Fear & Hunger: the many ways to permanently sacrifice the Girl [Evil Quests]

Fear & Hunger is probably one of the most dark and disturbing RPGs ever made (check my review fir more details: Fear & Hunger Review: a journey in a land without morality for the darkest RPG ever made). The game lacks any morality, and every action falls in a gray or in a completely black zone. Between the many questionable actions and deeds, the fate reserved to “the Girl”, one of the most important and mysterious characters, is particularly disturbing.

The Girl is found imprisoned in a cage in the entrance of the dungeon. Unable to clearly speak and to explain anything, she can be anyway set free. She will then join the party following the main character around. She is practically useless in combat, and will die pretty easily. However, there is a secret behind the existence of the Girl, and only by bringing her to the very heart of the dungeon, it will be revealed. This is not an easy task, even because the game will try to trick the player several times into sacrificing the Girl. Because in the dark world of Fear & Hunger, sacrifices are a powerful currency. And the Girl is one of the most precious coins, so it is not a surprise that many entities will lurk for her soul.

Even without being tricked by a mysterious creature, the player can even simply decide to sacrifice the girl at any offering circle, common spots scattered around the dungeon. The magical circles allow the main character to gain trust with powerful and ancient Gods by performing different rituals. For example, sacrificing one of the party member is one of them. The Girl is the best sacrifice to increase your loyalty with the dark god, unlocking new spells and abilities. Of course the Girl will permanently die, after being sacrificed in a violent and cruel way. In a grim world where party members can be sacrificed to obtain new skills, the Girl could be sacrificed just few minutes after obtaining her, at the very beginning of the game. By doing this, for a cheap but immediate reward, the player will be locked out from one of the endings.

Being sacrificed to please an ancient god is not the worst fate reserved to the Girl. There are other far more grotesque creatures desiring to simply devour her. An example of this is the disturbing Human Hydra, a creature born from the fear and the despair of all the guards of the prison, which tried an horrible ritual to save themselves (you can read my extensive analysis about the Human Hydra character on Surreal and Creepy). The grotesque abomination is hungry, and of course he wants that the player bring him food. What food would eat this horrible creature? Of course the meat of a young girl. The player could think to offer the girl in sacrifice to this monster, hoping in who knows which powerful and rare reward. The Girl is useless in combat, and the Human Hydra looks like a giant and terrible being, so why not?

This time the sacrifice is even more disturbing than the previous one. The Girl will be swallowed by the grotesque mass. She will try to fight back, trying to escape from this suffocating mass, trying to swim out of his body. But the more she tries to escape, the more the creature will absorb her. Till she disappears in the body of the Human Hydra, accompanied by disgusting squishy sounds. The reward of the player for such evil deed? Simply nothing, since the Human Hydra is a dumb and useless being, regardless of his terrifying appearance. Never trust a character in the dark world of Fear & Hunger.

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Talking about creepy and mysterious characters, the Pocketcat will surely be on top of the list. This creature, with the head of a cat, acts as merchant hidden inside the mines. He appears to be always extremely happy and full of life, often in a really disturbing and inappropriate way, especially since the world is now a place of evilness and madness. His shop offers really powerful and unique items, from ancient tomes, to powerful enchanted swords. But of course, the Pocketcat is not looking for gold. The only way to obtain one of his items is to offer him the Girl. Because he clearly says that he will accept only “children” as currency. The background of the mysterious Pocketcat can be discovered later by reading books or in specific flashbacks. He is an ancient and powerful being, acting as a sort of Boogeyman in the world of Fear & Hunger, predating on children and trying to kidnap them. At least, compared to the Human Hydra, this time the deal has a reward. The Girl will also not die, and she will not being gruesomely devoured in front of the player. But maybe her fate is even worse this time.

The Girl will appear for the rest of the game behind the Pocketcat. However, she will refuse to speak with the player anymore. Her eyes are full of sadness, highlighting that something truly bad happened to her. Her body is intact this time, but her mind is broken. As always, instead, the Pocketcat is super happy and full of life. According to his own words, he is really enjoying the deal. Whatever this is implying, it is something clearly not nice for the Girl.

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There is one last entity that will ask the Girl in exchange for something. Hidden in the depth of a tomb, behind a complex puzzle, and existing only in another reality, the Lady of Moon will make her appearance from a pit full of green light. She is an ancient deity, appearing as a complex mix of female faces fused together in a jellyfish-like body.

The creature is not aggressive, even if she will talk to the player during a battle. The Lady posses powers beyond imagination, typical of an ancient being. However, she can be easily defeat in combat with one single slash. But she has a better deal to offer, of course in exchange of the Girl. She will completely heal the party, but she will also bring away the Girl forever, dragging her in another reality. In Fear & Hunger, this full heal is not a simple matter of regenerating HP, but it is the most unique and complete form of healing available. During the journey, the characters could permanently lose eyes, multiple limbs, or they could being injured with fractures. All these status effects are permanent, and the deal with the Lady of Moon is the only way in the game to heal them. It is not clear what will be the fate of the Girl after accepting this deal, since she will simply vanish with the mysterious Lady of Moon.

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Fear & Hunger is a really dark and macabre RPG, which offers really interesting a questionable moral choices. Party characters, especially the Girl, can be used as bargain for really evil deals. But not always this is the best choice, because in this dark dungeon, the player cannot trust anyone.

Demoniaca Everlasting Night Review: a dark and mature beat ’em up metroidvania

Castlevania Symphony of the Night (SOTN) is probably the best Castlevania ever created, so no wondering that future metroidvania often used it as main inspiration. Sadly, right now the series is practically dead, and between the many indie metroidvania, very few of them have a comparable dark and gothic atmosphere. Demoniaca is the project of an Italian team, inspired by SOTN but bringing its own identity into a really dark and grim world, with a small amount of violence and nudity. Other than a mature and violent world, Demoniaca is also offering a deep and innovative combat system for the genre, and a beautiful pixel art. But I will talk about that shortly.

Demoniaca tells the tale of a girl abandoned half dead by a group of demons in a mass grave. Her blood got mixed with the one of demons, and she is able to heal and reborn as half’demon. She will follow her own revenge path while trying to stop a catastrophic ritual in a huge tower full of demons. Along her path she will face terrible monsters, huge bosses, and will also meet weird characters. The pixel art of the game is very gorgeous and complex, especially for characters, enemies and bosses. There are a lot of effects on the screen, sparkles, lightnings and also characters appearing during specific summons or attacks. Also in some cutscenes or after loading a new area, a zoom function will better highlight the characters, providing lot more details. The music is fitting with the general atmosphere, with rock tracks based on a strong guitar, which will accompany the player while exploring the dark depths of the tower.

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The combat style of the game is very peculiar for the genre, and it is also very deep. Basically it is based on fighting games such as King of Fighters or Street Fighter, with the four basic buttons connected to different kind of kicks and punches. While progressing through the game, the main character will unlock new moves, to be executed as combination of buttons. Some new attacks are also able to open hidden areas or to progress in the game. There is also a parry function, which allow to reduce or to completely waive the damage received by the enemies. The combat system is deep and appealing, but quite difficult to master and to practically apply, often reducing to spamming the most effective  single attack against a specific enemy.

The RPG side of Demoniaca is well developed and integrated. The main character is able to level up with experience, to collect souls as money to buy new items, and can equip several accessories. There is a huge quantity of items to collect, from rings or necklaces to boost the statistics, to more peculiar items which will expand for example the information on the mini-map, showing also the movement of the enemies. The items can be collected from hidden chests, but also the enemies will sometime drop special necklaces or rings. The emphasis is however not on obtaining new weapons, but on discovering new combos and attacks to practice and to perform them.

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Demoniaca is a really challenging and punishing game, with a huge step in the difficulty after the first boss. The enemies punch hard, with strong and fast attacks, usually lot faster than the main character. Also flying enemies are particularly nasty and difficult to fight or to simply avoid, since often they are almost immortal and with very narrow space between them. Demoniaca also feature an old-school save system, based on finding save points. So forget about autosaves or checkpoints and go to save often, because if you die then you will lost lot of progresses. Of course these are not negative side, but it worth to mention that people looking for an easy metroidvania will find in Demoniaca a real challenge. Instead, old-school players will probably love it.

The enemies are interesting in both design and attacks, with a lot of variety in each new area. The bosses are huge and challenging, usually providing long and strategic battles. Even regular enemies are quite hard to defeat, and it is very important to discover their weak points, even if sometimes this is not too obvious. For example, a huge robot fighting with a telekinetic knife will make the main character into pieces, especially because its attacks are unblockable, till the player will discover that the telekinetic knife can be punched-back to avoid any damage, if executed at the correct moment. Each enemy is really a unique surprise. A small and apparently useless enemy can inflict the status “Retro”, reverting the graphical style of Demoniaca into a retro gameboy-like aesthetic.

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The characters show also a peculiar design, going from aggressive demon-like human, to mysterious being such as the Boxman. I am particular fan of this character, a weird and mysterious being wearing a cardboard box over his head, teaching techniques and appearing in the most unexpected situations. For some reason he really hates crows, but this is another story.

The game is full of small secrets, and has a lot of back-tracking, in the good metroidvania formula. For example, some secret areas or events can be accessed only later by using a specific ability. There are also super strong unique mini-bosses, marked on the map with a star, which are usually too strong to fight when met for the first time, and they need to be revisited again later in the story. The game is full of references, especially of course to Castlevania, but also to King of Fighters, for example in the main character sprites. I was also surprised to see some enemies very inspired by Doom, especially by the Pain Elementals and the Cacodemons.

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Sadly there are some negative sides in Demoniaca’s experience. The background is a bit static and repetitive, compared to the level of details of characters and monsters. The game is also really challenging, but with the correct items and with practice, every challenge can be overcome. The controls sometimes are not so responsive, especially during the platform session, which can be a little clumsy. However the game was released only few days ago and the developers look really responsive, so the majority of these issues could be solved in future patches.

Demoniaca is an interesting dark metroidvania, with nice characters and enemies, together with a deep combat system inspired by fighting games. If you can overcome the challenge, Demoniaca can be a really rewarding experience.

The review was based on a free STEAM key provided by the developers.

Interview with ” The Game Kitchen”, the Spanish team behind the dark metroidvania Blasphemous

 

Blasphemous was one of the most successful Kickstarter’s campaigns, and one of the most awaited indie game of 2019. The gorgeous and detailed pixel-art caught almost instantaneously the attention of the press and the players, but there is a lot more in Blasphemous‘s world other than the graphic. The game is a really dark and gruesome RPG metroid-vania, with a strong horror background, especially for the grotesque enemy design. The world of Cvstodia, land where Blasphemous is set, is directly influenced by Catholic religion, creating a unique, twisted and disturbing atmosphere, where religion meets horror.

The Game Kitchen is the brilliant Spanish studio behind Blasphemous, previous authors of the horror point and click saga of The Last Door. Using as inspiration traditions and celebrations from Spain, this independent studio was able to create a really unique and dark world, and one of the most mature and original metroid-vania ever created.

I had the possibility to ask some questions abut Blasphemous to the Game Kitchen. In the following interview, you will find details on how the world of Blasphemous and its creatures were created, the traditional influences of the team, and what are the future plans for the game. If you want to know more about Blasphemous, I hope you will enjoy the following interview.

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Q1: Thank you for your time and for the opportunity. Blasphemous looks a really promising game, with an interesting and unique setting. As an action-platform, Blasphemous is very different from your previous titles, the horror point and click adventure saga of The Last Door. How the idea behind Blasphemous was born?

A1: (Enrique Cabeza) Sorry for my English in advance. After The Last Door we needed to lay the foundations for a new project and after a lot of testing we felt that the next game should be different and could attract a wider range of players but, more importantly, that the game would be very attractive to ourselves as developers. At that time the team was extremely small and the project was going to have a minimal budget, but after the Kickstarter campaign, everything changed and we were able to increase the size of the team and the budget considerably. In addition, the success of the Kickstarter campaign indicated that the game was attractive enough and that we were heading in the right direction.

Q2; Which are the biggest influences for the design, the lore and the gameplay of Blasphemous?

A2: Well, gameplay influences come from games like Castlevania, Strider, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Metroid, Dark Souls or Devil May Cry. We wanted to mix Hack&Slash combat styles and progression and exploration of the metroid-vania genre. In terms of lore we have followed the heritage of the Souls saga format that we love so much, but really the stories are inspired by legends of our city Seville of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and mystical religious writers such as Santa Teresa, Gonzalo de Berceo or San Juan de la Cruz. 

Q3: What was the most challenging part of the developing?

A3: From my point of view, the most challenging thing has been to unite the artistic part of the game with the combat design with the giant bosses. That’s probably what caused us the most nightmares. We’ve learned a lot about how not to do some things.

Q4: Spanish traditions, folklore and culture seems to have an interesting influence in the world of Blasphemous. How much Spanish traditions influenced the world of Blasphemous? Could you make some examples?

A4: We realized that our own city, Seville, was full of interesting and unique elements that could serve to create our own dark fantasy. The cultural richness of the city is enormous from the artistic, architectural and historical point of view, so we felt that we were doing an honest job and our own. 

For example, one of the Spanish painters whose works have influenced us the most is Francisco de Goya because he has a series of dark and macabre paintings whose atmosphere fell in love with us and that fit perfectly into the tone of the game we wanted to create. Seville is full of religious art with hundreds of years of antiquity. One of its most important traditions is Holy Week which is truly spectacular. Really, all these works and traditions are not lived here as something merely religious, but it is something cultural and traditional, and a part of our DNA.

Q5: From the title to the world itself, Blasphemous clearly integrates religious figures and symbolism, for example Michelangelo’s Pietà for one of the first bosses [Figure 1]. How did you integrate religious topics in a horror environment?

A5: Much of the religious art, especially that of Andalusia, in southern Spain, is very dark and gloomy. Seville is full of religious iconography that represents suffering and tragedy in a unique way. I think it was a good decision to inspire the art of the game in all this art and heritage of southern Spain.

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Figure 1: Boss inspired by “La Pietà” of Michelangelo

Q6: I am a personal fan of the creature design of Blasphemous, especially one of the bosses: a gigantic blindfolded child lifted by a humanoid dark creature [Figure 2]. The design is really terrifying and unique, is this boss still part of the game? Could you provide some details maybe about the background or the battle against this creepy foe?

A6: We don’t want to give many clues about it because inside the game the players will be able to find a lot of information about all the characters and the world of Cvstodia. We think it’s better for players to find and discuss the whole lore of the game. We have published a two hundred page art book explaining the artistic influences and creative processes that have given rise to all the creatures and characters in the game. I hope you find it interesting!

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Figure 2: One of the most creepy and disturbing bosses of Blasphemous

Q7: Let’s continue to talk about the unique creature design of Blasphemous. Which is your favourite monster or boss so far? Why?

A7: I think Crisanta is one of my favourite bosses, the design of her armour is very iconic, also the girl climbed to the giant is one of my favourite enemies and has turned out to be one of the most shocking for players, is inspired by one of the most important Spanish paintings in history and the universal painting ‘Las Meninas’ [Figure 3]. One of my favourite characters is Desamparados, the woman in the painting that appears in the Blasphemous comic “El Arrodillamiento”, which is published in Steam, I think is one of the characters I enjoyed most designing and writing.

Q8: How are you balancing the difficulty of Blasphemous? Will it be more difficulty levels or maybe a New Game+, in the way of Souls game for example?

A8: Yeah, there’s a New Game+ on the way. The balancing in the games is something very difficult to achieve and I think the gameplay designers of Blasphemous have done a tremendous job. Hopefully we can even improve this aspect in future updates with the help of the community.

Q9:  The world of Blasphemous looks a really interesting place to explore. How much focus will be on the exploration and on the search for secrets? Just to have an averaged idea, how big will be the map in terms of hours to be fully explored?

A9: It’s complicated to say. I think we’ve introduced a lot of rooms to explore and secrets to discover with the budget we had. There are players who complete the game after thirty hours and others much earlier.  However, we have plans to add more and more content to the game which we hope players find very satisfying.

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Figure 3: Artwork of the creature inspire by “Las Meninas”

Q10: My obvious last question will be about the future of the game. Are you planning to support the game after lunch, with DLCs for example?

A10: Yes!! We are already working on new game content as well as correcting and improving existing aspects of the game. Blasphemous has just started!

Final Remarks:

I would like to thank the Game Kitchen, especially Mauricio Garcia Serrano and Enrique Cabeza, for the great opportunity and for their interesting answers. As probably many other fans, I am also curious to discover what monstrosities will be lurking in the future DLCs. I want just to remember that Blasphemous is available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and also STEAM.