Ravenous Devils Review – People Du Jour
Developed and published by Bad Vices Games
Available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch
They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day of your life. Ravenous Devils is an exciting game taking inspiration from Sweeny Todd and H. H. Holmes and maybe just a bit of Cooking Mama. It follows the story of Hildred and Percival, two up-and-coming entrepreneurs who have just purchased a nice business front in 19th century London. Percival is a skilled tailor and Hildred a chef. Unfortunately, the price of buying cloth and meat is very high these days. Thankfully, they both love murder, which is the answer to both problems.
It gives them another problem, one much bigger. The driving force of the story is that the cannibal couple is getting ominous letters from a wealthy and anonymous patron, who threatens to expose their operation unless they cook up a big ol’ feast for him, where the plates are filled with the bodies of this unknown person’s pals. Ravenous Devils pauses every so often for a cutscene featuring one of these fine folk passing through, until the final cutscene where they stay for good. Percival and Hildred are beholden to this mystery man of fine dining and must find a way to appease him.
The gameplay of Ravenous Devils is more or less a business simulator. One where about 10% of the interested customers become the product being sold. Percival runs the tailor shop and has the honor of murdering those who come in for measurements. Once the former customer has their insides on the outside, the body is tossed into the basement and Percival can take the clothes of his victim and turn it into something more fashionable and less bloodstained. Hildred, on the other hand, manages the kitchen. She puts the bodies into a comically oversized meat grinder, bones and all, and turns them into delicious and nutritious long pig pot pies.
Now comes the true horror: dealing with the customers that are unfortunately still alive. Ravenous Devils is a very frantic game, both about people-pleasing as well as people-deceasing. Customers are regularly rolling into the shops, and they don’t like to wait. It takes time to move a body and clean up the blood in the tailor shop. All the more time if you also need to make a nice shirt. And of course, keeping the display cases stocked up with fresh dude food is a whole ordeal on its own, and soon enough there are tables with customers ordering specific items on the menu. If a customer has to wait too long (unless they’re come to visit the kitchen up close), they will leave a bad review on ye olde Yelpe, which I assume has some negative consequence. But once you get into the flow of the game, it’s straightforward enough to keep the killing-cooking-clothing company going steady.
Ravenous Devils is good, but it has some pretty significant faults. For one, the murder—arguably the most interesting part of their business—quickly becomes mundane. In all the hustle and bustle of running these stores, killing gets lost in the mix. It’s actually kind of amusing how nonchalantly Percival will waltz up to a waiting customer and gut them with ease. I sort of hoped for some more stalking and waiting to strike, but the flow of a business management sim requires victims to be an easily acquirable resource like any other (see Marx’s analysis on the commodity form in Capital vol 1 for more details).
Another big problem is the story is not all too thrilling. Most of the people sent by the mystery maneater are shown to be either uncouth morons or outright evil, immediately disarming any tension as to whether or not they should be killed (not that you have the option). Ravenous Devils could do with a little more to address the moral quandary of all this murder, but ultimately the characters are so comically villainous themselves that it is moot. They just want to make money. So too is the story being told through brief cutscenes a significant part of the problem. I recognize it would be hard to incorporate story into this style of gameplay, but at some point, the business becomes a separate entity from the story, and the whole thing feels very abstract.
That said, I do appreciate what Ravenous Devils is trying to do. Something new is being attempted and the attempt is pretty good. No game is perfect, but a horror-themed business management title is certainly a novel idea, and I did have a lot of fun. I would certainly recommend you try it out, especially since it’s only a $5 game. That’s cheaper than a nice big serving of soylent green.
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