A raw look into domestic violence
There may be many reasons why a victim of domestic violence stays in an abusive relationship; sometimes the abuse isn’t all that clear to see — instead of physical beatings, it can manifest in psychological or emotional mistreatment. Sometimes the abuser is the one who pays the bills, and leaving would mean homelessness. Sometimes there are children involved, which further complicates things. Each situation has one thing in common: leaving is the key to ending the abuse, but leaving can often be the most dangerous thing a victim can do. As a result, many victims end up staying, coping with the abuse by rationalizing it away (“they’re just going through a tough time,” “I can’t raise a child alone”) so they can simply get through the day. It’s an unjust, depressing way to live, but for some, it’s what they feel they must endure.
These themes of domestic violence and abuse are what was explored in Little Kite, a powerful point and click adventure showcasing the strength, hope, and resourcefulness of victims as they struggle to survive. Originally released on Steam in September 2017, Little Kite launched on Nintendo Switch on March 25, 2021. With beautifully illustrated scenes depicting raw peeks into the lives of victims and abusers, Little Kite is bleak yet hopeful, taking players through the darkness they must pass to see the dawn.
Little Kite has players taking on the roles of the widow Mary and her young son, Andrew, who lost their husband and father in an accident one fateful night. Cold and alone in a world not friendly to single mothers, Mary decided to take a chance on a new love, Oliver. At first, things were okay, and Mary thought the three of them could build a life together; unfortunately, Oliver hardened his heart against his new wife and son, his unhappiness soon turning to a drunken rage. Eventually, the three of them fell into a precarious routine — Oliver abusing the bottle, then his wife, Mary taking pills to cope, and Andrew hiding in the closet, wishing his late father could fix everything.
Little Kite’s aesthetics are what drew me to the game in the first place. I found the art style to be pretty unique despite the game’s age — it still feels like few games really look like both the point and click art design and the panel portions. The painted panels were so powerful in their delivery that I saved every single screenshot; when they faded to black, my face reflected back at me, often frozen in a concerned frown or eyes wide in shock at the brutality I had just seen. Coupled with the simple yet evocative soundtrack, Little Kite is a bleak yet beautiful game.
Although the themes explored in Little Kite are dark and complex, the mechanics are a familiar point and click — pick up this item here, combine it with that item there, lather, rinse, repeat. The first level starts off with Mary making a sandwich for her son, collecting things like bread and cheese, but the items eventually take a dark turn betraying a suffering psyche. Although the levels showed initial promise on a more psychological path, the longest one featured Mary fixing an elevator, which mildly jolted me out of the emotional headspace of her character. Of course, considering the heavy burden she bore, perhaps this was a welcome reprieve, but I can’t help but wonder if the mechanics and story could have perhaps been a bit better connected.
Speaking of Little Kite’s story, it’s really quite a sad, shocking affair. There are moments in-between the point and click gameplay where exposition is done through painted panels full of dark details. After Mary dumps Oliver’s booze down the drain, he takes out his anger with his fists against her frame, Andrew witnessing it all while hiding in the closet. Although the entire game can be completed in a few short hours, it feels long enough — the domestic violence aspects are so real that they weigh heavier than a more commonly played allegorical retelling might. The last few minutes of Little Kite are so harrowing in their presentation that I genuinely feel like I’ll be unpacking this for awhile, a fitting end to a horrible affair.
Little Kite’s powerful portrayal of domestic violence is going to stay with me for a long time. Although the imagery was intense and the music divine, the point and click mechanics were frustrating for the console — as is unfortunately par for the course when it comes to this hardware and genre combination. The developer did the best they could with the medium not truly suited for their art, granted, but I can’t help but feel I would have enjoyed the experience more had I played on PC. With that being said, Little Kite is not a game you should pass up — whether it’s on console or PC, be sure to check out this raw story of the real strength victims of abuse are capable of.
If you or a loved one are in an abusive relationship or are experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone. Please reach out to a domestic violence hotline in your country.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC, Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Restless Corp; Developer: Anate Studio; Players: 1; Released: March 25, 2021; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Little Kite provided by the developer.