Short Reviews: Trans Witches Bundle Edition

Recently, I was flattered to receive an invitation to include my short visual novel Wizard School Woes in a bundle titled Trans Witches Are Witches. The bundle, which includes some magical-themed zines and music as well as games, was put together to make a statement against the transphobia associated with a certain recent high-profile game release, and to provide fantasy fans an alternative way to spend their gaming budgets on something more positive. Here are my thoughts on the five included games I’ve checked out so far, to provide just a small sample of reasons you don’t want to miss this opportunity!

Lotus: The Self-Made Witch
First on the list is a promising demo about a witch brewing gender-affirming potions! The crafting minigame for making the potions is fun, and I absolutely love the character art for the eponymous witch Lotus. So far, you only get to craft one potion at a time before the demo comes to an end, so I eventually got a bit tired of replaying it every time to experiment with new recipes, and didn’t end up finding them all. But it’s a great start that definitely made me interested in learning more about Lotus and her world—especially if the finished product includes some nice lists and hints that help me keep track of which potions I’ve discovered already, and plan out the next ingredient combinations to try!

What’s Wrong With the Girls’ Staircase?
Next, I tried a game that was developed specifically for this bundle: a short story about students at a magical school running into a problem with the ancient spells that determine who can access their gender-segregated dormitories. The conclusion of the tale forms a lighthearted indirect response to JK Rowling’s transphobia, and I’m sure many other trans people who loved the Harry Potter books as children will enjoy this glimpse into a similar world where trans students are loved and accepted by their peers, and archaic rules that enforce the gender binary can be discarded. This one also has some absolutely adorable chibi-style sprites, whose exaggerated facial expressions are a joy to look at while you read.

Casting Hearts
I was especially happy to find that this bundle included a work by npckc, the developer behind one of my absolute favourite transgender narratives in visual novels! Casting Hearts is a short and sweet story about two witches in a long-distance relationship keeping touch via crystal ball. While a few references to the reasons for their separation make it clear that this game was developed with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, it doesn’t well on that depressing background too much, instead focusing on a birthday date the pair enjoys, with a variety of dialogue options and constantly shifting visuals to match.I’m sure anyone with close friends or partners living far away from them will be able to see a bit of themselves in one or both of these cute queer witches.

This film-noir-style story follows investigative journalist Rebecca Tompson on a desperate quest to uncover the police corruption in her city before her editor runs an apology piece praising the police instead. And to make things even worse, a mysterious magical coin she retrieves from a drunk cop in a bar summons a supernatural shapeshifter who might just murder her if she doesn’t finish the perfect story on time! While some of the writing could have used a second editing pass, it’s an otherwise enjoyable and well-paced mystery that I had a lot of fun discovering the answers to. I’d love to read a sequel about Rebecca and my favourite character “Murder Cat” continuing to take on the forces of evil as a team!

Nameless: The Departed Cycle
Finally, the last game I tried from the bundle immediately impressed me with its engrossing and atmospheric visuals, and its dark fantasy story about a man struggling to save his dying son kept me hooked the whole time. Its pacing felt a bit quick at times, but it still manages to develop two intriguing characters within its brief runtime, and their romance against the backdrop of a cursed forest is mysterious and intense. The game’s original soundtrack by Walksoftly is a highlight as well! With such high production values, Nameless is an especially good deal to get a bundle with so many other great indie games.

And as of posting this, the bundle is still on for four more days, so don’t miss your chance to experience these games and many more—as well as to support indie developers creating the queer representation we deserve.


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