Little Goody Two Shoes Review
The natural world is achingly beautiful, but it is also a place of horrors, both obvious and hidden. Horror narratives have often mined the natural world for their framework, with dense forests, hills, and mountains serving as the backdrop for mutants, monsters, and witches as they lay claim to victims. The forest serves as a source of magic and mayhem, obscuring the sinister amidst the mundane. It is this backdrop where the tale of Little Goody Two Shoes takes place, seeing its heroine plumb the depths of the forest in search of answers and more. Effectively blending genre and gameplay types with gorgeous art and music, this horror story has plenty of tricks and treats for gamers this Halloween.
Little Goody Two Shoes has players assuming the role of Elise, a villager who lives in the cozy village of Kiefelberg. She longs for a life of wealth and wonder, but the universe has not treated her as kindly. Instead of a life of leisure, she toils endlessly in her small town to earn unremarkable wages instead. The devout villagers are anxious of the looming threat of a witch rumored to be lingering nearby. One day, Elise finds a pair of ruby slippers in her home. Shortly thereafter, she begins encountering strange happenings and learns of a being living in the forest. It is said that in exchange for an offering of three testaments, he will grant the deepest desires of the offeror. Tempted by her desire to escape the village, Elise embarks on a dangerous and macabre journey.
Little Goody Two Shoes is not much of an RPG — it’s more RPG-adjacent — but the gameplay systems and presentation entice. The game wears many hats, shuffling between genres with relative ease. At times, it is a dating sim, life management simulator, horror puzzler with dashes of visual novel and arcade mini-games tossed in. Each day is broken up into six segments, with Elise interacting with or working for villagers during the daytime. It’s during these sections she is accepting odd jobs, like gathering apples from trees or collecting eggs from chickens. These tasks are administered via minigame presented as a cutesy, retro arcade cabinet. It’s an amusing and engaging gimmick, with better performance yielding higher rewards, allowing Elise to stock up on restoratives at the nearby shop.
If Elise is not working, she can keep up on the happenings and lives of the villagers or even enhance her romance level with one of three other women in the village. It is during these interactions that Elise’s reputation can be impacted by player choice, with her response to events or even accusations altering how suspicious people in the village view her. After the conclusion of the day’s events, Elise goes to bed until the witching hour starts.
During this time, Elise explores the depths of the forest which have been seemingly been transformed, now teeming with vicious enemies and dangerous traps. There is no combat during these segments; instead Elise must navigate around enemies and hazards, including murderous butterflies, crows, and much more. It’s not enough to keep Elise’s health up, however, as she has hunger and even sanity meters which must be managed in order to keep her coherent.
If it sounds like a lot, well, it is. Thankfully these elements are slowly introduced to keep them from becoming overwhelming. Likewise, the time management aspects are well balanced: it’s impossible to complete every task or increase your heart rating with each of Elise’s potential interests, leaving the player to strategize how to spend their time. While it is vital to perform chores during the day in order to sustain a healthy budget for curatives in order to maintain Elise’s health, players will want to keep an eye on the relationships with the characters in order to impact which ending they ultimately arrive at. The game takes great strides to help keep players organized, boasting a gorgeous village map that identifies story, romance, and task quests for player convenience, although a fast travel option would have been nice.
The puzzles can be a bit obtuse, leaving players to intuit solutions that often require trial, error, and repeated viewings of the delightfully twisted game over screen. While I had my fair share of confusion during the opening hours, a combination of adapting to the game’s visual cues and more straightforward puzzles helped it from becoming too frustrating.
The disparate gameplay elements complement the fragmented approach to the storytelling, which vacillates between the horrors of the supernatural and the mundane. While Elise may be safe from malevolent entities during the day, there is a palpable tension on display in the village, especially when increasingly bizarre events begin to unfold. The game increasingly tips the player off to the idea that while there is certainly something hideous hiding in the forest, what’s hiding in plain sight in terms of the village’s unraveling humanity might be just as frightening.
Elise is not particularly nice — she’s greedy and crass — but her yearning for a better life is relatable, even if she’s willing to exchange a soul or two in the bargain. The consequences of her curiosity can be difficult to observe; she’s smart but she just cannot help herself. You want her to prevail, even as it seems ever likely her Faustian deal-making will lead to the undoing of not only her, but those around her. With ten endings to achieve, Little Goody Two Shoes has many ideas on how Elise’s tale ends, and whom it ends with. With a short run-time of 10-12 hours and number of endings, the game begs for repeat playthroughs.
Aside from the frightening storyline and shifting game styles, Little Goody Two Shoes has an enthralling presentation. Elise and her companions are gorgeously drawn and animated during cutscenes, reminiscent of early 1990s anime. The cutscenes and storybook presentation are delightful, making the game feel like a devilish cousin to an early 90s Disney movie. This sensibility is carried over to the in-game graphics, with a sublimely animated village only matched by how visually disturbing the forest becomes.
The in-game character models are just as beautiful, with Elise dodging demons on-screen looking like her sprite work was ripped straight from a Sega Saturn RPG - and meant as an earnest compliment. The soundtrack and sound effects rise to the occasion as well, with charming and serene village themes contrasting against dissonant, harsh tracks in the forest which mirror the psychological and physical traumas Elise endures. There is limited voice acting, with a handful of phrases frequently - perhaps too frequently - uttered.
Little Goody Two Shoes has no problem putting Elise through the ringer on her dark mission, and it does so with aplomb. The game’s intense story stands on the shoulders of a razor-sharp presentation and demanding yet satisfying gameplay loop. Elise might be damning her soul to an eternity of torment, but it’s the player who is about to embark on one hell of a ride.