectly to depict the jollier cutesy sections, such as the endless spreading of glitter and sparkles, as well as the more unsavoury scenes such as the increasing numbers of missing children or the hamster mugging!
The game has an original soundtrack featuring a variety of tracks that range from twee and ethereal to more edgy heavy numbers. Sound effects are also utilised well, especially in emphasising the contrast between the sweetness of certain elements, such as Misfortune herself, and the dread and creepiness of the game’s darker side. Both these things work in tandem to emphasise the conflicting atmospheres and accompanying, unsettling sense of uncertainty. Similarly, Mr Voice sounds like a sinister version of old British children’s TV programme narration (Think Bagpuss, Button Moon or The Clangers), contrasting the familiar and soothing sounds with the unpleasant undertones and content.
The main character undoubtedly steals the show, dismissively discussing her troubled upbringing through the charmingly blinkered world view of a child with glitter, presenting the overarching themes of death, mortality and the afterlife with such naivety that they seem almost simple. Little Misfortune is another winner from KillMonday Games, whilst the gameplay is mechanically different to their earlier game, Fran Bow, the familiar contrast between cute and disturbing remains present and brilliantly executed (there are even a number of nods to both the game and the studio within this adventure)!
The original aesthetics and audio emphasise this juxtaposition, helping to make them highlights of the game in their own right. Additionally, the gameplay is varied and entertaining, the presentation is uniquely stylised and the choices actually matter meaning that while it can easily be completed in less than four hours it does offer some replayability.
Overall, Little Misfortune is a varied and unique experience, enjoyable and accessible, with gameplay, narrative design and themes that will appeal to a wide range of players at a reasonable price; I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend the game without hesitation!