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Game Info:

Strawberry Vinegar
Developed by: Ebi-Hime
Published by: Sekai Project
Release Date: January 5. 2016
Available on: PC, Mac, Steam OS
Genre: Visual novel
Number of Players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $9.99

Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

Strawberry Vinegar is a visual novel that only provides a few choices per chapter for the player to make. There are six possible endings with only a couple of them being happy ones.   There are many customization options including the text scrolling speed and how fast to have it automatically progress the story for you.  The story is about an unlikely friendship between an introvert and a young demon (demons can reproduce apparently) named Licia who is visiting the human realm, specifically Japan, to experience their culture and cuisine.  

Rie is an intelligent nine-year old girl who doesn’t have any friends.  She’s okay with that and she loves her mom who is a successful actress that financially supports the family and her father who stays at home and cooks and cleans.  Rie’s father is very emotional and wears frilly aprons while cooking extravagant meals.  Some of his cooking skills have rubbed off on Rie and she likes to cook and bake as well.  After baking a batch of checkered cookies, Rie discovers a girl her age except with horns and a tail, munching on her cookies without even asking or introducing herself first! 

Upon being discovered, Licia introduces herself as a demon and tells Rie to “Feed me or I will reap your soul.”   Rie has several ways of responding to this demand, but if you want to go for the happier ending, I recommend accepting this strange offer.  Given that Licia has seven stomachs she is often hungry and wants to experience all the specialty dishes that Japan has to offer.

Strawberry Vinegar
Highlights:

Strong Points: Likable characters and funny dialogue
Weak Points: Game frequently crashed to desktop; skipping only worked intermittently
Moral Warnings: One of the main characters is a demon visiting the human realm; possible same-sex attraction; language and blaspheming; references to multiple religions; Christianity viewed as a “convenient fantasy made up by desperate people”; Rie’s father is treated poorly and is portrayed in a negative light

Rie has the option of making foods for Licia or taking the easy route and go with some pre-packaged snacks/meals and no matter what route is taken a Steam achievement will unlock and Licia will eventually be satisfied.  Since this game revolves around food and has numerous close-ups of it and vividly explains its taste and texture, this is probably not a good game to play if you haven’t recently eaten or are trying to diet.

Throughout Licia’s six-day visit, Rie and her can go to a festival (or stay at home and do homework), school, a field trip, and a restaurant.   Each event is packed with some funny dialogue as these characters are pretty well developed and are very loveable.  One characteristic I did not appreciate was how the father was always being disrespected by his wife and daughter.  While an excellent cook and clothes maker, he was portrayed as useless when it came to doing anything else.  Despite being portrayed as effeminate, he was no doubt Rie’s father as she shares the same pink hair as him.  

Licia is Rie’s very first friend, though it takes Rie a while to come to that conclusion. There are possibilities to take the relationship further depending on some of the choices made in the game.  Surprisingly, Rie’s mother encourages this relationship to become more than just friends. The good ending I earned left them as good friends in the epilogue that takes place nine years later.

 

Strawberry Vinegar
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 0/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 67%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 3/10
Sexual Content - 4.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 13/10
+3 for promoting spending time with family

Besides the potential for same-sex attraction another issue worth noting is the after-life themes.  Many religions are represented and attacked by Rie’s mother who is an atheist that says religion is a “convenient fantasy made up by desperate people.”  The father who admits that he is not very smart, is open to the idea that there may be a deity and hopes that there is.   So I guess I must be desperate and dumb to be a Christian.  Got it.  The words hell and d*mn are usually used in their proper context, but that’s not always the case.  Not surprisingly, the Lord’s name is also used in vain as well.  Last but not least, Rie’s mother sometimes wears outfits that flaunt her cleavage.

Despite the colorful graphics and whimsical background music (which is sold separately for $4.99), I don’t believe that this game is suited for younger (Christian) children.  My kids were attracted to this cute game, but I won’t let them play it any time soon.  I truly love visual novels and think that they’re a great way to encourage kids to read more, but my quest for finding one that’s child safe continues. 

The asking price is a reasonable $9.99, but only expect to get a few hours of entertainment out of it.  After replaying it a couple of times due to earning bad endings, I was able to get a good ending within five hours.  There is an option to skip dialogue, but I only found it to work intermittently.  Another issue worth mentioning is that this game constantly crashed to my desktop if I left the dialogue text idle for thirty seconds or so.  As long as the game was auto scrolling, it seemed fine.  I had to make sure that I saved my game often just in-case I got a phone call or some other issue came up that required interrupting my game.  

The story and characters were cute and I enjoyed watching this friendship blossom. However, the opportunity to take it beyond that and the negative portrayal of the father and religion in general, like vinegar, left a bad taste in my mouth.  

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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