Publisher: Ratalaika Games SL
Genre: Slice-of-Life, Casual, Visual Novel
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 3/6/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
When Rie, a cynical and insular 9-year-old, finds Licia, a young demon from Hell, stealing cookies in her kitchen, her life undergoes a sudden and dramatic change. Just how things develop is up to you in Strawberry Vinegar, a slice-of-life (and cake) visual novel.
Book a Table
If you’re not familiar with visual novels, then what you can expect here is a lot of reading! The story is covered either through dialogue between the game’s cast, or Rie’s thoughts on what’s happening. Occasionally, you’ll get the option to choose what to do next.
Most of the choices in the game are divided into one of two categories: how polite you want to be, or what meal to eat. Most of the results are fairly easy to predict – naturally, being rude to Licia is fairly unlikely to unlock their happiest ending! But there are some judgement calls relating to food that might be a little trickier to make.
Strawberry Vinegar is a visual novel in almost the strictest sense. While it does have those story branches, unlike the entirely non-interactive Higurashi, it’s not got the same gameplay options as, for example, Jisei: The First Case (check out our review here).
All the same, you can still drastically shift the course of the story depending on how you treat Rie’s unexpected guest. In fact, I unlocked one of the six endings very early on! And it wasn’t, shall we say, the happiest of finishes, which probably doesn’t say much for my decision-making process…
Food for Thought
One of the game’s advertised features is “Succulent, mouth-watering art of food”, and as the story largely involves moving from one meal to the next, there are plenty of different dishes to find. Indeed, there are trophies for each unique meal!
Though you might want to avoid the game if you’re feeling hungry…
The Strawberry Bits
I’m not certain I’m quite the target audience for Strawberry Vinegar. Everything is very bright and sweet, whether it’s the fashion range, signature food dishes, or even everyone’s hair colour! That said, Rie is something of a sour cynic at the start of the game, so I guess there’s something for everybody.
There’s plenty to like about Strawberry Vinegar. The set-up is humorous and much of the story is devoted to the amusing misunderstandings that naturally arise from the arrival of a demon from Hell in everyday life.
However, there’s also a lot of heart behind everything that’s going on. Aside from Rie and Licia’s blossoming friendship, you’ll also explore the lives of Rie’s parents. Whether through Rie’s cooking sessions with her father, or discussing relationships with her movie star mother, there’s plenty of depth to uncover.
It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, though, and depending on the choices you make, you can end up stumbling across darker territory. If you’ve ever read other visual novels by ebi-hime, this will likely come as no surprise, though Strawberry Vinegar is far lighter by comparison.
In terms of drawbacks, as I covered before, there’s minimal interactivity. If you’re looking for an experience more akin to Phoenix Wright, you’ll be disappointed here. The game doesn’t claim to be anything else, though, so this is more of a point to consider before purchasing, rather than an actual issue.
I also found most of the dialogue pane options difficult to read, but at least I was able to find one that suited me.
Additionally, if you don’t like the colour pink, I don’t think this will be the game for you…
So as you can see, I don’t really have any significant complaints. Strawberry Vinegar knows what it wants to do, and delivers it to a high standard.
All in all, Strawberry Vinegar is a heart-warming story of love, friendship, and food, with memorable characters and a mildly sharp sense of humour. If you’re looking for a pleasant and relaxing way to spend an evening, give it a try!
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Strawberry Vinegar for the PS4 here.