Lakeview Valley is a very peculiar game, sometimes described as a murderous Stardew Valley. This is in part true, since the game allows many secondary activities, including gardening, fishing, and decorating the house. However, Lakeview Valley is also a gory, vile, and disturbing horror game, where the protagonist can act as a serial killer. After every murder, hiding the bodies and erasing the clues is essential to don’t get caught by the sheriff the following day. So be ready to murder every witness, throw the bodies inside the lake, and use ammonia to clean the blood.
While Lakeview Valley is widely known for its adult and violent components, as the other games in Lakeview saga, few is known about its deep and complex lore. The town is full of creepy inhabitants, hidden secrets, multiple endings, and even a morality system. Seriously, to discover every element and complete all the achievements, the player will need multiple playthroughs… or time loops. If you want to find more about this town and its secret, you can find Lakeview Valley and similar games in the article Towns with a Dark Secret.
Playing the good Samaritan comes with a price, because murderers receive a reward in this insane world. After murdering the first victim, a mysterious Circus will open during night in the woods outside town. Mergo is the mysterious creature in charge of the Circus, a tall guy with a hat, hiding in the shadows and showing only a wide row of sharp teeth. For every homicide, the player can select new dark powers from hollow trees outside town. These come in a wide selection of powerful skills, from infinite stamina and oxygen to unlocking a realtime map of the town.
And this is not everything, because between the many secrets, the existence of a hidden hellish dimension is one of the most unexpected. Even more, because this dimension can only be accessed by sleeping in a random bed inside a deserted house. The house is always locked, and finding a special key is required to open it. After that, by sleeping on the bed, the main character will twist in a vortex, ending up in this grotesque and violent hell. The place is full of demons, which will not directly harm the player, and will offer some disturbing philosophical conversations about hell and torment. The main area includes many characters, but it is also quite small. Only a long bridge connects the main area with the Queen’s room, but, of course, it is protected by a guardian. Entering this bridge without being summoned by the Queen or in possession of a holy power will lead to a horrible death. A gigantic invincible demon will crawl toward you, with the only viable option of running away from this place.
Every of your victims will end up in this violent and brutal hell, tortured for the eternity by the demons residing here. By talking with the victims, you can see detailed portraits of the brutal torments they are enduring. Some of them have their hair ripped out, burned, or skinned alive. Seriously, this is not a place for weak stomachs. But there is an exception. The mischievous boy of the town, Billie, will not being tormented by demons. Instead, Billie will act as one of the torturers, and the demons will compliment his skills. Well, looks-like not all the kids are pure and innocent in this twisted town.
What will happen when you murder all the town? That is the time when you will get an audience with the Queen of Hell. Meeting the Queen is the ultimate step of the most evil ending. But what should be the reward for such evil act? Well, let’s just say that the Queen is so amazed by your actions that will allow you to “satisfy” her.
Murdering to obtain supernatural powers, causing a hecatomb to sleep with the Queen of Hell, and a hellish dimension of torments: what other horrible destiny is waiting for this poor town? A detail is still missing, because if the victims’ souls will go straight to hell, their body will roam the streets as zombies. The town is never a safe place at night, between mothmen, the upper league demons, or a moving scarecrow (you can read more about it HERE). But after each murders, the victim will become a zombie, and the streets during the night will have a new enemy roaming around. Afterall, there is a small price to pay for being evil.
Being chased by an enemy almost impossible to defeat, relying on hiding or running away as the only chance of surviving, is one of the most extreme feelings in survival-horror games. And if famous pursuers such as Nemesis or Mr. X from early Resident Evil games, or Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2, are the most iconic examples, other games such as Clock Tower made escaping an immortal stalker the core element of their gameplay (and you can read more here: https://surrealandcreepy.wordpress.com/2021/04/10/best-indie-games-similar-to-clock-tower/). However, pure horror games are not the only example where immortal stalkers are present. And sometimes, you can even experience this anxiety in very unexpected genres.
It is the case of turn-based JRPG, a genre usually associated with slow and static games, which instead surprisingly show several examples of immortal pursuers. As expected, several of these creatures come from Atlus games, the developer of the most known horror-themed JRPGs such as Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. On the other side, it is also true that some similar enemies can also be found in less horror-themed JRPGs such as Final Fantasy. Because I think everybody remembers the robot spider from the beginning of FF8. Moreover, this is especially true for more recent horror JRPGs, especially Idea Factory games, and even more fitting for dungeon-crawlers. Probably because of the mazes to explore, or the first-person view, dungeon-crawlers have a huge selection of immortal stalkers, chasing you till an unexpected dead end. And if instant death once trapped is not that different from any survival-horror games, being stuck in an almost impossible-to-win turn-based battle has a completely different taste. And if you find difficult to imagine that, try to think about the pressure of selecting the best move hoping to survive, while the creature annihilates at each turn a different character, or about attempting to escape the battle but failing each time. Moreover, random battles and turns create a denser atmosphere, because you don’t know how many different attacks the creature could do, or when it could appear. Another very interesting concept is that, while in pure horror games there is always a scheduled encounter to kill the immortal stalkers, in JRPGs this could be instead level-based. So maybe 50 levels later, when you are strong enough, you can come back to the stalker that was terrifying you early on to finally kill it.
So what will be on this list? I selected examples of immortal stalkers from different JRPGs, especially if horror-themed, and all with turn-based battles. If not, there would not be much different from pure horror games. The selected creatures should be also almost impossible to defeat, especially when met for the first time, and able to quickly annihilate the party. They should also be active stalkers, or appearing only when connected to rare or unwanted events or mechanics, in fact acting as a negative reward.
Mary Skelter– The Nightmares
Mary Skekter is a trilogy of dark dungeon-crawlers where everything is horror-themed. Not only the games are set inside a colossal living being but also blood is a central element in the gameplay (more info here: Mary Skelter Nightmares: When the dungeon is a colossal living creature with its own needs). But what truly shines as pure horror gameplay are the Nightmares, the immortal stalkers at the core of the experience. Every dungeon has its Nightmare patrolling around, disturbing creatures that are, at the beginning, impossible to kill. They will randomly appear when the player explores the dungeon, accompanied by creepy sounds and a white aura. If they spot the party, the only chance of surviving is to run away as far as possible till the chase is over. The worst thing? The map will be disabled during the chase, so you can easily finish trapped in a dead end. In battle, each Nightmare has an external shell that can be destroyed to briefly stun them, facilitating the escape. However, if random battles happen during the chase, the nightmare will join the fight, creating a very challenging situation. A Nightmare can only be truly defeated after losing the immortality, which will happen by destroying a core at the end of its dungeon. Moreover, the Nightmares are also seriously creepy and disturbing in appearance, linked to the theme of each dungeon and the background of the main heroine there, thus incorporating twisted fairytale elements in their grotesque design. If you are curious about more details, I also wrote a long analysis about the Nightmares, which you can check here: The Nightmares of Mary Skelter: fairytale characters reborn as twisted immortal stalkers.
Undernauts Labyrinth of Yomi – Luci
Undernauts is another dungeon-crawler JRPG, set in 1979 Tokyo where a mysterious structure appeared in the middle of the city. Full of dangers but also resources, soon mining companies start to explore this huge dungeon to unveil its secrets. Developed by Experience Inc, Undernauts is somehow connected to their main series Stranger of the Sword City. However, Undernauts is much more horror, violent, and disturbing than their other RPGs. Let’s just say that the first scene inside the game sees you as the only survivor of your mining expedition, which was was devoured by a kid with a giant leech-like arm. And you survived, only because the child was too full to eat you. While wandering around the dungeons, you will soon meet again that “sweet” cannibal child that spared you. Her name is Luci, an immortal child with a giant leech-like arm, which follows the orders of a mysterious man from a radio around her neck. While exploring the dungeons, you could randomly hear a radio massage of the mysterious man sending the girl to devour the party. After the message, whichever random or stationary battle in the dungeon, will be instead against Luci. So the only way to surely avoid this fight is to quickly run back to the main camp before a battle starts… and this is pretty stressful while exploring. During the fight, the little girls seems so weak and yet so disturbing. But she has the bad habit of attacking the rear row, usually quickly killing your magician or healer, thus making your life pretty miserable even if you succeed in repelling her. Yes, I didn’t use the word “killing” because Luci is immortal and, after behind defeated, she will just stand up and run away, after saying some very sad lines about failure and loneliness. But she will surely come back another time, trying to devour you. Moreover, Luci will also appear in some mandatory boss battles, together with other minions and the ability of massively healing, making such fights even more difficult. Without doubts, Luci is one of the most scary and disturbing stalkers on this list.
Persona – The Reapers
Persona started as a spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei, and now is more famous than the original series. Mixing real life and dark supernatural events, since Persona 3, the saga allows the exploration of huge dungeons while investing in your daily life. And also starting with Persona 3, the Reaper appeared to torment the main party. Especially in Persona 3, the Reaper is a pure horror stalker, integrated since the beginning of the game into the mechanics. If you explore for too long in a dungeon, depending on its size, the Reaper could appear on the floor to hunt you down. Since characters with levels below 70 have practically zero chances of defeating it, finding the exit as fast as possible is the only way to avoid death. Meeting the Reaper means starting an impossible battle, where the party will be annihilated in a couple of turns. The good side is that an end-game party can instead defeat the Reaper, unlocking very rare rewards. The Reaper is also present in Persona 4, but this time it acts only as a secret super boss, which can be faced only during a second playthrough after opening a mysterious chest. In Persona 5 the Reaper is back to stalk the party inside the dungeons, very similarly to Persona 3. When the Reaper appears, accompanied by the sound of rattling chains, the other party members will try to warn you about its danger, and how running away is the only option. Again, the battle is almost impossible to win due to the Reaper’s high defence and instant killing spells.
Etrian Odyssey – FOEs
A JRPG saga that truly integrated challenging battles against almost impossible foes is the dungeon-crawler Etrian Odyssey, published by Atlus. In almost every game of the saga, strong enemies called by the acronym FOE wander around the dungeons. They are always challenging enemies, usually very difficult to beat during the first visit, so it is always a recommended strategy to avoid these fights. However, Etrian Odyssey also integrated very interesting and variegated behaviours for the FOEs. In general, red FOEs work as relentless stalkers, charging at the player if in their sight. For example, the Freed Savage (Etrian Odyssey III) is a grotesque being caged behind gates but, once freed, the creature will quickly run toward the player to attack it. Other similar examples involved FOEs acting in pairs. For example, the Cruel Slayer (Etrian Odyssey IV) is a relentless robot hound almost impossible to outrun, but it will only start to track the players if they are spotted before by a wandering sentinel called the Cold Watchman. However, FOEs also exhibit more complex, hunting, and disturbing behaviours, creating challenging predators to avoid. A deadly example is the Vampire Tree (Etrian Odyssey III), an invisible FOE with a very horror-predatory behaviour. The tough monster will get visible only if close to you while you are in battle, slowly advancing at each turn of the fight. If you are too slow in the random fight, the FOE will join the battle. And having a tough boss with high defence, and a lethal poison that will both damage the characters and cure the monster, is not an easy challenge. Talking about erratic patterns, the disturbing Taurus Demon (Etrian Odyssey V) doesn’t directly charge the player, but once they line up with the monster, the FOE will start to mirror their movements, even if they are very far away. And since the creature is a deadly physical attacker, avoiding it is a necessity. Another deadly and peculiar FOE from Etrian Odyssey V is the Mounting Horror. The monster doesn’t move from its position, but will instead generate clones as strong as it to hunt the player, and the only way to survive is to find and kill the real monster. But the top spot for the scariest and most peculiar FOE from Etrian Odyssey goes to the Death Wall (Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold). Imagine being trapped in a twisted labyrinth typical of dungeon-crawler games, trying to find your way out. At some point, maybe you start to see that a wall was never there. What is happening? This is simply Death Wall, a FOE that mimics a normal dungeon wall… which will move only if you are not watching it. And once you are trapped in a dead-end hallway, you are forced to face it. And this is a battle where you cannot escape, and the Death Wall will literally try to crush all the party with strong physical AOE attacks.
The Lost Child–Nyarlathotep
Another dungeon-crawler to add to the many on the list, Lost Child is a spin-off of El Shaddai, an action game involving Catholic mythology and angelic wars. Sharing many similarities with Shin Megami Tensei, in The Lost Child, the main character can trap demons and fallen angels to fight in the party. And the design of the enemies is very original and interesting, as you can see here for some demons: The most unusual Demons from the Japanese dungeon-crawler The Lost Child. However, angels and demons are not the only enemies, since the main bosses are Lovecraftian creatures, including Cthulhu. And Nyarlathotep from the bonus dungeon R’lyeh Road is an immortal stalker that deserves to be in this article. R’lyeh Road is a gigantic bonus dungeon of 100 floors, which can be faced at any point during the game. Each floor has only one exit, and a switch to open it. And the big twist is the presence of Nyarlathotep, which will manifest on every floor once the door is open. Nyarlathotep does not physically face the party but, as a sort of alien parasite, will take control of normal enemies, appearing behind them like a sort of puppeteer, enhancing them to a boss-level threat. The other unique feature is that Nyarlathotep will physically appear on the map, charging toward the player, one step at a time. By planning your moves and using big rooms to your advantage, it is fact possible to avoid Nyarlathotep and escape to the next floor. So how it is possible to truly defeat Nyarlathotep? You can discover the answer only on the 100th floor of R’lyeh Road, making Nyarlathotep one of the most relentless stalkers on the list.
Mother 3 – Ultimate Chimera
Earthbound saga is a cult game not only in Japan, but also worldwide, one of the weirdest RPG ever developed that influenced recent RPGs such as Undertale or Omori. Between funny and disturbing moments, the party will face different creatures, each requiring very peculiar strategies to be defeated. And in Mother 3, there is also an immortal stalker: the Ultimate Chimera. This creature, created inside a lab, looks like a fluffy pink monster with a pair of small wings. But behind this innocent-looking monster lies a deadly enemy. Once it sets free, the monster will roam the lab attacking NPCs and chasing the player. The terrible surprise is that, instead of starting a normal battle, meeting the Chimera means an instant Game Over. There is no hope in fighting the creature, so running away is the only alternative. Luckily, the ultimate Chimera can be deactivated by a button on its back… but only temporary since the party will meet the monster again during the game.
Death end re;Quest 2 – Dark Shadow
The sequel of one of the most horror and disturbing JRPG from recent years is even more insane and terrifying. Hopping between a cursed virtual reality and a town hiding a cult, Death end re;Quest 2 shows a set of really grotesque enemies (that you can check here: The most creepy and disturbing enemies and bosses of Death end re;Quest 2). But random enemies are not the only threat, since another entity could appear anywhere to hunt the party: the Dark Shadow. This cryptic creature appears together with some distortions in any point inside a dungeon. The towering shadow creature advances slowly toward the player, but a mere wrong turn inside a dead-end hallway… and it is Game Over. Because as with the Ultimate Chimera in Mother 3, simply touching the Dark Shadow means a sudden death. Moreover, sometimes the game will position the Dark Shadow in impossible points, where gimmicks like finding hidden suspended paths are the the only way to avoid the creature.
Shadow Hearts – Fox Face
Shadow Hearts is the first (or the second, if we consider Koudelka) entry of a dark saga of JRPGs released for PS2. Mixing European history with demons and eldritch abomination, the game knew how to assemble RPG mechanics with horror elements. And an immortal stalker could not miss this setting. Shadow Hearts involved a very peculiar mechanic around the Malice, a dark and malevolent energy released from death. The more the main character kills enemies in battle, the more Malice is accumulated. Till the breaking point, where the UI becomes red and the Graveyard opens its door. At this point, the Fox Face can appear instead of any random encountered. At first, the creature is not very intimidating, merely a human with a fox mask. However, this adversary represents the protagonist’s fears, and can be challenged only in a 1-on-1 combat, where death is the most possible outcome since the enemy has many dirty moves. The player can lower Malice and avoid Fox Face by going to the Graveyard, to then speak to mysterious floating masks demons and participate in their fighting arena. This is a perfect example of a terrifying stalker very well integrated into the game, so deadly and scary because the main character must face it alone.
Fear & Hunger – Crow Mauler and Greater Blight
Fear & Hunger is probably the darkest RPG ever made, set in a world so grim and sick that will make you often chill. Featuring a combat based on mutilations, where several negative effects are permanent, including death, and lacking any experience coming from combat, avoiding enemies is the standard in this game (and for more you can check the different articles I wrote here: https://darkrpgs.home.blog/category/videogames/fear-hunger/). But some enemies are even more specifically design to act as terrifying Stalkers. The most fitting example is the Greater Blight, a gigantic creature roaming the empty wasteland of the Void, a secret end-game area. While wandering around, sometime a message saying that something is following you will appear. Ignore the message, and soon enough more intimidating ones will appear. If you find a hole in the ground on time, you can hide there till the creature loses your scent. Otherwise, be ready for a tough battle. The Greater Blight looks like a gigantic T-rex missing the eyes, a deadly foe that can slaughter the entire party in a couple of turns. However, a strong and lucky party can still defeat the creature, which will only escape to prepare for another chase. And the player will gain nothing from this deadly battles, except probably for dead characters and mortal wounds. Another infamous enemy is the Crow Mauler, probably the most hated boss in the entire game. In the beginning, Fear & Hunger has only one save point, an old and forgotten bed inside a jail. However, saving in the game is also dangerous, since you have a 50% chances of facing the Crow Mauler. And an underprepared party will also surely die there, because the tough creature has even one-shot attacks. But if you want to freely save the game, soon or later you must defeat this creature. And if this was not enough, the end-game dungeon has trapdoors scattered around. If you fall inside them, you will finish in a basement… chased by a two-headed Crow Mauler, an enemy almost impossible to defeat. Anyway, if you are curious to know more about the Crow Mauler, I wrote an analysis here: When it is impossible to Save: surviving all the mutilations of the Crow Mauler in Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle].
Shin Megami Tensei – Jailer and Dante
Shin Megami Tensei saga doesn’t need introduction, since it is probably the most famous and longevous dark JRPG around. Moreover, the monsters based on mythologies around the world, created by Kazuma Kaneko, are still now an example in monster designing. And surprisingly, some of them also worked as immortal stalkers. An example is the Jailer from Digital Devil Saga (also known as the Buddhist demon Kumbhanda), a deviant creature in charge of a prison. The jail is also a factory where humans are converted into canned food, the Jailer’s favourite. And yes, if you didn’t know, cannibalism is a central theme in Digital Devil Saga (and you can read more about it here: Digital Devil saga: A cannibal JRPG — Surreal and Creepy). During the first battle against the Jailer, you will realise of a drastic anomaly: the boss has an attack able to paralyse everybody with a 100% success rate, quickly ending the battle. Later on, the prison becomes its hunting ground, where the main character should physically escape from the Jailer and its traps, while finding a way to trick it into losing its powers. If the Jailer is a pure horror stalker, another enemy is an even more emblematic hunter in Shin Megami Tensei. Just this time, it is an enemy that you would never expect. “Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry Series” became quite a meme for SMT 3 Nocturne, and the legendary demon hunter from Capcom’s games truly appears in one of the bonus dungeons. Dante will literally stalk the player while exploring a complex maze, shooting them if they are far but still in his range, or starting a deadly battle when reaching them. In the last case, Dante will immediately kill the weaker demon in the party with his sword. And if the main character is the lowest-level one… well, time for an instant Game Over.
Persona Q – FOEs
Persona Q is a spin of the main series released for 3DS, with a gameplay more similar to Etrian Odyssey than the regular Persona. The similarities are so many that, even in this case, while exploring the dungeons, you can meet deadly FOEs. As well as for Etrian Odyssey, FOEs have different behaviours, and, in general, it is often recommended to avoid them. Moreover, due to the darkest nature of Persona setting, the FOEs are even more disturbing. For example, the Beast of Lust is a sort of small Cherub seated on top of a bondage horse, creating a very disturbing enemy that follows the player if they are directly watching the creature. So no eye contact, no pain. In the next dungeon, the Evil Spirit Club, the party must face creepy clusters of dolls, the Lovely Dolls, which share some similarity with Junji Ito’s Tomie. They are stationary, but tends to surprisingly teleport toward the player causing a jump-scare. Luckily, the light can repel those dolls granting safe passages. And if the Loving Dolls are not enough, the ancient version, the Old Doll, will actively chase the party and can even block some doors to create smaller hunting grounds. Other FOEs, such as the Festival Dudes, act as super tough side battles. They are a group of 4 monstrous and coloured muscled guys bringing around a shrine, which move in a fixed pattern around the dungeon. However, even if they are extremely strong, they can be defeated by selecting specific characters for a very unusual party. To conclude, the Reaper from previous Persona games is also there to hunt and terrify the party in the last dungeons.
Elden Ring is surely a surprise, the quintessential of Souls-like games set in a gigantic open world. If previous Fromsoftware’s games were full of creepy enemies and cryptic lore to analyse, the huge world of Elden Ring has an incredible amount of secrets to discover. Between decadent families of demigods, different continents, mysterious characters, mystique […]
Let It Die is a free-to-play game developed by Suda51’s team, so of course is 100% pure insanity. The main aim of the player is to climb a dystopian tower, fighting monsters, invaders, collecting new items and experience, while advancing each floor toward the top. The combat is souls-like inspired, with a stamina bar dictating the possible moves, light and heavy attacks combined with dodging, and easy ways to die if the enemies are underestimated. If this looks quite standard, everything else is totally over-the-top.
The tower was mysteriously built after a cataclysm on a small island close to Tokyo. Since that time, the tower has continued to grow, attracting different kinds of people. Powerful lords started to live and take control of the tower, building a sick new system where even the dead bodies are brought back to life to fight for them. Meanwhile, adventurers started to climb the tower, hoping to claim the mysterious treasure hidden on the top. The ground floor of the tower is a small shopping mall connected to the metro station, with a fountain in the middle, bathrooms, and elevators. But it is exactly this place that became the base camp of all these crazy operations, attracting the most insane and illegal merchants to open a shop there. And it is exactly the ground floor that works as the hub or lobby of Let It Die.
The lobby of the tower is the equivalent of a small town, with a lot of services and bizarre characters to interact with. Even if many places have standard services, like to buy items or to level up the player, the shopkeepers and the setting are anyway insanely original and plainly weird. Because nothing is as it should be on this floor. The bathrooms are brainwashing prisons, freezers are where clones are stored, and the metro station works as vehicles to invade other players. And these are only the standard things.
Let’s have a look at the most whacky places and services available in the lobby.
Each death in Let it Die is permanent, there is no other way to say it. However, with enough gold, dead bodies can be collected and reanimated. On the other hand, new clones can be produced to rescue the dead body of the previous character, who will be wandering like a bloodthirsty revenant on the floor where it died. Because the lords of the tower are controlling death, and facing your previously dead characters is not a surprise The freezer is where the available characters are stocked, hanging like dead meat on chains. New characters can also be recruited here, or they can be organised for different tasks, for example, to defend the base from other players’ raids. Alternatively, unused characters can also be sent to scavenge and hunt on other player’s floors. They will become invaders, challenging enemies for the other players to face, and they will come back with scavenged materials as a reward after enough time passed.
Let It Die also involves a multiplayer attack-defend the base mode, freely playable by everybody. But of course, also this mode is totally insane. To access the Raid mode, the player needs to talk to a weird-looking robot, similar to a train operator mascot, with a creepy smile on the face and electric blue eyes. The small robot is totally insane, and will direct the player, with the voice full of crazy enthusiasm, to the different raid modes and the power-up for the base: “Thank you for riding with us today.” Then, the attack mode is very straightforward: jump inside the metro and it will bring you directly to the enemy base. The other players will leave their characters heavily armored to defend the base or, if you are lucky enough, it will be defenseless. With enough time available and with the defensors killed, the other players’ resources can be looted from their base.
There is a random and bizarre consequence of the train raids. Sometimes, when another player’s character is defeated, its body will stay on the ground. These characters can be kidnapped and brought back to the base. They will end up imprisoned in the bathrooms, now reconverted in jails. The kidnapped character will be trapped there, wrapped in plastic, and with a visor on their face, totally isolated from reality and in constant sufferance. The characters are indeed undergoing a brainwashing procedure, which has a fixed time to be executed. After the time has passed, the kidnapped fighter will be totally brainwashed and ready to join the player’s team. However, the other player will not stay quiet when one of his characters is kidnapped, and will have the chance to attack the base where is imprisoned in order to free him.
The regular shop of Let It Die is probably the less inspired section of the lobby. Here, the player can buy weapons and armors, but also access the R&D section to develop and unlock new equipment using the correct materials. The owner of the shop is a legendary merchant, with the head protected inside a glass, and surrounded in the background by weapons drenched in blood, including chainsaws. The fact that the shopkeeper is definitively too similar to an infamous German dictator doesn’t anyway help in giving more identity to this shop.
Vending Machine “Hernia”
A regular vending machine but with a creepy twist and design. The machine will sell different items that will change periodically, which can be acquired by using different kinds of currency. One of the main forms of payment is called Bloodnium, and it is linked to blood. But the interesting detail is the execution of this payment. Small spiked cylinders will appear like a medieval trap, and the character’s hand will be voluntarily wounded by this instrument of torment in order to extract the payment: blood. The fact that the shop is called “Hernia” is also causing additional uneasy feelings.
The Mushroom Club is probably one of the most bizarre shops ever seen in a game, owned by an insane woman. She is dressed only in a bikini, covered with tattoos, with mushroom-like hair and tribal fangs covering half of her face. The legends say that she was a backpack traveler that went insane after trying weird fungi, and now is managing her tribal shop inside the tower. When not working, she will perform a lap dance on a giant umbrella, but her role is far more bizarre. Like a post-apocalyptic shaman, the woman will provide a psychedelic mushroom soup to her customers, which will give very unexpected results. In fact, after trying the different soups, the player will receive adhesives to wear like tattoos on the different characters. Some adhesives, or decals, are only temporary and will disappear with the death of the character, while the premium ones can be recovered even from dead bodies. The scene when the character drinks the psychedelic soup is particularly weird, and the decals will appear from a rainbow of colors sparkling from the empty dish.
Quests: the Voyeur Visor
Secondary quests were generally selected by talking to a cute girl in the arcade room, another section of the lobby that can be accessed from the fountain (check the associated section). However, after an update, quests can now be selected in a more bizarre and peculiar way from the main hub. A visor supported by the statues of two kids now works as shortcut to access the quest menu. The kids look like characters from an old Japanese manga, or from some school propaganda, jumping very happily while working as support for the visor. By accessing the visor, the player can select different quests to complete, from “collect x items” to “kill x enemies,” or sometimes more variegated challenges like complete specific floors without wearing any armor. Interestingly, the visor also works as a sort of voyeur machine. In fact, after finishing to select quests, the player can see the face of the girl in the arcade room. The girl seems unaware of the player’s presence, and she looks like busy watching something and will often comment “No, no , not there” or “He hide what and where!?”
Experience hardly collected during the explorations inside the tower needs to be used inside the lobby to level up the characters, deciding which attribute to power up, from strength to agility. And of course, to use the experience, the player has to interact with a creepy creature that looks like a living brain combined with a motorbike in a sort of cyberpunk jellyfish. The grotesque creature will directly inject tubes with jacks inside the character’s back, and, in a painfully-looking scene, highlighted by disgusting sounds, the experience can be used to power up the characters.
The Arcade Room
A lobby inside the lobby, the arcade room is a meta-game festival, and another stylish insanity added to the game. As if Let It Die was just an arcade game that the player is actually trying to beat, the Arcade Room works as a place for hints, advice, and to better understand the lore. The different characters will tell you how to get better in the game, like if the player was really asking help from other players. Moreover, a radio can be selected to change the music, while a mysterious machine provides information for the lore of the game in the form of old and distorted VHS movies.
It is nice to see when two different worlds collide together in the video game format. It happened several times, especially for big companies, for example hunting a Final Fantasy’s Behemoth inside Monster Hunter World. However, what is not so common is a collaboration between a big company and an obscure indie title, especially if they are from far away worlds such as JRPGs and survival-horrors. But this is exactly what happened between Death end Request 2 and Ao Oni.
Death end Request 2 is a JRPG with a strong horror component and a creepy set of creatures. If you follow the blog, the game should be already familiar since I wrote different articles about it, including a review where you can find more complete information: Death end re;Quest 2 Review: mysterious Visual Novel by day, horror JRPG by night. On the contrary, Ao Oni is a Japanese game survival-horror, a freeware and obscure title that got quite popular around 2007. The game is a RPGmaker-style horror game, with a great focus on hiding and surviving a creepy stalker. The game got quite a following in Japan, even getting manga, anime, and live-action movie adaptation. The real protagonist of the game is the enemy, the actual Ao Oni, a gigantic blue ogre with a peculiar face and altered proportions. The creature got iconic, an example of Japanese indie horror games, with a look not so intimidating, but for sure somehow disturbing.
How the collaboration between Death end Request 2 and Ao Oni take shape? During the first playthrough of the game, the player will see nothing related to the Ao Oni. Anyway, horror elements will be not missing from the experience, from gory and tragic bad endings to multiple grotesque enemies (more info here: The most creepy and disturbing enemies and bosses of Death end re;Quest 2). After reaching the good ending, in Death end Request 2 it will be possible to continue in a NG+, keeping the experience and the equipment, while accessing new contents, story branches, and a new ending. It is during the NG+ that the Ao Oni will become a more present element.
In the first area of the game, an old telephone will allow the player to access new contents. The first one is a mini-game, and it is the most horror-shaped experience featuring the Ao Oni. In this short but intense mini-game, the main character needs to run fast inside a city area while avoiding different Ao Oni jumping out from nowhere. The creatures are of different sizes, from small Ao Oni to more human-sized ones. They will also jump out from the most unexpected places, including cars and water elements.
The stressful event is a fast and crazy run against the deadly blue humanoids: trial and error is the only way to survive and conquer this mini-game. Only by learning the positions of every sudden appearance of the Ao Oni, the player will have a concrete possibility of surviving. Avoiding the many blue creatures while running is not the only way of surviving because scattered around the map there are suspicious closets that can be used as temporary hiding places. Of course, this is not a completely safe solution, since the Oni can still discover you while hiding. This mini-game is an easy and different addition to the main game, and it really tries to encode the horror atmosphere of Ao Oni, with frenetic chases and breathless hiding.
There is also another surprise involving the Ao Oni in Death end request 2. Moreover, during NG+, starting from the third Act, it will be possible to visit a challenging bonus dungeon: the Pain Area. This place is a hellish maze with dozens of tough and mandatory battles, including unique and interesting bosses. But the true surprise hides on the fifth and last floor of this dungeon, where the ultimate boss fight against the Ao Oni itself will take place. The blue ogre is the toughest battle in the entire game, the secret hidden boss typical of JRPGs, which usually needs the best equipment and high-level characters. The Ao Oni is a super boss for a reason: it has an insane amount of HPs, the highest in the game, with >6 million, plus maximised attack and defence. The creature is indeed an extremely dangerous foe able to use many tricks, including almost every possible negative effect, and a complex combo of energy attacks executed as fast karate moves.
Watching the giant blue creature rendered in 3D graphic, performing deadly attacks while the group of heroines throws it around the stage, is a unique and bizarre experience. A collaboration between indie games and a big production is always a welcomed experience, especially if horror elements find a new home inside JRPGs.
The sun shines high in the sky, the grass is green, the new neighbours look really friendly, and the town smells of cake. What could go wrong? Sometimes a lot of things, especially if you are unlucky enough to finish in a Town with a Dark Secret. This trope is quite well explored in horror […]
Death end re;Quest 2 is a proper horror JRPG, with an interesting battle system, disturbing scenes, and creepy monsters (for more info check my complete review: Death end re;Quest 2 Review: mysterious Visual Novel by day, horror JRPG by night). I personally find the design of the monsters as a jump forward for the saga. The first Death end re;Quest had enemies almost entirely modelled around insect anatomies, probably to convey the concept of computer bugs in a metaphoric way.
The creatures roaming the streets of Le Choara, the town where Death end re;Quest 2 is set, are disturbing and twisted beings that will be perfectly integrated even if moved inside a classic survival horror game. From obese creatures imbued of an unknown energy, to laughing dolls missing the eyes: the level of horror elements inside the design is always of great visual impact. The connection with horror games is so strong that even the Ao Oni, the famous immortal monster of a Japanese indie game, will make the appearance as super boss.
Worth to specify that creatures showing a twisted insect morphology are also present in the sequel, but this time other concepts are far more common in the monster designs. Doll-like enemies are a major part of the pool of deranged foes, both bosses and common enemies. More than common dolls, straw or rag dolls are more present, providing an additional level of creepiness with the stitches covering their bodies, or the organic secrets hidden below the fabric. Symbolism hidden behind the design is also quite common, especially for bosses, with complex designs enriched in elements underlying a complex story, such for example twisted and jealous love.
The battles are interesting puzzle-like challenges, where each enemy can be thrown around the battlefield, to crash against barriers, or to be intercepted by other party members. The size of the enemies also affects this throwing mechanic, so forget about launching colossal bosses around the arena. Each monster is also associated with one of the three elements, star, moon, and sun, and will receive damages accordingly.
In the following article, I will describe the most creepy and disturbing creatures of the game, from bosses to common enemies. The article is practically spoiler-free, so feel ti jump inside without much worry.
A sort of doll, or a small girl with something really wrong, dressed in elaborated and ancient clothes. She always comes running, with the arms open as if she is ready for a hug. While standing-still, Mary happily moves and performs pirouettes. This apparently sweet girl is a terrifying creature since she is missing any facial features, with the exception of a cartoonish and big smile that looks like stitched on a sack. Laughing Mary acts as the boss in Chapter 2, becoming soon after a regular enemy, changing colors of clothes and also of skin, such as Metal Mary, a version with dark and metal skin.
The disturbing creature looks like a nightmare born from Tim Burton’s mind. The body is an amorphous mass covered in a torn green piece of cloth, like a sort of grotesque dining table. A grinning face comes out from the front, a dark clown with heavy makeup and reversed anatomical traits, with the grinning smile in the place where the eyes should be. From a hole in the middle of its body, right below the fabric, insect-like appendices turn out like a mass of teeming organic scythes. Killer Filler moves and attacks on the four legs, like a feral predator. It is not a super dangerous foe, but some of the most evolved variants can be quite troublesome if not quickly eliminated.
This disgusting and obese obscenity would not be a surprise if seeing wandering in Silent Hill. The monster is the first boss of the game, before becoming a regular enemy with many variants. The chubby and pale body is covered in veins, while a sort of liquid energy is flowing inside its massive neck. Other variants, called Gigas, have their middle part of the bodies completely exposed till the bones, as if the glowing energy corroded their flesh, or exploded shredding their bodies. The fatty creatures usually attack in couples: they hit strong and, due to their weights, are quite difficult to throw.
An upgraded version of Laughing Mary, but this time the doll-like creature is mixed with a butterfly, creating an abomination that looks like a sweet fairy. The creepy stitched smile is still there, but this time the creature has also the eyes, similar to the ones of a fly. The monster is very fragile but hard to hit, it is also quite bothering since can heal or power-up other enemies, and even flee the battle if too damaged. The Blood Butterfly variant is one of the last battles in the game, an enemy that is better to not underestimate.
A huge dragon without a face, the creature is a secondary boss inside the game. If its body is clearly resembling a dragon or a similar beast, what is happening where the head should be is a really interesting and peculiar detail. The upper-body is covered in a combination of black goo and crystal shards, creating a sort of glitchy effect on the creature, as if it was an incomplete or still in developing being. The head is a long worm-like appendix, amorphous and missing any anatomy, just a long and disgusting mass of blackness. The incomplete creature is a strong enemy that works as a hidden boss for some Side Quests, but it will get a common enemy in the last hidden dungeon during NG+.
The boss of Chapter 5 is a true nightmare, not only for its design but also for its strength. Just by looking at it, the boss sends symbolic vibes of whatever could be wrong in a mother-child relationship. The abomination is a towering and obese creature, with the purple skin terraced by fatty rolls or falling breasts. The legs are especially disgusting, composed of lumps of red flesh fused together. Like souls trapped inside a living material, disturbing faces are emerging from below the skin of the legs. The twisted mother is wearing a cuff similar to the ones used for babies, and she is wielding a massive club that also looks like a baby rattle, strong details amplifying the twisted mother-child dualism. The boss is one of the toughest battles in the game. Its attacks are quite dangerous and can easily kill a character in one turn. Moreover, the boss has a massive amount of HP, and it is even able to completely heal itself with just one action, creating a long and exhausting battle.
The boss of Chapter 4 has one of the most complex and symbolic designs in the game. At first glance, the creature looks like a cute fairy, with a delicate body and colorful butterfly wings. However, at a closer look, all the creepy details emerge. The face is partially blindfolded, while the body has multiple arms, similar to the ones of a mannequin. Another head is positioned in the belly, even bigger than the actual one. Every detail in the design screams about a painful love, one not corresponded, from the eye blindfolded to the two independent heads. Everything is fitting with the events of Chapter 4, but I would avoid spoilers. The most creepy details are the legs, twisted like a rope to form a single appendix. If you still have doubts about how this design is a symbolism of twisted love, this particular choice for the legs is clearly inspired by the tragic end of two lovers in Junji Ito’s masterpiece Uzumaki.
The boss of Chapter 3 is a disgusting and strong being. The creature is described as an old man practically naked, with a mouth opening in its belly. When discovered, the monster was ready to eat two children with fork and spoon, like if they were a proper meal. The obese creature has a dumb and void expression on its face, with intimidating and gigantic proportions of the body. The boss wields a scythe and is able to use it quite deadly. The battle is, in fact, the toughest one until that point, not only for the amount of HP of the boss, but even more for its ability to heal almost completely and to kill a character with a single swing of its scythe.
The boss of Chapter 7 is bigger than expected, a colossal being that looks like a nightmarish version of a Shrek character, or an inhabitant of Halloween town in Nightmare Before Christmas. The monster is a sort of humanoid sack, a rag doll with stitches all around its body. However, the creature is well-dressed, with a hat, a wig, gloves, and boots, providing even more cartoonish vibes. But the creepiest detail is what lies below its artificial skin. A mass of raw and amorphous flesh is revealing where the cloth is not falling apart, a layer of grotesque skin covered with eyes. Something monstrous is clearly living under that fake fairytale appearance. The boss is wielding a giant anchor as a weapon, a deadly mace used to crush the opponents. The battle is a long fight of eroding strategy. The boss not only is hitting hard, but has also an obscene amount of HP. The boss is even able to use a defensive pose, counter-attacking all the player actions in a deadly and accurate way.
The real name of the boss will hint heavy spoilers on the game’s plot, so I decided to leave it blank. The titanic abomination sends strong Lovecraftian vibes in any detail, especially in the face. A grotesque puzzle of eyes and teeth, the creature is a terrifying nightmare, including long hair composed of a sort of yellow tentacles. The hands are even bigger than the rest of the body, totally out of proportions, gigantic and intimidating from the long fingers to the claws at the end. The monster killed a multitude of humans during a rampage, this explains while the hands and the mouth are covered in blood. The boss doesn’t have much health, compared to previous encounters, but sadly this is its only flaw. Its claws will kill any character with one single attack, transforming every turn in a desperate struggle to increase defence or gain immunity.
As the name suggests, Blasphemous is a horror metroidvania that really uses inspiration from religious art to create the unique world of Cvstodia. In this horrific land, the Miracle is a sort of eldritch energy that grants wishes to the believers, but twisting their desires and martyrdom in a disturbing and unexpected way. In this fictional land where religion and fanaticism are founding elements, existing classic and religious art is the most important reference. Dark fantasy elements are combined with the aesthetic and extremes of Catholicism, shaping a unique world full of interesting places and memorable characters. Not only famous paintings of saints and religious figures are partially reshaped into disturbing creatures, but also symbolism and religious iconic elements are used to create nightmarish entities. Between the many twisted creatures and characters inhabiting the world of Cvstodia, in the following article I selected the most striking references to Catholic art in terms of paintings, sculptures, and architectures.
One of the strongest and most evident connections with religious art is the boss called Ten Piedad. Probably the first boss to be faced in the game, the creature immediately strikes for the resemblance with the iconic Michelangelo’s statue the Pietà. If the statue of the Virgin Mary is identical to the real one, Jesus, by contrast, is far more different, because the boss itself is lying in the arms of the statue. The reference is familiar but disturbing at the same time, since the hideous and disfigured monster is still posing at the beginning of the fight as the statue of Jesus. The name of the boss is also not hiding the reference, since Piedad is the Spanish name for Pity, same as Pietà in Italian. Other than a striking artistic reference, the boss also works reverting the religious symbolism, transforming the body of Jesus ready for resurrection, in a disturbing figure. The monster was once a man, who just wanted to sleep in the arms of the statue of Mary. During his restless sleep, the Miracle morphed his body in a disfigured monster, imprisoning his sleeping mind in this hideous monster. This concept could be a symbolism of “what if the resurrection of Jesus went wrong?”. A creepy what-if, imagining how after sleeping, or being dead, the man-that-once-was would instead come back as an evil version of himself.
The martyrs are a common topic in many religious paintings, often adorning the colourful windows inside churches with images of their ultimate suffering. San Sebastiano (Saint Sebastian) is probably one of the most famous martyrs, at least for the strong and iconic image of his death. The Christian man was executed by Romans after they discovered his true religion and, after being bound to a stake, he was shot with dozens of arrows. The image of his martyrdom was portrayed many times by famous painters, becoming an iconic symbol of unjust sufferance. In Blasphemous’s world, the character of Gemino is a direct visual reference to the martyrdom of San Sebastiano. He is imprisoned inside a metal statue, bound to an olive tree, exposed to extreme coldness, and pierced by multiple arrows, resembling in the pose every painting of San Sebastiano. Gemino is also a martyr, suffering this terrible torture until he will become part of the tree itself. Gemino’s only treasure is a small olive, the last gift that nature offered him before starting his torment, a small symbol that he will treasure in his hand till it will freeze.
Between countless artistic references to Spanish traditions or masterpieces such as the works of Goya or Velazquez, it is difficult to decide which reference is more interesting. But focusing on the religious more than on the artistic side, Cherubs, for example, are a very common concept used in many characters and creatures of Blasphemous. Sometimes, the reference is used quite literally, for example in the collectables, which in this case are flying childish angels imprisoned in cages.
Even if there are several references to Cherubs, especially to the way they are portrayed in religious art, the case of the Headless Chamberlain is probably the most emblematic. The nightmarish creature has the body of a man but missing the head, going around with a pillow with on top the head of a Cherub. To highlight its creepiness, the creature has also a bag full of disembodied heads. The Headless Chamberlain attacks by throwing the flying head, which can move on its own while hunting the intruders. In this specific case, the Headless Chamberlain is directly inspired by the painting The Immaculate Conception (1662), as stated by the creators of Blasphemous in the official artbook (NDR which is really gorgeous, if you didn’t buy it). In the painting, several angelic heads are flying in the top corners of the painting, harmless and angelic in this case, but used as the core element to create the nightmarish Headless Chamberlain.
Child-like angelic faces are common in many other designs in Blasphemous universe. The lord of all the Cherubs, called Jocinero, is a particularly interesting and disturbing character, but I will talk about him in a future article. The embodiment of paedophobia, or the fear of children, is clearly Exposito, the most iconic and disturbing boss of Blasphemous. The creature is a gargantuan baby with the strength of dozens of men, resembling a giant Cherub. However, Exposito is also very similar to Baby Jesus, especially due to the golden crown of thorns adorning is head. I will not speak more about Exposito since I already covered its design and symbolism in a previous article, available HERE.
The artistic religious references inside Blasphemous are not only limited to paintings but are also connected to more architectural details. Churches are specifically implemented inside the design of several enemies, a combination of flesh and architecture, connecting the sacred with the profane. Some enemies simply use as main weapon church elements, such as giant crucifixes or bells. The Shield Maiden is a small exception and, even if it uses religious architecture as weapons, the design of the weapons is more interesting and elaborated, integrating complex decorative elements. The most interesting detail is that while using a golden decorative element as a shield, the creature removed the head of the statue to wear it as helm.
On the other hand, other creatures have architectural elements directly embodied in their design. Let’s talk for example of the Blazing Icon. The female figure is covered with red velvet, looking like an elaborate walking curtain. The most interesting detail is the cage-like structure around her head, which uniquely defines the design. The structure is clearly inspired by architectural elements inside churches, for example resembling the famous baldachin in the middle of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The baldachin is positioned in the middle of the church, marking the entrance to the supposed tomb of St. Peter. The head-ornament creates a figure that is practically a living and walking element of a church. The baldachin-like cage is probably quite heavy, and this is reflected in the Blazing Icon, which is slowly walking around oppressed by such weight.
Another enemy brings the concept of religious architecture integrated into the design even a step further. The creature is not present in the game, at least for the moment, but its beautiful concept is available in the artbook. The heavy knight shows an incredibly detailed and complex design, practically looking like a weaponized chapel. A tower-like tabernacle, which is used to store the images of various saints, would be probably used as the main weapon of the knight, like a sort of improvised holy mace. The body itself works as a reliquary, with the probable head of a saint exposed behind glass. This is a very common phenomenon in several churches, where body-parts of saints are exhibited as religious emblems. The knight is the quintessence of religious architecture integrated into the design, a walking chapel ready to smash down the infidels.
Still, there could be a lot to talk about artistic and religious elements inside characters and monsters of Blasphemous. For example, Sepulcro Errante is a golem-like creature bringing on its back the tomb of a Spanish king, while the iconic creature Amargura could be almost considered as a living altar. But I think that the creatures analysed in the article are the most iconic and direct integration of catholic paintings and architectures into the grim world of Blasphemous.
When you check images of the new game from the creators of Momodora, Minoria, you see an interesting aesthetic full of cute characters, like a modern fairytale. But behind this delicate facade, Minoria touches really dark and delicate topics, from religion, to dogmas, the oppression of the weak ones and the violence against nature. The colorful aesthetic is hiding the gray moral patterns of Minoria’s plot and setting.
From the gameplay point of view, Minoria is a classic Metroidvania with a good RPG component. There are secrets to discover, different equipment and magics (called incenses), and also a bonus boss fight. The game is short for the genre (around 5 hours), but with 2 endings and also secret equipment unlocked when defeating a boss without getting damaged.
But the plot, the lore and the hidden layers built of small details are the most interesting side of Minoria. In the world of Minoria, an unforgiving Catholic Church is using the Inquisition to hunt for witches, powerful beings in contact with nature. If this is not dark enough, behind the fairytale facade of the art-style, the dark core of Minoria will slowly and subtly appear. First, it will be the dead bodies lying in the background, then it is the turn of lore books with really disturbing details.
It will soon be clear through notes and books that the silent protagonist was brainwashed to become an inquisitor. A weapon without a morality ready to kill whoever is judged by the Church. The Church is also a rotten and corrupted organization. For example, the Saints in this world are members of the clergy who now live isolated from the world, surrounded by extreme wealth and pleasures. If games like Blasphemous use the horror of religions and Inquisition in a very direct way, in Minoria everything is more subtle, the grayness is hidden in few lines of dialogue, or in the backgrounds. But the player will feel this sense of uneasiness. The lack of free will, and the absence of morality, are also translated into the gameplay. Somehow, the linearity of the game is the main responsible of creating those chains. While killing witches, you will soon realize that they are not that evil, but, anyway, you cannot do nothing other than killing them.
This is really evident while fighting a couple of specific bosses. When they will be at low health, they will stop fighting, dragging around the arena while cursing you. They are already defeated and deadly wounded, but you have no alternative than keep on fighting. There is no way to have pity for the boss. The main character cannot fight the orders of the Church, as well as the player cannot break the linearity of the game. But you would like to do that, to find a way to avoid these murders. The linearity of the game is making you question your morality. Why cannot stop? Why cannot avoid to kill this character? But you character is only a brainwashed gear of a bloodthirsty machinery, so you just keep on fighting. Only at the very end of the game, the player will have a real decision to do. But, even in this case, the choice is reverted, and a promised happy ending will bring to even more death; and also to a final boss fight against a hopeless and powerless character.
Under the main cathedral of the Order, a dark dungeon will reveal all the hidden torments caused by the Church. While fighting your way through the dungeon, you will meet skinny and traumatized prisoners who will only ask to kill them, such big is their pain. There is no reward for sparing or killing them, so also in this case the weight of your choices is meaningless, like if for the main character the life or death of another human being is totally irrelevant. This will cause a huge sense of uneasiness for the player, in a gorgeous and colorful world with fairytale-like characters, death will powerfully emerge from the background.
Also the concept of fighting against the nature will make you question your action. Some of the boss Battles are against primordial forces of nature, called Witch Deities, but is it truly necessary to destroy something so ancient? Also the main purpose of the game is to burn down a magic forest, which of course can open so many parallelism with the problems of our real world. But this is another story.
Behind all the colorful and the beauty of Minoria, a dark truth lies, a gray story where the linearity of the game will make you feel a brainwashed and blood-thirsty machine, without second thoughts for questions or pity. A deep story where nature and free will collide against dogmas and impositions.
There are worst things than wandering through the dark and cold corridors of a dungeon. If you think that a claustrophobic and repetitive space made of moistly walls and empty silences was the most terrifying and standard environment for a dungeon-crawler, now you will change idea. Because if the dungeon was instead a colossal living creature, the situation will be far worse. This is exactly the main idea for the setting of Mary Skelter.
While you wander through the dreadful but colorful dungeons, you may forget that you are instead inside the body of a colossal eldritch entity called the Jail. As the name suggests, for the few survivors it is impossible to leave the body of this creature, and they are doomed to endure terrible torture inside this organic prison. The Jail is able to mimic things that assimilated, explaining the peculiar and variegated environments. The creature also possesses a sort of immune system, but of course instead of macrophages and lymphocytes, there are monsters called Marchens, and the immortal abominations known as Nightmares (have a look at one of them here: Monster of the Week: Downtown Nightmare (Mary Skelter) — Surreal and Creepy). Sometimes by watching at the variegate and interesting dungeon setting, the player could forget to be inside a living creature, but the game will find ways to remember it. For example, it is quite common to find healthy flesh pulsing out of the walls, just a small fraction of a gigantic living organism. Sometimes, huge eyes will open on the walls, following the party in a creepy and disturbing way. Also the main objective of the party is quite straightforward: to search and to destroy the Jail’s hearts in each different layer.
The really interesting thing is that being inside a living organism is not simply a storytelling trick to make everything more interesting, but it is directly integrated into the gameplay. As every living organism, the Jail has needs, both physical and psychological. If the player satisfies one of the needs, it will be possible to access to a specific wheel which allow to win a random reward. If some prices are bonus in battle, more experience or less enemy encounters, other bonuses are more rooted in the setting of the game. For example, one of the most interesting reward is the possibility to morph the Jail body itself, unlocking secret areas or creating complete new floors. To fully explore each level of the Jail will be not only necessary to satisfy its needs multiple times, but also putting extra care while unlocking the “random” rewards. The concept of satisfying the biological needs of a giant monster in order to control its own growth, to explore new floors of the dungeon, is a really innovative concept.
Which are the biological needs of the Jail and how the player can satisfy them? Of course the primary necessity of any living being is the hunger, and the fundamental need of feeding. The Jail in this sense is not different from any animal and, even as a colossal abomination, it still needs food. The Jail will feed on the fluids of the creatures roaming inside of it, absorbing and digesting the blood that is splattered on the walls of the dungeons. How can the player satisfy this need? In each battle if an enemy is killed in a critical way, it will splat pink blood on the walls of the Jail. By critically kill many enemies, the dungeons will turn in a pinkish slaughterhouse, and the Jail will satisfy its hunger. Other than feeding the Jail, the blood will stain on the walls of the dungeon for the entire game. So yes, practically speaking, a player could turn the Jail into a pinkish hell.
Another primary need of any animal is sleeping. Also the Jail, an eldritch monstrosity, sometimes needs to peacefully sleep. Only when the Jail is sleeping, the player can take advantage of this situation to satisfy this need. In some specific moments, the Jail will simply fall asleep. This is the only time when the player can fill the sleep bar. Just walking in silence is enough to keep the Jail in its peaceful sleep, increasing the sleep bar towards the bonus. Fighting will of course negate any satisfaction, since a battle is of course very noisy and will bother the Jail’s sleep. However, if the player is able to defeat the enemies without taking damages, this will provide anyway a step toward satisfying this need. For sure a quick and deadly battle is less noisy than a long one.
The third need is more complex and, well, a more delicate topic. Because apparently even for a gigantic eldritch abomination, the third physiological need is the libido. Japanese RPGs will never stop to be a surprise. Anyway, also this need can be satisfied by the player in order to take control of the Jail, its growth, and the relative bonuses. Before being traumatized by what the main characters should do the satisfy the libido of this huge abomination, let’s take a big breath because the solution is not as disturbing as could look. Scattered around the dungeon there are innocent looking heart symbols. Those are called “Emotion Points”, and are the quickest way to increase the Jail’s libido. If you forget for a second the name and the bland appearance of these symbols, the main idea is anyway that the characters are looking for “very sensible points to increase the libido from the inside of a huge organism”. Yes, now everything is really more disturbing.
If hunting for “Libido Points” inside a colossal being is not your daily meal, there is another more direct and less subtle way to satisfy the Jail’s libido. The main party is composed by only good looking girls, often with very few clothes on. If this alone could be enough to increase libido, they also have a more interesting secret. They are not human, but something called Blood Maiden, a class of warrior related to blood. Their true power arises when they get covered in blood. But when they are extremely drenched in blood, they could become corrupted, going into a dangerous frenzy. So what could be the most efficient way to clean the blood from their skin? Of course by licking each other. Japan, what a wonderful land for dark RPGs. This action is however not shown to the hungry player’s eyes, but, apparently, the Jail is instead enjoying the spectacle, since its libido will increase.
Mary Skelter is a dark JRPG with a really unique setting. Not only the player is wandering literally inside the “final boss” for all the adventure, but the player is also directly integrated in its ecosystem, trying to play with the Jail’s needs to control its growth. This is really a unique concept with a huge potential, and a very innovative way to connect the gameplay with the setting. For more info you can also check my review: Mary Skelter Nightmares Review: an innovative dungeon-crawler where fairytales are drenched in blood.