Best friends, married couples, business partners: Human intimacy tends to work in dyads. We Know the Devil is a visual novel, written by indie game critic and zinester Aevee Bee, interested in how pairing off can hurt when you’re the one left out.

It’s a game about the terror of choosing who to grow close to, especially when you’re young and just figuring out your sexuality. Oh, and it’s set at a summer camp where delinquent teens must defend each other from the Devil.

We Know the Devil stars three teens: sweet Venus, self-loathing but spunky Jupiter, and sullen and snarky Neptune. As the player, you don’t directly control any of the three. Instead, your method of interaction is to choose who gets to spend time together. You get to choose pairings, nudging two characters closer together at the expense of the third.

It’s a pared-down version of the relationship-building we’ve come to expect from role-playing games, designed to prod at our intentions and our assumptions about the way these relationships work.

weknowthedevil1 Aevee Bee, Mia Schwartz, Lulu Blue

The stakes of that intimacy are sharpened by the backdrop of surreal religious horror. The trio, rendered in expressive hand-drawn portraits by artist Mia Schwartz, are made by their counselors to spend an anxious night in a crumbling cabin in the woods, awaiting visitation from the Devil, a presence always at the edge of vision, a symbol of the dangers (possibilities?) of the outcast.

The demonic influences blend strange religious imagery with mundane settings in a way that makes everything feel heightened, a world in Catholic technicolor.

The visual novel format is more popular in Japan than it is in the West, though in recent years it has begun to catch on here. We Know the Devil is one of an increasing number of visual novels developed by and for Western audiences.

For players used to mainstream, big-budget games, visual novels can be an adjustment. They don’t offer the same sort of gameplay, using limited interactions to highlight and focus in on narrative goals. What they do offer, however, is a chance to become personally implicated in stories that are often a cut above what the rest of gaming features.

We Know the Devil is one of those stories. It’s a short, almost disorienting experience, but I’ve been stuck with it ever since I finished it.

Possessed, you might say.

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This Game About the Devil Is Really About Hurt Feelings