Overture: a world where magic can cure every disease… except mental disorders. Janis has the worst of all: “Magic Deficency”, which turns her into the only muggle of her world.
Developer Kidalang isn’t new to visual novels, back in 2014, with “An Octave Higher” they won the acclaim of RPG and Visual Novel critics as well as Indie Prize’s “Best Game Narrative” award, by foregoing usual clichés of Visual Novels (mainly those coming from its Japanese roots) and bringing to life a more western-styled, Victorian world of magic.
One Small Fire at a Time will be the prequel to their first success. The story follows Janis, a 13 years old girl placed in an asylum for being the only child that can’t use magic in her world.
As such, she is in constant danger from bullies and people that can’t understand her condition, but she does find refugee in her equally “crazy” friends (among whose figure Candela, who suffers from attention deficit disorder, and Fia, a self proclaimed “goddess”, among many more).
Janis spent her days wishing she would be totally insane as to not have to take part of this world… until a police officer saves her and takes interest on her.
In Aidan Woolf, Janis doesn’t only find the fatherly figure she has always lacked, but a new bond to this world and her sanity: the mystery behind this man, who apparently has a mission in her asylum, and knows more than anybody should about where magic came from… and when.
The gameplay is pretty simple, though: narrative will unfold until you hit a decision spot, and events continue according to your choices. There isn’t a lot to it, as the game is less about complicating itself and more about exploring the world, the people, and their psyche.
While the music is nice and calmed, it’s nothing noteworthy. What is noteworthy, however, is the art style, with detailed hand-drawn scenery and gorgeous portraits of characters in every illustration depicting the events of the game. While it clearly takes some hints from Japanese manga, it’s a bit more detailed and, coupled with the narrative tone, looks like something out of a storybook (probably the whole intent).
All in all, if you are up to a more relaxed experience that deals with the nuances of segregation, sanity and hope, you really should give One Small Fire a chance – by supporting their Steam Greenlit!. Should the campaign be a success, the game will be available during the second quarter of 2016, releasing for Windows, Mac and Linux, and presumably iOS and Android.