Alisa Hail reviews My Big Sister…
Dealing with your siblings is a chore sometimes. More so for some than others. But, what if your sibling was turned into an undead ghoul with a ravenous appetite for raw flesh? Would you still be willing to help them out? More importantly, perhaps, are you still going to argue about those annoying sounds they make when they eat? My Big Sister is a story that explores the more mundane aspects of sibling love and rivalry, juxtaposed against an unsettling atmosphere of death, curses, and the invisible things we suspect late at night stalk us unseen in the dark.
Luzia is not your average little girl. Her jaded personality seems a bit beyond her age. Her regular annoyance with her older sister, Sombria, however, is easily relatable. Following an unplanned and ill-fated trip to a bathhouse, Sombria falls victim to a curse. Her form overly stretched and her skin too pale, she is clearly no longer human. Sombria’s salvation, if possible, lands on the young shoulders of Luzia. Thankfully, Luzia is perfectly suited to the task.
It is not often I have described a game with plenty of blood, and gore, and a few alarming instances as delightful, but that is the most accurate description I can give My Big Sister. Luzia’s childlike embrace of the strange world around her feels akin to Alice trapped in Wonderland. It is almost as if the dangers always at her heels can never quite touch her due to her innocence. For instance, early on Luzia runs across a demon in need of a face. The demon, surprised by Luzia’s unexpected desire to help, takes a liking to her, even giving her a candy bar as a reward after she delivers. But, therein also lies the persistent feeling of dread. When will her curiosity press her too far and the darkness finally closes in?
But, Luzia never loses her sense of humour despite everything. In fact, it is both Luzia and Sombria’s casual wit juxtaposed against the sinister reality of their plight that makes for most of the humour in the game. For example, Sombria loses herself to her new raging hunger and ends up devouring a deer. When Luzia arrives to find the gruesome scene she makes a Bambi joke. It is this type of banter that kept a smile on my face the whole time.
Gameplay is simple. Exclamation marks appear whenever there is an area that can be explored or an item that can be examined. Inventory requires you to scroll from left to right to look at and select items, but since you are never carrying more than four or five items at a time, this works very well. The developers have added save points throughout, but unfortunately you only have one save file. However, since there is no real combat in the game, so the possibility of death is rare.
The world of My Big Sister is so well crafted, particularly because the relationship between Sombria and Luzia feels so natural and heartfelt, that it is easy to feel comfortable in the world yourself.
Run across a noodle house for the spirits nestled in the woods? Of course. Why wouldn’t that be there? It is at once absurd, and terrifying, and yet familiar. In some ways, the childlike whimsy mixed with the darkness and danger makes me think of a classic Studio Ghibli film. It is a reminder of the curiosity of the childhood, the fear of the dark, and the relationships that make life worth the journey.
My Big Sister speaks to something deep within us that remembers the uncertainty of childhood, the fear of the boogeyman, and how being near to someone we loved, particularly a sibling, shined a light into the dark.
The gameplay is simple, but the journey is engrossing and delightful. It is a reminder that the mundane and the terrible aren’t always that far separated, and that being grateful for the people who love us might be more of a saving grace than we thought.