Upon first glance, Little Goody Two-Shoes’ name and its seeming contradiction to Elise’s persona will probably catch your attention. The term “goody two-shoes” refers to someone who is sanctimoniously flawless today; it originates from the moralizing children’s novel Little Goody Two-Shoes, published in the 18th century. The anonymous text, which is occasionally credited to Oliver Goldsmith—though it’s unlikely to be true—follows a girl who starts off with just one shoe and receives a second as payment for her good deeds. In the context of the 18th century, “goody” is only a contraction of “goodwife,” which was, for the most part, used in place of Mrs. or Miss at the time. Because Elise is everything but cloyingly good and is actually simply trying to fulfill her aspirations of riches, the title of the game is a slightly tongue-in-cheek allusion to the children’s book, something the authors of the game are well aware of.
It’s important to note that this game contains more literary allusions than just the title, and being aware of them improves the gameplay experience. The entire adventure begins with Elise’s bright red shoes, a nod to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes, in which a girl named Karen, who likewise dreams of wealth symbolized by red shoes, becomes so enamored of her shoes that she is cursed to dance until the only way to stop it is to cut off her feet. Elise is definitely more of a Karen than Two-Shoes, even though she does a better job of hiding her aspirations. This is significant since her adoptive grandmother, Holle, is named after the fairy tale’s main character, Frau Holle. The story belongs to a genre of tales called “The Kind and the Unkind Girls,” in which the kind girl receives reward for her kindness while the unkind girl receives punishment for her lack of it. Being the nice girl instead of the Karen is what’s best for Elise and the player. (Holle’s other identity as a former Germanic goddess may or may not play a role in this.)
The game is a narrative role-playing adventure that combines exploration with mini-games, a tale that is influenced by the player’s decisions in a series of dialogue choices and who to help, the need to control Muffy, and the town gossip who has the power to build or damage Elise’s reputation. Elise can select between two ladies in the town and the enigmatic “selenic wanderer” Rozenmarine in the narrative section, which also features a yuri dating sim element. Whichever one you choose, talks with all three will yield valuable information and occasionally useful goods. Day and night modes of gameplay are available, with the standard Stardew Valley game style during the day. Elise explores the town and its surroundings, gathering information for the evening, developing romantic relationships with various personalities, and earning money. The game then switches to horror mode at midnight, with Elise searching a variety of phantasmagorical locales for the enigmatic Him—who grants wishes—for what is obviously a horrendous cost. (That is, simple for us.)
The majority of the gameplay problems stem from the fact that nighttime is by far the more difficult of the two modes. I was sent a review copy for a PC, and I must say that the controls are quite awkward. Although you can choose between ancient (arrow keys) and modern (WASD) controls, both have serious responsiveness problems, and the absence of a leap capability seriously limits some of the woods rambles. There’s an annoying click-pickiness to examining stuff, and in certain quick reaction areas, even the sprinting feature (which involves holding shift and just using the left button—the right button is inoperable) is ineffective. Even though death is a common occurrence in this kind of game (due to the early King’s Quest titles), there are places in this game when it almost seems too simple to die, especially when it comes to the killer moth parts. It’s not enjoyable; it’s frustrating. That might be directly related to the game’s PC port; it’s also available on consoles, but I have a suspicion the console version will offer a superior experience. However, midnight periods offer restorative goods for you to discover via exploration, so those of us who are less easily frustrated or more coordinated may find it less problematic. While there are plenty of save spots and slots available, it’s important to note that if you’re playing many run-throughs at once, the “continue” option after death will automatically load the most recent save file.
It works nicely that your choice of lady to romance determines which of the game’s ten endings you can choose from. Though there are vocal lines for each of the main characters in both Japanese and English, the music is the most notable audio element in this work. (The music was included with Steam pre-orders, which is a bonus.) The artwork is equally fanciful, fusing vivid colors, ornate costumes, and intriguing settings with a sharper take on the charming look from 90s anime, which is far superior to what passes for cute these days. The most eerie parts of the game are greatly enhanced by the excellent sprite and other animations as well as the game’s truly lovely appearance. The terror isn’t particularly scary, but it’s unnerving, and that’s almost more significant.
The game Little Goody Two-Shoes isn’t flawless. It is engaging from beginning to end and contains many excellent components. Nevertheless, the overall enjoyment is diminished by the repetitive death-traps in the midnight scenes and the aggravating mini-games that comprise the labor sections. Although I would test this on a console before a PC, the visually appealing and intriguing theme mix makes it worth trying at least once.