Lovely Art and Adorable Stories
I figure writing a children's book is one of those things that's a lot harder than it actually seems. Like sure, you can write a story for a kid, but how do you make it something they can pull a moral out of while still being compelled by the tale? Might and Delight, developer of the Shelter series, takes a swing at this with a pair of games set in the same universe: The Lonesome Fog and Fables From the Den.
Both games are referred to as living books, and it's pretty easy to see why. There's no story paths or choices to make, nor are there minigames or collectibles. These are just two little books you read from start to finish, and if you choose to do so back to back then you're probably only looking at about 30 minutes of "gameplay." However, that's sort of missing the point. These are kids' books, made to be read out loud to a younger audience, and let them look at the pretty pictures that accompany them. I don't think this is something I've ever seen done in the space of video games before, and it's awesome to see a developer try it out.
The first one, The Lonesome Fog, follows a young bobcat who is afraid of everything. Her mother warns her that if she keeps being afraid, she will be swallowed by the titular Lonesome Fog. Unfortunately, that day comes, and the bobcat needs to learn to get through her fears along with her mysterious companion trapped in the fog with her. It's a cute tale about courage and friends in unlikely places, and I could have easily seen it being a children's book without much change.
The second game, Fables From the Den, instead takes the anthology approach. It features 9 animals all inside of a den, and each one has a little 3-5 page story to tell. It's a different style, instead taking the form of folklore and tall tales rather than one coherent tale. One talks about how the bobcat lost their tail, another involves a fox with dreams of jumping higher than frogs, while a third sees a rabbit using her inner strength to scare off a wolf. They're cute, and after each tale, the other characters will make little quips and jokes about what they just heard. It manages to work well enough.
Both games benefit from some great art and a calming soundtrack, making it so you can get lost in each book while reading it out loud. If I had to choose one, I'd say the art for The Lonesome Fog is a little better, but it's more that it has a completely different style than Fables From the Den. Where Fables goes more minimalistic, trying to get its point across with simple pictures, Lonesome Fog chooses to fill the entire screen up with one large image. Either way, both games are a real visual treat.
So no, these aren't your next big shooters, puzzle games, or mature story. But they are something honestly unique that really feels like it isn't trying to be like anything else on the market. Might and Delight really have something unique here, and I'd love them to complement the upcoming Shelter 3 with even more little books like these. Even if it's only for some more fantastic art. That'd be worth it alone.
TechRaptor played The Lonesome Fog and Fables From the Den on PC using copies purchased by the player.