Experience death from the comfort of your seat. A compilation of five short stories which occur in different eras and locations, touching on themes like time travel, black magic, and immortality.
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Out of all the games on my obscure games recommendation list this was the one I was most looking forward to, and it all had to do with the cover art for its page on here. An ominous looming figure that looked like a statue in pure black and white. I found it very striking, as if I was looking at something dark, and mysterious, something not meant to be seen by human eyes.
Popping the game in, I feel like my initial feelings were very, very correct.
Critters for Sale was recommended to me by Bruh_Moment_7, thank you very much for recommending me this very bizarre and intriguing experience. It is definitely a game that fits my likes a lot.
Since this is a game I feel works best when played blind, I am going to split the review into two sections. One section that talks strictly about how it feels to play, and one that goes into detail on the many individual moments the game has.
Critters for Sale is a game with a very avant-garde aesthetic that I feel has not been done before. The crisp, scratchy, newspaper looking effect that is used to show the world and characters provides feelings of both familiarity and the past, as well as feelings of fear, and the unknown. It hits right in the uncanny valley, especially with the use of facial animations and structure for the various characters.
The music also fits the same tone as the visuals. Some tracks feel more relaxing, playing within a standard genre, while other tracks feel hectic and uncertain. Each track is used to elevate the moment involving it to its maximum potential.
You are now entering the spoiler part of the review
The game has five different stories, or "Critters". Some stories have only a single ending while others have up to Six. While the stories do have some connections to one another, like similar antagonists, mentions of plot points, or parts required to solve a puzzle, they don't fully intersect in anyway.
I started with the Monkey Story, as it was in the middle of the select screen, and only had one ending. I feel the Monkey Story is the most mundane in tone out of the five stories, despite the fact that the entire premise is about you going to a demon summoning ritual.
You start as a young man named Othman, who, along with your younger cousin Omar, are invited to this ritual. After talking to the people involved, and unlocking a barrier that was meant to protect you, you are ultimately tricked into leaving your in the hands of the people handling the ritual, who ultimately summon Satan to possess the body of their Maalem (Boss) Mustapha. He becomes a Noid Man, and you ultimately escape as he goes into the Abyss.
I think the build up for this ending, while there, was not that satisfying, at least compared to the Goat, Snake, and Spider's various endings. There are a few points where the conclusion is alluded to, like when you can visit a Celestial Being through the back of a merchant's shop, who tells you not to feel bad about what's about to happen, and the fact that you leave your cousin with the person conducting the ritual, as well as the various talks about demons and stuff. I just think that it ends a bit too quickly and so the build up never really gets time to fully release.
The next story I played was Dragon, which I only played because it has only one ending. I'm pretty sure Dragon is actually intended to be the final route played as getting its ending requires you to look at the Doomsday Machines in both the Spider and Snake endings, or to just look on Youtube for a guide like I did. Dragon, while having the mystical setting of the Reincarnation Temple, is probably the weakest out of the five in regards to story... because there really isn't one. You kind of just bumble around trying to escape the temple, and interact with some NPC's like a magical tiger that has you take a quiz, or a Korean General, or the host of the temple who is on vacation that you need to call on a payphone, but there's no real cohesive story that's happening.
That isn't to say that what you will explore and find isn't interesting, but that it feels like it doesn't all serve a genuine purpose and is just there to be "strange" and "weird". The ending is also the weakest with absolutely no build-up, especially if you didn't play Spider or Snake beforehand. You just become a Noid Man known as the Nosferatu of the East with no real lead into why you become that or who you were before.
The next critter I played was Goat, which is probably my second favorite story in the game. I'm not even going to go into detail, and instead recommend listening to some Death Grips. Trust me, it's good. Goat is easily the funniest route in the game though, by far.
My favorite route in the game is Spider (despite the fact I am super arachnophobic lmao). You're a tourist in New York and you happen upon a casino that is controlled by Neptunians, and also that the world is going to end at midnight. You wander through the casino and experience a variety of things, from getting your head ripped off, to the world being made extinct, to befriending a Martian Prince whose love for spicy food saves the planet from being destroyed. It's a very strange route where every ending feels very disconnected from the others, yet they all tie to the overall narrative.
The final route I played was Snake, which shares some similarities to Spider. You get a message from Michael Jackson to meet at a club, and when you get there... well, Michael Jackson is actually there. The weird thing? The year is 2033, 24 years after MJ died. You can either go along with Michael, or get your head cut in half like you're Frieza fighting Trunks.
All in all, the biggest thing is that none of the stories really follow an overarching theme outside of "Otherworldly Beings like to do a little trolling." I think maybe the underlying theme is something akin to "You can't escape fate" but with the weird sense of humor this game has, as well as how obtuse some of the storytelling is, it's hard to say.
Critters for Sale is honestly a game you just have to fully experience on your own to get the most out of it. I enjoy it because of its strange sense of humor, artstyle, and uncanny design, but those very reasons could also put many other people off.
I can't fully recommend it because it is just so... bizarre. However, it is only $9.99 on Steam, and less than 3 hours, so there's no real harm in picking it up either.
Gotta say though, the dev, Sonoshee, is very fucking weird.
Looks, plays, and sounds lovely - the perfect analog aesthetic of finding some ancient floppy disc from a cursed garage sale and imagining whatever must be locked up inside. Sadly the most crucial aspect of a visual novel - the story - is lacking. Some of the overarching elements - the fight between Satan and God, the Noid Men, pretty much the entire Monkey arc - certainly have potential but usually feel too afraid to go all the way or shed the lackadasical skin and pop-culture references which line the game at the most inopportune of times.
I'm actually kind of in two minds when it comes to this game. On one hand it's an absolute stylistic achievement; the way everything manages to appear fluid and expressive while also looking like the entire game was passed through the Game Boy Camera, the soundtrack which is at times catchy and other times genuinely kinda haunting, some interesting character designs, one specific moment of pretty effective horror, and a few decent gags all make this hard not to at least recommend giving a try, but like, on the other hand, it's surprising to me how difficult it was for me to stay interested during the four or so hours it took to play.
The game's appeal, for me at least, starts and ends at its aesthetic, and those aforementioned scattered moments of horror and decent humor. None of the five episodes here have especially interesting setups or satisfying payoffs, and I kind of feel like the game at times kind of suffers from not taking itself too seriously? Like man the episode where you start experiencing increasingly strange events while wandering through a desert could have been kind of unnerving and may have managed to draw me in if it wasn't also like "heh... and get THIS... your travel companion is FREAKIN' MC RIDE!!!!" Like I feel as if Monkey is the most effective and interesting chapter simply by virtue of the fact that it leans into the disturbing quality of some of the game's visuals and sound design without throwing in too many wacky, zany irreverent moments!!! That may just be me wanting something out of the game that it's not aiming for, though; for me, it's just difficult to get invested in the deliberately confusing time travel occult narrative the game is trying to convey when the writing doesn't seem interested in making that story compelling or even telling it without falling back on a bunch of internet culture references.
Give it a try if it looks interesting to you, though. I genuinely do feel like this could end up clicking really hard for a lot of people who vibe more with its sense of humor.
Bellissimo visivamente. Narrativamente intrigante, in particolare nel modo in cui bene o male tutti e cinque i racconti si dimostrano legati l'uno con l'altro. L'interazione consentita è molto poca, ma questo di per sé non sarebbe un problema. Purtroppo, della trama in sé di ciascuno dei racconti (e del loro insieme) mi interessa abbastanza poco e il livello di superficialità non è riuscito a farmeli apprezzare appieno.