Circus Reviews - Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet
I'm not normally one for creepily cutesy and shiny aesthetics, but after spotting this game on my Tumblr feed courtesy of Hanako Games, I found myself inexplicably drawn to it. After all, a nice simple game for the purposes of de-stressing is sometimes in order, and despite my dark and twisted mind, I do occasionally enjoy something a bit brighter. Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet follows a candy maker named Syrup who despises magic despite living in a town chock full of it and subsists by running a non-magic candy shop with the help of her highly competent assistant, Pastille. One day, she enters her basement to find a candy golem girl (later given the name Gumdrop). Syrup's immediate conclusion is that the golem was made by her rival, the witch Butterscotch, and Butterscotch's cat familiar Toffee, but the candy golem doesn't seem to have any interest in spying and is oddly fixated on being friends with Syrup. Later, the titular Ultimate Sweet surfaces, and it turns out to be an actual sweet with an actual recipe, a recipe that Syrup once promised she would make for Pastille, but that may not happen since the recipe calls for magic and science together...
Syrup, Pastille, and Gumdrop, the main trio of the game, are the most well-established of the characters. Syrup is antisocial and mistrusting of others to a fault, but retains a soft spot deep down and is shown to be capable of overcoming her prejudices toward magic. Pastille is an almost insanely good assistant, possibly to compensate for the fact that Syrup is entirely incapable of running a shop on her own. Gumdrop is cheerful, naive, and endearing in her single-minded pursuit of friendship, but also has hints of not knowing what her purpose in life is. Butterscotch and Toffee have inconsistent development at times, specifically in one of the bad endings. The way that particular ending plays out feels extremely out of character, at least when compared to all the good endings. However, their friendship is touching and how they interact with Syrup is lovely as well. The art is gorgeous, although if you aren't into that very apparent shiny cute style then it will rub you the wrong way. Most of the art is cartoony sprites, peppered with little illustrations like the one shown above, and they all work very well together. The font is kind of hard to read, being one of those that's all caps all the time. It fits well color-wise, at least, but I personally found it a bit tricky to decipher at times.
The plot is fairly simple, but ends up being quite heartwarming (provided you get one of the good endings, of course). There are ten endings, five good and five bad. A few of them feel abrupt or misplaced to me, like the aforementioned ending in which Butterscotch and Toffee's actions feel out of character, or one ending dubbed the "worst" ending that is indeed the worst, but sort of comes out of nowhere. And there is a plot twist present throughout some of the endings that isn't much of a plot twist at all; I could see it coming within the first two minutes of the game. The good endings, though, were quite nice and made me smile, even though they're all slightly bittersweet in their own ways. So there isn't a ton of complexity here, but it's short and sweet and free (although you can choose to pay $2 to receive an artbook that includes an ending guide). The story arc ultimately evolves into Syrup's journey to open up her mind, about both magic and trusting other people, and playing against that goal will definitely net you a bad ending. It's worth it to see the good endings through, though. They'll give you a smile that's.......sweeter than candy. (Hey, I had to do one candy pun.)
Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet is available for free download (or name your own price) at itch.io. Final verdict: Some issues with plotting and characterization, but a fun cast of characters and an ultimately heartwarming story make Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet a treat to read. Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet is developed by nomnomnami. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.