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  • Writer's pictureJulie Cooper

SGF 2024 x Steam Next Fest Mini-Preview: Preteen angst has a name and it's Tabitha Bones - This Magical Girl is a B☆tch

Updated: Jun 17

Follow along with our continuing coverage of Summer Game Fest 2024 as we play demos that are out now for SGF and Steam Next Fest, a weeklong celebration of games featuring tons of free demos from June 10-17.


Key art for the game This Magical Girl is a B*tch. A black haired girl named Tabbie wearing a purple sweater with skulls and a big hair bow glares and grimaces while looking back at what's behind her: A grinning pixie in red and black clown or jester-like garb, a boy with black and orange hair pointing and mid-word, a mischievous-looking green haired boy with glasses, and three other classmates who are featureless and more like solid-colored stick figures crowded around a teacher in a vest.

Just the Facts

Developer: Pastel Magic

Publisher: Pastel Magic

Platforms: PC

Release Date: Q4 2024

Demo accessed via Steam Next Fest 2024.


In a game full of mysterious pixies, magical girls, growling monsters loose in classrooms, and all manner of spooky Halloween shenanigans... what I'm most afraid of is Middling Middle School's eighth grade class.


Coming from the team Pastel Magic, This Magical Girl is a B*tch is a visual novel that got its start as an entry for the 5th Annual Spooktober Visual Novel Jam. It cites magical girl staples such as Shugo Chara and Cardcaptor Sakura as inspirations. Like these two manga-adapted-to-anime series, TMGIAB focuses its tale on a young protagonist: Tabbie, aka Tabitha Bones, is a middle-schooler with an unshakeable don't-come-near scowl and a major chip on her shoulder.


In the game's demo, Tabbie stalks the halls enjoying a rich, hilarious, and somewhat delusional inner world where I figure Mad World is probably always stuck on a loop. By her estimation, her classmates (while they're actively praising her in the halls) are gossips and bullies waiting for any chance to laugh at her. Her homeroom teacher is an unjust donkey who always plays favorites. The boy standing in front of her locker, who once got chewing gum in her hair in the third grade — Eden — is evil incarnate. As someone who also was once a preteen with deep-seated anxiety, I can't tell if I feel for her main character syndrome or want to launch her into space — and that tells me that Pastel Magic knows their stuff when it comes to building great characters.


A screenshot from the game This Magical Girl is a B*tch. A girl scowls in a classroom. She has two huge black braids and a large purple bow atop her head. A text box shows her name is Tabbie and she says "They're laughing at me now."

The demo begins in the halls of the middle school on Monday morning, just in time for the morning announcements. An amped up, chipper voice tells you over the PA that it's Halloween spirit week, and there's a competition with a prize for the best-decorated classroom.


Tabbie's homeroom teacher, a people-pleaser and head-out-of-frame Ms. Bellum type named... Mr. Teacher... tries and fails to teach the class about the origin of Halloween traditions (a class I'd gladly sit through), and then begins assigning the students tasks for putting together the Halloween decorations. He continuously bumps up against the kids' massive personalities. For example, one Tabbie Bones is convinced she's been stabbed in the back when, for the second year in a row, her rival Eden is assigned the skulls and skeletons.


A fellow classmate, Calem, convinces her to stay behind after class and talk to Mr. Teacher about how she alone is fit to be in charge of the bone-themed décor. And it's here that things quickly go off the rails in unexpected ways, resulting in pixies, monsters, and a magical girl transformation.


This game feel[s] like it's playing out less like a visual novel and more like a cartoon. It envelopes you into its story, packed with comedy and energy.

The game is set to be a breezy three-ish hours of playtime, so I'll leave the rest of the demo's story for you to experience yourself, but know this: I am equal parts fascinated and terrified to see what this school turns into as Tabbie and other miffed middle schoolers with no self-awareness get their hands on access to magic.


While I trust her surprisingly level-headed pixie, Strength, to be the voice of reason perched upon her shoulder, this goofy romp is definitely feeling like the opposite of the trope where magic falls into the lap of the one most worthy of wielding it responsibly. Middling Middle School just got a new magical menace, and I can only pray to the Great Pumpkin that she learns a few lessons and doesn't burn the school down along the way.


A screenshot from This Magical Girl is a B*tch. An action shot where a pixie named Strength, with gray skin and hair and a red and black jester's outfit on, is frantically dashing away from a not-quite-visible monster behind him with green and white skin, sharp claws, and an open mouth with massive sharp teeth. A text box shows Strength is yelling, "WHAT THE CRAP?!"

From the jump, what sets this game apart is that its full cast of characters is voiced, something still pretty rare and extremely beautiful for any visual novel enjoyer. And even better yet, when it comes to this cast's delivery, there's nothing understated about it — in the best possible way. From the flustered yet instructive hooting of Strength (Taylor Fernandez) to the absurdly wide-ranging tone shifts of Mr. Teacher (Jacob "Zombie_J" Mira) to the energetic, self-righteous, often indignant Tabbie (Abby Pasion), the cast doesn't shy away from delivering us a band of capital-C Characters.


Their stellar performances, combined with hundreds of super expressive character sprites, a charismatic and bumpin' soundtrack, and the pacing of the story's unfurling, make this game feel like it's playing out less like a visual novel and more like a cartoon. It envelopes you into its story, packed with comedy and energy. You participate through the occasional narrative choice, which the game's Steam page notes will lead to many different endings, but at the same time, the game sweeps you up and feels like it's barreling down the tracks while you're along for the ride.


I love a piece of media that can toy with making something feel high stakes that's really not. When you boil it down, we're talking about a week of friendly holiday-themed classroom competitions here. It's an ice cream party on the line. But the youthful drama and magic bring it to a new level.


A screenshot from This Magical Girl is a B*tch shows Tabbie after her magical girl transformation. She's essentially fused with the little pixie called Strength and therefore wearing his jester-like outfit. She has a two-pointed black and red jester cap with white pom-poms on the ends. Her thick braids now stand up at the ends, defying gravity. She wears a red clown collar with jingle bells on each point and a black leotard over dark gray tights with black boots, plus a red cape. Her face is wide-eyed and close-mouthed, an expression of both shock and confusion.

This Magical Girl is a B*tch was a delight to have in class, and you too can try out the demo during Steam Next Fest, now through June 17. It's set for a Q4 release and will be free to play, so unless you suffer from a powerful fear of eighth graders, there's no reason not to hop in when it comes to Steam.


 

Want to see more visual novel coverage from Video Games Are Good? Follow us on Twitch to catch our VN stream series, Fern's Book Club. You can also read some of our visual novel game reviews. We'd recommend Death Trick: Double Blind, Varney Lake, Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly, Mythic Ocean, and 2023 Game of the Year nominee Amarantus to start!

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