Why TikTokers Are Comparing a New Horror Cooking Sim to Sweeney Todd
It's often been said that no art is truly original and that every novel, film, and video game draws influence from previously existing media in some way or another. When it comes to indie video games, where different narrative genres and styles of gameplay mix and match in unexpected ways, these influences can be drawn from all kinds of places.
Thanks to a viral post on TikTok, Bad Vices Games' Ravenous Devils, a cooking simulator with a dash of horror, is being compared to the late Stephen Sondheim's famous Broadway musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. With their similar choice of setting and shared focus on barely disguised cannibalism, Ravenous Devils and Sweeney Todd are in many ways two sides of the same bloodied blade.
Described in its tagline as "a horror cooking simulator where the secret ingredient is crime," Ravenous Devils puts players in the shoes of Percival and Hildred, a sinister yet loving couple who own and manage a two-floor tailor shop and pub in Victorian-era London. Willing to do anything to stay out of poverty (and avoid being recognized and arrested for their past crimes), the couple has come up with a diabolical scheme to make ends meet while satisfying their criminal urges.
The gameplay in Ravenous Devils is split between two distinct styles. As Percival, the player must ensure that both businesses enjoy a steady stream of resources by murdering the tailor shop's clients so that their clothes can be cleaned, tried, and resold to other unsuspecting customers. With a click of the mouse, the player can swap to Hildred, who must keep the guests who wander into her pub satisfied by waiting tables, cleaning the dishes, and using the "leftover meat" supplied by her husband to cook a variety of delectable meals.
Every task performed by both halves of the murderous pair must be completed within a certain time limit, or else customers will leave dissatisfied and the businesses' reputations (and profits) will suffer. By maintaining a healthy income and building their establishments' reputations, the player can acquire upgrades that make managing work and resources easier. And, of course, the player must avoid having the shops' true natures discovered, a task that becomes more difficult when an anonymous regular known only as "J" uncovers the truth and begins demanding murderous "favors" in exchange for their silence.
While the comparison between Ravenous Devils and Sweeney Todd was popularized by TikTok-user "MadMorph," many eagle-eyed critics and players had already noted the unmistakable similarities between the two. In Sweeney Todd, the titular "Demon Barber of Fleet Street" returns from an unjust exile to exact revenge upon the corrupt judge who framed him for a crime he didn't commit. Forming an alliance with the widowed Mrs. Lovett, Todd reopens his barber shop and dedicates his life to "cleansing" London of corruption, sending the corpses of his victims to Lovett, who bakes them into pies that she then sells.
Ravenous Devils' parallels with Sweeney Todd are so prominent that they come off as overt references rather than simple coincidences. Like Sweeney Todd, Ravenous Devils is set in a warped reflection of 19th-century London that casts a satirical yet poignant light on the rampant classism that defined the city during this era of history. While Percival and Hildred aren't motivated by the vengeance and unrequited lust that drove Todd and Lovett, the scheme the couple enacts is an almost perfect match to the one portrayed in the musical.
Perhaps the most obvious similarity is the tools each couple uses to achieve their twisted goals. Both Percival and Todd share a fondness for razors, and Hildred and Lovett both use industrial meat grinders to convert their victims' bodies into unidentifiable meat. Even the placement of their businesses is the same, with both Percival and Todd using a hidden trapdoor to deliver their victims' bodies to their respective partner's kitchen a floor below.
While Bad Vices Games never cited Sweeney Todd as an influence for the setting and gameplay of Ravenous Devils, the similarities between the two works are impossible to ignore. While there are several differences, it's difficult to believe that the creators of Ravenous Devilsdidn't look to Sweeney Todd for inspiration.