REVIEW: Syrup and The Ultimate Sweet – A delicious sugary snack; Short, Sweet, and Satisfying

Right off the heels of their visual novel showcase, Ratalaika Games released one of their seven visual novels yesterday, Syrup and The Ultimate Sweet, developed by NomnomNami.

The original game was developed for YuriJam 2015, a two-month game jam that featured visual novels and dating sim based around, as the name would imply, Yuri or “girl love.” Five years later, it would see a widespread console release on all major handhelds and consoles. This is a review for the Nintendo Switch version, courtesy of Ratalaika Games themselves!

Perhaps the one thing that drew me in was the expressive art and vibrant colors, all of which helped define a specific character. Syrup’s aesthetic is green, so her hair, the lollipop she eats, and her speech is green. The candy golem is as pink and red as pink and red can be, so her speech reflects that as well. The story and art were both done by the talented NomnomNami herself, while the immersive music was done by Mock Off.

So. What is Syrup and The Ultimate Sweet?

The official description of the game is as follows.

In a magical town there lives a candy alchemist, Syrup, who one day discovers a candy golem in her basement. Where did she come from? Who could’ve made her? Go find out!

Featuring a memorable cast of colorful characters and 10 unique endings. Your choices affect the story! Will Syrup achieve her dream of making the Ultimate Sweet, or will she meet a much more tragic fate…?

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It may sound like a simple premise and to some degree it is. However, there is a lot of underlying depth that took me by surprise. I’ve completed the game from cover to cover, viewed all ten endings, and was overall left impressed. It was short and sweet, sure, but it was a feel good story that left me with something to think about. The importance of being kind to others, treating others with respect, owning up to your own negative insecurities, and promoting self-growth. All of these themes and more showed themselves throughout the story.

This will round out the spoiler-free section of the review. In short, I recommend giving this game a try. Whether it’s on the official NomnomNami page or on the many different console choices available. Past this point, there will be complete breakdown and critique of the game itself based on my personal experience!

Now then. Let’s indulge in the sugary succulence!

Syrup is a skilled alchemist who uses her craft to create succulent treats for her candy shop. While traveling into the basement of her candy shop, she comes across a candy golem whose first request is to “eat her.”

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Awkward pleasantries and introductions aside, Syrup’s assistant, Pastille sees the golem and encourages Syrup to befriend her. Naturally, upon seeing a sentient talking candy girl who requests Syrup to devour her, Syrup is reluctant to take her in. Eventually, she warms up to the idea and the candy girl becomes the shop assistant. Syrup eventually gives the candy golem the name, Gumdrop.

Syrup immediately has suspicions that a witch created the candy golem as it was the only logical reasoning for Gumdrop’s creation. Because of this, Syrup immediately suspects Butterscotch, a witch who lives on the other side of town, to be the one responsible for the creation. Upon arriving at her house, Butterscotch neither confirms nor denies that she created Gumdrop, but Syrup has pressing matters on hand.

See, there’s this treat called the “Ultimate Sweet,” which is such a delicacy that whoever eats it will sing praises of the gods and shout to the heavens above. However, no alchemist was able to successfully create the candy. It’s revealed that part of this reason is due to the final ingredient located on top of a cold frigid mountain that only those proficient in magic can hope to survive.

The only woman who Syrup knows that is proficient in magic is none other than Butterscotch herself. The very same woman who Syrup is the most disagreeable with. However, she’s able to put her differences aside if only to use Butterscotch’s ability to secure the final ingredient.

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After run-ins with hostile wild wolves and a friendly anthropomorphic wolf by the name of Treat, the unlikely duo ends up finding the final ingredient. However, in doing so, they end up entrapped in an ice cave. It is here that Butterscotch reveals her secret. She has been keeping a false appearance in order to maintain her own self-worth and in keeping the false appearance, her magic has been subdued the entire time.

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It is at this moment that Syrup’s ego, paranoia, and overall cold exterior begins to defrost. She realizes that part of the reason for Butterscotch’s insecurities are due to the fear of Syrup’s hatred for her. Once Syrup finally acknowledges this and sets to right the wrongs that she made, Butterscotch is able to calm down. Due to her calmness and assurance in life, she’s able to melt the ice wall away and return back to town.

As repayment for Syrup’s kindness, Butterscotch reveals that she has been spying on Syrup via a crystal ball and to inform her to watch the crystal ball in privacy to get the answers that she sought the entire time.

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Upon viewing the crystal ball, she learns that it was Pastille who created Gumdrop. The intention was that Pastille wanted Syrup to make friends. Being that Syrup was cold to all of the residents, Gumdrop’s creation was made as a last ditch effort to help Syrup find a friend.

At this point, Gumdrop intrudes on Syrup and Gumdrop, who was told not to reveal who created her, admitted-without-admitting that Pastille did indeed create her. At this point, Syrup has an understanding that Gumdrop, despite the awkward introduction and Gumdrop wanting Syrup to eat her, “was created with Syrup in mind.”

Syrup and Gumdrop decide to take on adventures alone while building up their friendship together in the process. Pastille understands this, happy that his plan was a success, while Butterscotch is saddened that her former-rival-turned-friend is gone. However, she’s content to see Syrup in a much better state than how she started.

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That concludes the Gumdrop route.

I mentioned that there were a total of ten different endings. To break this down further, there are five normal endings representing each of the characters featured in the main menu. As you complete their route, their appearance changes to reflect this. Gumdrop, for example, wears an overcoat.

The other five endings are the bad endings. These range from Pastille flat out leaving Syrup altogether, deeming her a lost cause to Butterscotch and her cat familiar, Toffee, taking over Syrup’s shop after she refuses to work with the latter due to their use of magic in their sweets.

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These are the endings that you acquire when give into Syrup’s negative traits to the utmost extreme. Take an earlier scene where Syrup and Butterscotch are trapped in the ice cave. The ideal choice is Syrup forgiving Butterscotch for being who she is. You do have a choice to give in to Syrup’s frustrations by declaring that she hates Butterscotch for getting them into this mess.

In certain route paths, this choice leaves the two of them, frustrated with each other, to sit in silence as they inevitably freeze to death. In other routes, they are saved from an “outside source.” (later revealed to be Pastille using his magic to melt the ice)

If the latter happens, then Syrup has one last chance to make amends with Butterscotch, who approaches her while still feeling bad about all that has happened. The actual canon choice at this point is to forgive her.

If Syrup still holds onto the bitterness into her heart, she ends up dying due to implied pneumonia. This is the “worst end,” as she dies alone with coldness in her heart.

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There’s one more “bad” ending and it’s so obvious that I ended up getting this ending first purely by accident. It’s an ending you can get within two, count ‘em, two choices. You decide to actually eat poor Gumdrop right in the beginning of the game. As you’re doing it, the text that follows is meant to fill the player with regret.

You essentially just ate your friend’s creation who is sentient enough to know that she is being eaten. At the end of the day, all she wanted was to be friends with Syrup, but, well, that is one way to go about it.

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Right, so, now that all of the sad endings are out of the way. Back to the main endings.  I mentioned Gumdrop’s route first because I feel it may be the “canon” route, although each of the routes have their own merit. However, Gumdrop’s ending wasn’t the first ending I got.

After eating Gumdrop, I decided to play the game for real, answering how I feel Syrup would answer along the way. Early on in the story you have the choice to give Gumdrop to Butterscotch and Toffee. After a while Syrup realizes that it was probably cruel to do such a thing, so she goes to retrieve her only to find that Butterscotch was eating Gumdrop!

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It’s almost as if this was mocking me for my blunder from earlier.

Syrup ends up saving Gumdrop and re-crafts her missing body parts, while deciding to keep her hair short.

The game continues on as normal, although the crystal ball scene plays a bit different. In this route, Syrup feels betrayed that Pastille would hide the fact that he’s a witch from her. Rather than succumbing to her earlier negative traits, she reflects on the budding relationship she has with Butterscotch and declares it’s best to make amends with her. After all, everything involving Butterscotch’s insecurities were a byproduct of Syrup’s cold attitude.

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In the end, Syrup teaches Butterscotch how to make candies and she starts selling candy on the side. Syrup and Pastille reaches an understanding with each other, with the latter just happy that she was finally able to befriend her rival. Perhaps even form a budding romance if the text is anything to go by! Butterscotch ending achieved.

There’s also an ending where Syrup doesn’t look at the crystal ball. In some routes, it’s flat out told through Syrup that she has an idea on what the crystal ball would show her, meaning she had suspicions that Pastille was a witch the entire time. However, no matter the route, if Syrup doesn’t look at the crystal ball, she convinces some investors to invest in the shop. She then spends the rest of her life wealthy yet remains distant to everyone. This is Syrup’s ending.

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I feel like this is neither a good nor a bad ending. Just as simple a “normal” ending if this game had one. Syrup may very well realize that Pastille wasn’t completely honest with her, but she doesn’t care. She just gets even by making profits instead. Money is a strong motivator after all, but is it the best one?

There’s a hidden Toffee ending which follows the exact same path as the Butterscotch ending, yet a bonus scene plays. Toffee wants Syrup to take them to Treat to thank her for taking care of their master, Butterscotch. These scenes are short, but it expands on Toffee’s characterization.

There’s a scene where Toffee asks Syrup a simple question. Is Toffee a boy or a girl in Syrup’s eyes.

At this point I never got to think about Toffee’s gender, so for this question to arrive, it took me off guard as much as it took Syrup. When Toffee revealed that they were agender, it made sense.

A funny touch is that if you go back to this scene later, you have the option to indeed choose “Neither,” in which Toffee will ask if you’re a time traveler. I want to think in my purest of hearts that this is a Life is Strange reference. If so, kudos to you Nami!

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Toffee’s entire characterization, from deliberately foregoing cat puns when it’s time for serious conversation, to their gender reveal, offers a hidden layer of depth for a supporting character. A depth that one wouldn’t be aware of if they didn’t take the time to get to know them.

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As I unlocked this Toffee ending, I realized that Syrup and the player are one in the same. Characters reveal themselves, such as Butterscotch’s insecurities, Pastille being a witch, and Toffee being Toffee, the more they feel they can trust Syrup.

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In order for others to trust Syrup, Syrup has to trust herself. The only way to trust herself is to look at her negative traits, acknowledge them, learn from them, and grow as a person.

With this new knowledge of Syrup and how the player is meant to view her, I felt I was ready to take on the final ending. Pastille’s.

Syrup confronts Pastille for keeping this a secret from Syrup as Syrup considers Pastille family. Pastille was at a crossroads. He didn’t know how Syrup would react and didn’t mean any ill intention. He just wanted to see someone who he cared for as a sibling figure happy. Syrup acknowledges Pastille’s witch-hood and offers a partnership.

In the end, Pastille’s magical powers to seek out rare ingredients and Syrup’s alchemy in making delicious treats proved to be a powerful combination. Not only were they both renowned for their accomplishments, but the two of them couldn’t be any closer.

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I feel, with Pastille’s ending being the final ending that I unlocked, it was the perfect way to close the book on this visual novel. It took me about an hour to reach all the endings, so it is a bit on the short side. However, while short, it is indeed sweet. I was able to learn about all five central characters within the contained space that the story gives.

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No piece of information was lost on me. I felt it was due to this that I felt some of the dialogue choices sting more. In the end, if you look at it from the perspective of watching Syrup’s growth affecting her relationships with everyone around her, then it’s a feel-good story to compliment the colorful art and music.

The Lost Summer recommends! ✔️

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