What does it take to make a human? If you were to recreate a human, could you ever get an exact replacement? What do you need to do to recreate her exact personality, her traits and everything else? How much anger, joy, fear and sadness do you need for that endeavour? How do you need to mix those emotions to recreate what you’ve once lost? What’s the price for such an achievement and how far can you go to obtain it? Today we’re taking a look at a grim and twisted title that asks these questions: My Lovely Daughter is a game that comments on child labour, abusive parenting, ignorant societies and other topics. Here’s my review.
Developer: GameChanger Studio Publisher: Toge Productions, Neon Doctrine Genres: Alchemy, Simulation, Adventure, Indie, Dark, 2D, Management Release Date: March 8th, 2018 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC (Win, Lin, Mac), Switch Copy was provided by the publisher.
You awaken in a dark place… You don’t remember much apart from your name and this place being your house. You remember that something happened to your wife and daughter and as you stumble across your daughter’s frail corpse, it dawns on you that you tried to resurrect her. You captured her soul, trying to perform forbidden experiments to achieve this. It’s all very cryptic but eventually, you find your notes and begin your deviant journey of My Lovely Daughter! Your goal is to reanimate your daughter by creating homunculi, raising them, and murdering them to strengthen your daughter’s soul… but it will take many attempts and many sacrifices to get the ratio just right.
The game’s main question is at what cost you’re going to achieve said goal. This is meant metaphorically and literally as you’ll need to create and nurture homunculi by combing three materials together. By combining two pieces of wood with one piece of meat, you’ll create an “Animal” homunculi, for instance, that embodies the emotion of Sadness. If you then sacrifice it, you’ll not only get better materials in return but you’ll also be able to feed that Sadness into your Daughter’s soul. Once it’s a full moon, you can then try to resurrect your daughter – what’s important, however, is that you get the mix of sadness, joy, fear and anger just right. Meaning, you’ll need to try it again and again until you get it right. On top of that, you’ll have to manage your homunculi’s affection and levels before you brutally murder them to bring back Arhea… Luckily, your notes help you out and as you play the game, you unlock more features that help you increase the level or the gold earned at totems – or you learn more about the story which then may spark ideas and fill up your notes.
Naturally, buying materials and gifts is going to cost money. You’ll also need to embalm your daughter’s body or else she’ll fall apart… All of this can get quite pricey, which is why you’ll send your homunculi to work in the city. Different emotions are fit for different jobs and while the townfolks are pretty excited about the new workers, I can’t help but shake off this feeling of uneasiness from me. Yes, the game is made to make you think and it’s supposed to make you feel uneasy… but why is Faust killing off these homunculi in such gruesome ways? I find those scenes to be quite fucked up and I feel as if they miss the mark of “abusive parenting” and just showcase how mad Faust actually is in this game. Yes, the homunculi are practically our children and we have to gain their affection or else they’ll run away – that’s abusive. But finding a way to kill them based on what they consist of is just gross. I don’t know. In that regard, the game does a poor job and is just trying to shock the player for the sake of it.
Other topics are presented well, though. In some countries, workers are disposable and you can just get replace them with someone else due to the lack of workplaces for all of these people that need to work. This can be seen here as well. If a homunculus isn’t worthwhile anymore, you get rid of them and create a new one. The game encourages this, actually, as you gain high-grade materials in return that can then pose as the base of your new homunculi – or their replacements. What’s more important, however, in the context of a game is that I was able to question my attachments to some of the artificial humans and think about why I play the game in the way I do. For instance, it was easier for me to sacrifice certain creations while others really grew to me. Why was that? What made me value one over the other? My Lovely Daughter made me think about that and I liked that aspect of the game. It makes me question things about me as a player, as a human, as a person. That’s a cool aspect!
And well, the art style and the music reflect all of that really well. The gruesome scenes are incredibly well-drawn and make you feel bad for clicking that “Sacrifice” button. The general art direction really immerses you in that feeling of dread and desperation that Faust feels. Similarly, the music is constantly accompanying you with mellow tunes that suck you in, and I feel as if the presentation overall is very well-done.
Sadly though, I don’t like the navigation as well as the summoning aspects. Sometimes I forget what emotions I have stored already, so I have to go back to the hallway, check in on my homunculi, go back to the bedroom and perform a ritual. If I don’t know what combinations of materials I’ve already done, I end up browsing the notes and going back to the summoning circle. It’s a bit annoying at times and I feel as if some quality of life changes there would be nice… But I guess I could also just take notes and stuff. Still, management can be annoying but it’s not too much of an issue and it didn’t necessarily ruin the experience for me. I would still like it more if the notes were on the same screen as the summoning circle or if the game would give me a chart with the combinations I tried already.
Overall, I find the game to be very dark, grim and twisted and the themes that it portrays really make you think about things. What I disliked were some of the management aspects that may feel a tad grindy but I wasn’t bothered by it all that much. In fact, I liked the grindy nature of the game. If you’re not disturbed easily, I’d recommend this game to you. The topics are quite heavy and the developers are known for their ideas and the way they try to make you think about things – as can be seen in their upcoming game that I covered over here. This isn’t for everyone. I enjoyed it but it also bothered me at times. If you’re not good with certain triggers, My Lovely Daughter might not be a game for you.