Little Misfortune takes a leaf from Disney’s book. Rife with woodland creatures, pastel colours and lots of glitter, it’s easy to think that this is some cutesy story. That is, until you look at the main character’s diary.
The narrator, nicknamed “Mr. Voice”, tells us that Little Misfortune is a good girl from a not-so-good family. And this undercurrent runs heavily through the game, as exemplified by the stories that Misfortune tells about her hopes and dreams for her family that are so often broken. Even if you aren’t won over by her wide-eyed gaze or sweet Mexican lilt, it’s hard not to empathize with Misfortune’s situation, unless you’re made of stone. It’s clear that this is a tale about neglect. Misfortune’s mum is introduced to us as someone who really likes her “juice” (i.e. fermented grape juice). Meanwhile, her dad sleeps most nights in the car outside the house and has a chemistry set in the basement. Make what you will of it. It’s hard not to feel Misfortune’s loss of innocence, especially when she can prattle on about imaginary friends and still drop an f-bomb when you least expect it. Yup. Let me be clear. This game ain’t for kids.
But never fear, because Mr. Voice is here. This narrator character breaks the fourth wall by talking both to Misfortune and to you, the player. He urges Misfortune to look for Eternal Happiness, meanwhile, imploring you to look after her. But of course, the choices you make don’t ever seem straightforward. A well-intentioned choice can often lead to disaster. I felt like it was hard to make a sensible decision with an appropriate result. But maybe this is the point. Maybe you’re meant to feel what it must be like to be Misfortune – that any good intentions that you might have are still at the mercy of circumstances out of your control.
Regardless, I soldiered on because I was pretty hooked by the story. It has a Stranger Things vibe – you know, the whole kids-trying-to-live-normal-lives-but-keep-getting-disrupted-by-the-paranormal. And I wanted to know what the heck is going on. I mean, why is everyone wearing masks? And, like, creepy masks, where you never see anyone’s face, but they look like they’re always smiling. It’s all sweet…but…too sweet.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to give anything away. But if you can’t tell already, this game is very much narrative-driven. In terms of gameplay, there really isn’t much. The event that took the most skill involved a type of Whac-a-Mole mini-game, quite reminiscent of Sam and Max Hit the Road. There are also tons of things you can click on, most of which are conduits for Misfortune to make comments that are often laced with black comedy. Many of these are so rich with nuance that I ended up clicking on practically everything just to hear the dialogue. Probably the thing that most surprised me was a sudden explanation of the menstrual cycle that I could not have predicted in a million years.
As left-field as most of these comments were, it painted a pretty rich tapestry of Misfortune’s life, her outlook and her family. It made me think deeply about real-life matters, many of which are not addressed in games, such as the slow corruption of a young soul. Yeah, I know. Heavy. As much as I often play games just for that adrenaline rush, I have no regrets about playing Little Misfortune. Some will criticize it for its short duration: under 3 hours. But for me, I like a story that takes you on a journey but still knows when it’s time to close the book.