It surprises me that, up until now, I’ve never actively sought out a visual novel to combine two of my greatest loves, books and video games. This is why I thought that trying out My Aunt is a Witch, a whimsical-looking visual novel from developers Sometimes You, would be a fun experience for me. However, it turned into one of my most frustrating gaming experiences of the past few months.
My Aunt is a Witch is an interactive visual novel promising “adventures and quests in a world of magic.” The simplistic story follows Thomas, a twelve-year-old boy who is off to live with his Aunt Alice in the countryside in order to escape his terrible stepmother. As the title suggests, his aunt just so happens to be a witch and she decides to take her nephew on as her new student.
From the very beginning of this journey, I came across a hurdle: the writing is so bad. It’s so incredibly heavy-handed, overly descriptive, and generic at the same time. I found my interest in the story begin to wane immediately; it was a chore to get through, and I was so unbelievably over Thomas after the fifth time he mentioned how much he hated his step-mother in the space of a few paragraphs.
This clunky writing continued throughout the entire game, which is only made worse by the sheer amount of prose you have to get through. The introduction was one of the worst I have ever played—it was so long that I was genuinely thinking that this was it, I had resigned myself to the fact I was just going to sit pressing the circle button for hours on end, reading this incredibly mediocre story for hours. Thankfully, about twenty minutes later I was able to do something other than press the same button over and over again to get to the next boring sentence.
By the time I got to the interactive part of the game, I was so fatigued with boredom that my attention was completely gone. I didn’t really care about what I was doing, and the next thing I know, I hadn’t read something properly, ended up making the wrong choice and I died. I had no idea this was even a possibility in this sweet, innocent-looking game, so I hadn’t even entertained the idea of saving my progress. To my utter dismay, I had to start the damn thing over again.
After furiously tapping the circle button for a good few minutes, I ended up back where I was. Not too soon after this, I made another dumb mistake, saving my progress after making a decision that ended up in my death. Because that was the only save file I had made, I had to start over…again. Now, at this point, my patience was wearing thin and I had severe thumb cramp from pressing circle over and over again, desperately trying to get through the seemingly endless introduction of the game that seemed to get longer each time I went through it.
This unintentional perma-death I kept inflicting upon myself made this game even more of a chore to play. I don’t want to blame the game for my own incompetence; however, I do feel that something should have been mentioned about saving my progress. But I should point out that I could have easily missed any mention of this because, as mentioned earlier, I found my attention slipping very quickly, very early on.
Despite My Aunt is a Witch being mind-numbingly dull in parts, I did find the interactive element fun, perhaps because it was the most stimulating part of the game I had encountered… but they also become as repetitive as the story. I was essentially doing Thomas’ chores and it really felt like it. The fun got sucked out of the tasks very quickly due to the unnecessarily heavy dialogue that continually slowed everything down. I found myself rushing through so much text because I wanted the whole thing to be over.
The art-style is perhaps the only thing I can praise in this game. Each background is wonderfully detailed and extremely creative, so much so that they are able to become narratives in themselves, without the aid of the dialogue. I also found the character design to be extremely inspired; each character had some really lovely details. However, I found that the characters were so dull, not just in how they were written, but how little they changed, visually, in each scene. For instance, there’s a scene where Alice is watering her greenhouse and gets drenched. She comes back into the scene and looking exactly the same as she always does as if nothing had happened. It just feels as if the bare minimum was done to bring any life to these characters, which is a shame because there were so many opportunities to do so within the story.
On top of everything else, the music in the game began to grate on me; this might be due to the fact I had to repeat the beginning of this game a grand total of three times, but even then it just felt flat to me. I also found the sound effects to be jarring; I am glad there was a function to turn them right down because, instead of immersing me into the game, they took me right out of it.
On the surface, My Aunt is a Witch looks like a very visually enticing game, promising an intriguing story and exciting gameplay; however, it is quite the opposite. The entire game feels so uninspired and it ended up being a huge chore for me to play, even before I made any grave errors. The concept is so strong and there are the bare bones of something that could have had a lot of charm, but it ends up missing the mark.
[A copy of My Aunt is a Witch was provided for review purposes]
- Detailed and visually stunning background art
- Creative character design
- A poorly written and overly simplistic story
- Repetitive gameplay that made it a chore to play
- Overly long introduction