Pride 2024: AstralShift talks sapphic romance, representation and more in Little Goody Two Shoes

Indie developer AstralShift talks about LGBTQ+ representation in their acclaimed horror adventure and making games as queer developers.
By Square Enix

Little Goody Two Shoes is one of the most distinctive games you’ll play this year - a unique blend of horror, humor, and wild imagination that’s like nothing else out there.

You step into the shiny shoes of Elise - a young woman with a big dream: to become filthy rich! Of course, that’s not so easy when she lives in the small village of Kieferberg. Things begin to change when Elise finds a pair of magical red shoes in her backyard - and rumors of a mysterious entity that will grant her wishes.

As Elise seeks this wish-granting creature, her path gets darker and more twisted - as does the need to conceal her activities from her occult-fearing neighbors. By day, she must maintain the semblance of a normal life in Kieferberg, even potentially building a romantic relationship with three eligible bachelorettes.

But by night, she must explore the puzzles in a dangerous woods, while maintaining her health and sanity.

It comes from indie developer AstralShift - a team of queer developers whose creative voices sing loudly throughout the game’s impressive LGBTQ+ representation. For Pride month, we asked them about their work on the game, its same-sex relationships, and the importance of diverse viewpoints in the games industry.

Hi guys! Please can you introduce yourselves?

Hello! Creative Director António Lopes (you may know me as Kira/kirariinn), Producer Mariana Borges and Lead Writer Patrícia Silva here. We're part of the creative team behind Little Goody Two Shoes’ themes and characters, which are very near and dear to our heart.

In your own words, who are AstralShift?

We’re always happy to introduce our team! AstralShift is a small indie studio based in Portugal.

For those unfamiliar, you may recognize us as the studio behind Little Goody Two Shoes (published by Square Enix Collective in 2023) and Pocket Mirror ~ GoldenerTraum, the remaster of our very first game project, Pocket Mirror, released back in 2016.

What inspired the creation of Little Goody Two Shoes?

Little Goody Two Shoes first started out as loose brainstorming of ideas.

As we tried to imagine what our next project after Pocket Mirror could look like, we decided to flesh out the story of Elise, a minor character in that game, and through her provide some answers to some of its mysteries.

As we started developing all these ideas, a clear vision of what Little Goody Two Shoes would eventually come to be formed in our minds. We can say with confidence that this game is a true culmination of all the things that inspire us, from art to music and cinema, and our personal sensibilities.

Elise can form a romantic relationship with female characters only. Why was it important to focus on same sex relationships?

As queer creatives ourselves, this choice came quite naturally to us.

There wasn’t a particular moment where we sat down and made the deliberate choice to incorporate exclusively sapphic relationships in the game, but more that as the story and its characters (with a primarily female cast taking center stage) started taking shape, this seemed to be the most logical course of action.

To those who have played Little Goody Two Shoes, you’ll notice that we put a lot of focus on the female perspective and the feminine experience in this game. Some part of this came as a natural result of focusing the story on Elise and her group of female friends, but it was also a deliberate tonal and aesthetic choice on our part that we wanted to permeate the game experience.

Likewise, we wanted the relationships in the game to reflect this, by depicting the meaningful relationships that Elise establishes with the people around her. While the romance between them is the conclusion to the progression and deepening of these bonds, we wrote it in such a way that even if a player decided to not pursue a romantic relationship with any of the available bachelorettes they’d still be able to connect with their friendship and witness how love moves Elise in the direction of becoming a better version of herself.

With that said, we don’t mean to imply that there’s no work being done to create earnest love stories between women in the game industry - far from it, actually! There’s so many examples of game devs across the world who have created amazing representations of lesbian love with great sensibility. At the end of the day, we just wanted to offer our own contribution and personal take on these themes.

How did you decide on the romance options and make them feel real?

The romance storylines were built around the characters they centered around and their personal goals and needs within the framework of the larger story of Little Goody Two Shoes. We wanted to explore how each character could impact Elise’s growth and, naturally, how Elise could impact them in return.

Rozenmarine is the meek stranger who barges into Elise’s life one fateful night. To someone like Elise, who feels trapped in the small village of Kieferberg, this meeting completely upends her world. She’s now forced to look after another person, something she hasn’t done since her grandmother’s passing - and though resistant at first, this is a responsibility that she takes to heart. In many ways, Rozenmarine’s unrestrained sincerity gives Elise, who has long felt burdened by the expectations placed on her by others, a newfound freedom.

Meanwhile, Freya is a force to be reckoned with - once a friend of Elise’s, the two grow apart after some petty misunderstandings and resentment born out of weak self-esteem. While old friendships turning cold can be a natural process of growing up, Elise and Freya’s relationship gets a second chance as the two spend more time together and realize that their differences were much weaker than the feelings that pull them together.

Finally, Lebkuchen takes on the role of the dependent childhood friend. She is Elise’s singular confidante in the village, and her honesty gives Elise the support she needs to blossom into a better person. As the player witnesses the progression of their love story, they’ll see that Lebkuchen, too, is plagued by self-doubt and how their bond opens up the space for each character to grow and heal as needed.

How did you meld the LGBTQ+ themes seamlessly with the horror and narrative elements?

We believe that every horror story needs a bit of light and positivity to offset and contrast with the darkness. These are not opposing themes, but instead are complimentary - by combining them, each allows the other to shine more brightly.

In Little Goody Two Shoes, this light comes in the form of love and the brilliant connections that Elise has with the bachelorettes (and the remainder of the cast and villagers as well). It is by building up these relationships with sincerity that we can further strengthen the horror of Elise's actions. Conversely, this allows the player to feel like the short moments they spend with the love interests are a true respite from the horrors they've experienced.

How have players reacted to the romance of the game?

Thankfully, players have been incredibly warm and receptive to the romance aspect of Little Goody Two Shoes.

While we had hoped this would be the case, we had no way of guessing what would happen after the release, and the response exceeded all of our expectations. We’ve been blown away by the amount of fanwork that has been produced in such a short time, from fanart to fanfiction.

It’s been a true joy to see how players have resonated with the story that we set out to tell, and how a community was formed around it so organically.

Why do you think that positive LGBTQ+ representation in video games and within the games industry generally is so important?

We believe it's a matter of leading by example. By creating a space for in our industry that is able to accurately and respectfully represent the queer community, we open up the door not just to so many queer gamers and creators, but to so many other LGBTQ+ aligned people who might write off gaming because they feel it's not making enough of an effort to include them.

We should try to shape the industry in a way that aligns with our principles of community, support, and inclusivity, and by doing so, invite other creators to follow in our footsteps and widen the types of experiences that video games can provide.

What do you think the industry does well when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation?

The videogame industry has made notable progress in regard to queer representation, especially when we stop to recall what it looked like not even a decade ago. The diversity of stories that are being told through the medium of videogames has never been bigger, and we believe a lot of this can be attributed to a conscious effort to give queer and marginalized creatives the tools and opportunities to express themselves through their craft.

We believe most game devs will agree that, to us, the work that we do is one that is profoundly rooted in passion. It is not an easy career path, and everything that we do is born out of true love and appreciation for our art, be that programming, illustrating, writing, etc. It seems natural to us that parts of our individual selves will inevitably become intertwined with the work that we create, and as more queer creatives establish themselves in the industry the more diverse the selection of games available to players will become.

What could the industry do better?

We recognize that there’s always ground for improvement, especially when it comes to accurate representation of minority groups. With that said, we don’t like to focus on these aspects too much - we prefer to direct our attention towards encouraging developers to experiment and try out new things that fall outside of their comfort zone, and we’re always excited to see what new narratives are born out of this process.

To developers who are feeling slowed down by feelings of doubt, we hope they can find the strength to pull through and tell the stories that feel true to their creative minds.

One piece of advice we’d give to the industry at large is to pay attention to the voices of players. Listen to the wants and needs of your player base, and extract as much constructive value out of that feedback as you can. We believe this is key to ensuring your long-term ability to keep providing gaming experiences that are as authentic and they are enjoyable, which will in turn attract more people to your work.

What are some examples of positive LGBTQ+ representation you have seen in games?

We want to use this opportunity to highlight a few indie titles that have really impressed us with their treatment of LGBTQ+ themes.

We really appreciate when games give the player complete freedom to pursue whatever romantic path they desire, without facing any type of judgement or having the full scope of their gameplay restricted by these options. In a world that can be quite ruthless and unkind, the freedom that games like Hades, Stardew Valley, and Potionomics afford their player is really significant.

The transgender experience also seems to be severely underrepresented in the gaming industry, as many of you may know. With that being the case, we feel it’s extra important to highlight titles like Celeste, which delivers on the positive representative of a community that finds itself, far too often, under attack by malicious and bigoted actors. We were also delighted by the recent revelation of Guilty Gear’s iconic Bridget as a trans woman, which we believe is very much worthy of celebration!

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

We’d like to thank Square Enix for the opportunity to share our personal experiences and insight on a topic that is so close to us. As always, we are eternally grateful to all the players who have shown us so much love and support since Little Goody Two Shoes’ release. Happy Pride Month! ✨🌈✨

Many thanks to António, Patrícia, Mariana and the team at AstralShift for their insight. If you’d like to check out their work for yourselves, Little Goody Two Shoes is available now for Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC via Steam:

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