Originally released on Steam in 2016, and now available for the Switch, Strawberry Vinegar is a cute and fluffy visual novel with a strong focus on tasty-looking food. Our main character is Rie, a 9-year-old girl who is an only child and lives with her loving parents. But one day, Rie's life changes drastically when a demon called Licia appears in her house, with a strong desire for all these dishes... or Rie's soul, if the girl can't feed her properly for a week.
A Feast for Your Eyes
In this game, everything looks beautiful. From the dresses these girls wear throughout the story to the meals and desserts you get to see, all things look sugar-coated and perfectly crafted for an Instagram post. Rie being just a child is no excuse for Strawberry Vinegar when it comes to some sassy dialogues and pre-adolescent banter, but other than that, it all looks oh-so pink and sweet. But hey, remember when we said Licia is actually a demon?
Although it's short, this game is more than just a collection of beautiful images. In fact, in true VN fashion, you can make some choices here and there and actually decide how the story unfolds, with different available endings making you want to replay Rie and Licia's story. However, there's another character we'd love to introduce: Licia's elder sister Aurora. If you don't play your cards right, though, half an hour could be enough to finally meet this cold entity. Basically, you need to spoil Licia and play along with her demands, otherwise, her sister will come to guilt-trip you and—what's actually worse—claim your precious soul.
Take the Bitter With the Sweet
If you're one of these visual novel players who tend to mash the "next" button without really paying attention to the story (which basically means you don't know how to play a visual novel in the first place, but you do you), then Aurora's introduction might feel extremely anti-climatic. One second you're chatting with your new "friend" and then, all of a sudden, a sexy yet somehow sour lady is calmly letting you know she'll take your soul for disappointing her little sister, all this before a black screen telling you screwed up.
We get it, that was the original agreement, but it's shocking nonetheless. You see this pink-toned visual novel about food, and you go "okay, I'm here to play a cute story about a human and a demon becoming friends and enjoying their shared passion for food." Truth be told, cute demon-girls are not rare in visual novels, so there's nothing too suspicious... right? Oh, but then your curiosity ends up with a demon from the deepest, darkest depths of Hell reaping a 9-year-old kid's soul. And why was Licia sent to kill Rie, to begin with??
We could talk about how good or bad this story is, or about how this is a yuri visual novel featuring a young pre-teen (as controversial as it sounds, we must say Rie is 18+ in the epilogue, and there's no nudity involved, just a sweet lesbian relationship), but we did enjoy how Strawberry Vinegar takes its own premise so seriously, to the point where we actually felt like a piece of garbage for ending Rie's life so soon in our first run; all we had to do was cook some savory food for a week, and yet we failed so miserably...
If you consider yourself a foodie or you just like exploring some twisted friendships through the eye of a girl, don't miss your chance to play Strawberry Vinegar!