When not writing for Checkpoint, Hailey enjoys dungeon delving, stagecoach robbery, and hunting monsters with her friends. She also spends a little too much time reading comics.
Knife Sisters is visual novel about love, sex, queer identity and the occult. But it’s definitely also not for the faint of heart. Coming to us from Swedish based developer Transcenders Media, Knife sisters weaves a tale about intimacy, friendship, and the occult, and is now available on Steam and Itch.io. The story follows non-binary protagonist, Leo, as they navigate university, waning mental health, and their strange new roommate. As the story progresses, Leo comes to question the reliability of their sanity and the honesty of those around them. All elements came together, culminating in a climax that stuck with me long after the game was over. Narratively it reminds me a lot of skins, misfits, and the craft. Which considering Skins was an influence on the writers, is understandable. There’s a sincerity and tenderness here when it comes to the subject matter that is so rare in today’s media.
Gameplay is straightforward. Mechanics, for the most part, are the standard fare for a visual novel. A neat addition to the formula is the ability to forgo choosing. By just clicking next, you can forgo making a choice, essentially letting the game play on auto pilot. The essence and anxiety systems also add some interesting elements. Throughout the game, certain events and actions add to Leo’s anxiety. Too much anxiety and Leo won’t be able to make certain actions or follow certain paths. That’s where essence comes in. Actions of enjoyment, intimacy, or self-care add to your essence score. Acquire ten essence and you lose a point of anxiety.
The art style is striking. The black and white aesthetic adds to both the intimacy of the romance, and the unsettling ambience of its more occult sections. Characters are rendered like striking charcoal paintings, and the backgrounds are just as interesting. There’s this beautiful ugliness to it all that makes it feel like your moving through some indie comic or manga. This is unsurprising, given the game’s artistic inspirations. Transcenders Media are unashamed of naming their muses, citing Sophie Campbell’s Wet Moon, and Jaime Hernandez’s Love & Rockets as having a direct impact on the game’s artistic style. It’s a comparison many have made, and one the game wears proudly on its sleeve.
The diversity of the cast is a genuine delight. Modern day gaming has dropped the ball when it comes to queer representation. It’s very rare that I’ll see people like myself or my friends in the media we consume. But that’s certainly not a problem Knife Sisters faces. Characters of every kind take part in this story. As mentioned before, the game’s protagonist is non-binary. On top of this, your love interests include a trans female, and another non-binary person, and the supporting cast are made up of gay, bi, demi, poly peeps from all walks of life. This range of diversity is heart-warming and makes me wish the AAA industry would take notice and do something similar. Till then, the indie sector seems happy to provide.
Time to address the elephant in the room. The game is billed as an “erotic interactive story”, and the majority of that is down to its use of BDSM. Being Ace adjacent, the BDSM and Kink community is not something I have a great deal of personal experience with. One thing I do know is that in BDSM, consent is everything. And it’s something the game echoes repeatedly. Leo seeks consent for every risqué action taken during the game’s “play dates”, stressing its importance at every turn. Despite this positive aspect, these scenes can still be confronting. There were multiple times during the playthroughs where I’d have to step back and take a break. If you’re sex-repulsed, or BDSM isn’t your cup of tea, then it’s best to think twice before jumping in. BDSM is a main element of the game, and there is a lot of it.
Overall, my experience with Knife Sisters has been a positive one. Again, it’s very rare a game nails representation the way Knife Sisters has. The cast feels genuine, and, outside the sex, the story is engaging. The game captures the feel of what its like to be a queer teen stepping out into the world for the first time and finding that this place isn’t all its cracked up to be. That the people around you can be your lifeline, or your damnation. It’s spooky atmosphere and use of the vaguely occult helps elevate the narrative, taking it from just another titty game to something larger. If you’re looking to lose yourself in a story for a few hours, or craving some queer representation, then Knife Sisters may just be a decent investment.