My Big Sister – Xbox One Review
Looks can be deceiving, and that saying can be applied to My Big Sister, developed by Stranga Games & Grab The Games. From its first appearance with its old school graphical style it might seem to be a simple adventure/puzzle game, but youre soon drawn in by some great storytelling that engages your brain and makes you question the reality of this supernatural tale with every twist and turn.
You play the part of Luzia, a 12 year old with an attitude, that is slightly resentful of her surly older sister Sombria, and the interaction between the two of them gives a good depth to their charaters that will often have you laughing out loud at some of their interactions. Its hard to go into the story of My Big Sister without giving up any spoilers but I can easily see this tale being made into a Japanese ghost story in a movie. The story plays tricks with time, making you wonder about the chronology of the action and also questions the mortality of the characters: are they alive or dead, is this a dream sequence or reality, who is good and evil, or is there even a difference?
The game-play mechanics are nice and simple, with a top down view in a Zelda-esque style, with no RPG character customisation or progression, remember this is all about the journey. You move around and explore the environment, until a marker flashes up as you get near an item or character of interest, then its just a case of pressing a button to interact. You’ll take possession of useful items that go into a basic inventory, and will need to call them up at the relevant time to use them in a interaction. You might find a locked door, so before you try and open it, just equip the bobby pin from your inventory that you were given earlier, and hey presto, you pick the luck. That’s about how complex the inventory system gets, but I see that as a positive as it means less time in a paused state, and it keeps the story flowing.
This might be a game that falls into the horror genre, but there are no jump scares, and nothing too gross is displayed mainly because of the simplistic nature of the graphics. That plays more into the realm of the story though, as what the pixilated gore is played out in your imagination to fill in whats missing, which can have the advantage of making the story all the more vivid, like when reading a good book.
The writing in My Big Sister is top notch, with good three dimensional characters in a nearly all female cast, and the dialogue switches from the macabre to humour effortlessly without slowing down the pace of the story. The relationship between the sisters plays out as realistically complex, portraying realistically the way siblings can simultaneously love and hate each other. Luzia shows a dry sense of humour and gets most of the baest lines with some laugh out loud sarcasm. The relationship between the girls and their mother is slowly revealed as the saga plays out, with little titbts of information being relevealed to question the motives of each character.
There is a fair bit of dialogue which is revealed as text only, but with good writing I never fieels like any of it is filler and everything you read is relevant to the story, even if you don’t realis eit at first. My one main gripe with the game concerns the tapping vidiprinter sound that you hear as the diague appears letter by letter. Its seems fitting at first, but it didn’t take long for this noise to become irritating. The rest of the sound and music in the game sets the atmosphere very well and blends in with everything to create a general ambiance, so the music never stands out above what youre seeing on screen.
The plot twists and turns with every chapter and you form theories early on as to how things are going to play out. Its unlikely that you’ll be right, but thanks to the decisions you make in the game, you’ll get one of several alternate ending, each with very different outcomes. Don’t expect many of them to be happy endings, as befits the Japanese horror genre, and some might leave you with a very uneasy feeling, but still with a sense of having been entertained.
Ratalaika Games have been building a reputation for giving completionists the easy one thousand Gamerscore, and with this port, My Big Sister is no exception. It took me about 3 hours to pay through the main storyline the first time, and pick up the bulk of the total score, but instead of having to play through the whole game again to get the alternate endings, once you have completed once you unlock the ability to play each of the 12 chapters separately. This means to get the rest of the endings, you mainly just have to replay from chapter 11 and make alternate decisions. After that it was a case of popping back to chapters earlier in the game to mo[ up the remaining achievements and the full 1000G was mine.
If you like this retro style for games, My Big Sister will reward you with a very strong story, with a nice creepy atmosphere and dark sense of humour. You need to pay attention to the twists and turns throughout, and may still have questions as to what actually happened at the end of it, but its no bad thing if you are left to interpret parts of it yourself, plus of course you get to pick your favourite ending.
Developer: Stranga Games & Grab The Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games S.L. & Grab The Games
Huge Thanks to Ratalaika Games for the review copy.