Little Witch Story
[Note: Please be aware that this game deals with themes and scenes of extreme intolerance that some players may find upsetting.]
In Snow McNally's Twine adventure Little Witch Story, witches, and magic of course, are real. If that's a surprise to you, well, the general population and the government aren't handling it much better, with strict regulation and tests in effect to keep tabs on witches. Not that you've thought too much about it, even though you've seen them around school in their special identifying uniforms. But when a chance encounter makes you realise you're a witch, too, suddenly you've got a lot on your plate. Your best friends June and Eli are looking at you differently, the teachers you used to love seem afraid of you, the other students are already whispering, and even your parents... well, lets just say they aren't taking it well. At least you've got the other witches at school to support you and help you learn more about yourself, but you may discover you've been thrown into the deep end when it becomes apparent that something strange is happening to the local magical folk, and you're tied up in it. To play, just click the bolded pink text at the bottom of the screen to make choices and advance the story. While a lot of your options are mostly cosmetic, some do change the way certain events happen, and maybe even influence a little lovey-dovey action,
It's going to be fairly obvious from the get-go that in spite of also dealing with magical shenanigans, Little Witch Story is also talking about the inherent intolerance and bigotry many people already face today, albeit taken to the extreme here, sort of like the X-Men's underlying themes with a little bit of Marvel's own Civil War story on top of it. People are afraid of witches, sure, because witches can do things like flip over cars with a thought, appear out of thin air, and cause lightning to rain from the sky... but does that mean they should be tagged, restrained, and identified like animals? These are issues and ideas that have been explored before, and Little Witch Story does so mostly well, but the narrative is focused on extremes... the lion's share of people are so adverse to witches as to seem cartoonishly evil, small-minded, and oppressive, while the witches are all kind, cool, cute, and powerful. It's like if every other character in Harry Potter apart from Harry, Ron, and Hermione were replaced by the Dursleys, and this extreme dissonance means the overarching themes and parallels of bigotry, racism/homophobia, and so forth aren't integrated as smoothly or naturally as they could be, and the ending, no matter which you get, still feels a little abrupt and hastily wrapped up. That said, that Little Witch Story at least tries to deal with and incorporate diversity like gender fluidity, sexuality, and even depression is pretty darned noteworthy, with a cast that covers a lot of the LGBTQ spectrum that often gets ignored. The story of the strange magical goings-on actually does a fairly good job of obfuscating whodunnit, though it's often hard to tell how much your choices are actually influencing things, and on the whole the narrative is well written and engaging, if a bit rushed in places. Little Witch Story is a solid afternoon's read with enough warm fuzzies and explosive scenes to make up for the darker scenes, and if you're looking for Anime-style over-the-top high school witch drama, with eight different endings, it's well worth checking out.