I’m not all that interested in Visual Novel games. I like the idea, as someone who loves to read, but when I want to read I always have a book. While Visual Novels have gameplay, they tend to have less autonomy than Quantic Dream’s interactive dramas.
At least, that’s the case out of the ones I have tried (Danganronpa 1 & 2, mainly). However, when I saw there was a Visual Novel that leaned into the horror genre, I had to try it. While I’m not done with the game yet, I have played enough to say I can recommend it to some. If you like ghosts, anime, weird stories or just need something to play, then you might be interested in this week’s Game Recommendation Death Mark.
It was developed by Experience as the first entry in the Spirit Hunter series, and released in English by Aksys Games. Floating onto platforms in 2017, the game manifested on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The game was fairly well-received. It is now one of “the best horror visual novels…and one of the best Nintendo Switch horror games”. The game even sold well enough to summon a sequel, Spirit Hunter: NG in 2018, and a third entry is currently in development and tentatively titled Shibito Magire.
The gameplay consists of reading through dialogue and internal monologues before exploring an area. Searching is mainly moving a flashlight around the screen and interacting with objects that shine. If you have experience with a point-and-click, you’ll immediately feel comfortable.
Light puzzle solving involves combining items or using them on discovered objects; fights are handled differently. In a “Live or Die” scenario, the player must use evidence found to confront various entities while their Spirit rapidly decreases. These take the form of dialogue choices. Once your Spirit hits zero, you die. Fortunately, there is an option to restart from the encounter itself, so no long backtracking!
Dead by Dawn
While I can’t say I find the game scary (there isn’t much I do anymore), it is eerie. The atmosphere is heavy and while the animation is barely there, the art can be beautiful in its own hideous way. Whether showing a plant-person, or a corpse that held honey bees like a hive, the drawings create tension.
Ghosts will even appear temporarily as your light shines over things. As for the story, the protagonist, along with others, has a mark appear on his arm: an omen. If they don’t get rid of it within a certain time limit their life is forfeit. So begin the investigations.
Death Mark, while not the first game I would recommend, has some great qualities. Spooky ghosts, great art and a mysterious story all combine to create a good-to-great horror game, and make this week’s Game Recommendation Death Mark. It is currently available for the Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (globally) and Xbox One (in Japan).
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