Wacky characters, insane machines and hypnotic mushrooms in “Let It Die”: how to build a lobby in an explosion of style [Mechanic]

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.

Fighter Freezer

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.

Metro Front

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.

Prison Bathroom

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.

Shop “Choku-Funsha”

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.

Mushroom Club

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!?”

Mingo Head

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.

Death end re;Quest 2 and Ao Oni: when a horror JRPG and an indie survival-horror collaborate

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.

Towns with a Dark Secret: the most hermetic, cryptic, and bizarre communities at the core of open-world games — Surreal and Creepy

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 […]

Towns with a Dark Secret: the most hermetic, cryptic, and bizarre communities at the core of open-world games — Surreal and Creepy

The most creepy and disturbing enemies and bosses of Death end re;Quest 2

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.

Laughing Mary

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.

Killer Filler

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.

Evil Vigor/Gigas

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.

Blood Butterfly

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.

Dias

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+.

Mother Fearest

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.

Succubus

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.

Kidnapper

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.

Skinshank

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.

Catholic Art and Architecture in the twisted world of Blasphemous: how religious iconography can build nightmares

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The gray machinery of the Inquisition behind the cute facade of Minoria [Review and Analysis]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mary Skelter Nightmares: When the dungeon is a colossal living creature with its own needs

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Bloody Captain of Diamond City: the story of a baseball superhero searching for the absolute fame – Fallout 4 [Characters, Diaries and Stories]

This is the first issue of “Characters, Diaries and Stories”, a collection of fan-fiction stories regarding peculiar RPG characters of my own invention written as tales, but based on the action of the actual character and together with screenshots. I would like to promote in these articles the connection between character creation, fictional tales and free roaming games. I will also add in future articles describing videogame session/mission written as diaries of the main characters.  As first article, I will tell the story of a character I played in Fallout 4, creating for him a story together with screenshots. I hope you will appreciate his dark tale of a superhero in search of the absolute fame. 

In a world ruled by radiations and mutants, where mankind is wildly living in almost barbaric conditions, the memory of baseball was able to create a hero. Well, or at least this is how it started.

Diamond City is one of the last light still shining in the wasteland of Fallout 4. The city was built inside a baseball stadium, a sport long forgotten but still integrated in this new culture. Many people born protected and inspired by the Baseball, safe inside the wall of the stadium. Several people watched at baseball like at a forgotten art, a discipline to be mastered to achieve the true power. And our hero was one of them.

Inspired by the baseball statue outside of the city, he started his travel to master the ancient art of baseball to become the hero that the city deserved. Thanks to the help of a local business man, who was running a baseball museum, our hero started a long journey toward a gym with ancient baseball artefacts. His dream was to find gear able to provide him the strength and the power to actually become a superhero. The travel was long and harsh, but our hero learned how to fight and how to survive in the Wastelands. However, the tragedy was behind the corner.

He was resting in an abandoned house, very close to the gym hiding the forbidden baseball treasure. The site was empty and silent, but during the night, a green light broke the darkness in a small burned forest in front of the house. A glowing Deathclaw, irradiated from toxic wastes, was staring at him in the night. Huge and green, with horns and long claws, a proper demon born from the contaminated wastelands. Our hero used all his weapons to face the creature, but the fight was lost since the beginning. Scratches and wounds opened his body, while he screamed with all the possible pain when his body was ripped open and irradiated. The Deathclaw flew, thinking that its job was done. But our hero was hard to kill.

Half dead, wounded and irradiated, he laid in the empty house for who knows how long. Suddenly, his wounds started to heal, while his body recovered from the trauma. Surprisingly, something changed in his body and now the radiation wahealing him. He couldn’t believe what was happening. He really gained a superpower, and now was immune to radiations. Following the enthusiasm of this new epiphany, our hero reached his destination: the baseball heaven. With effort and time, he was able to build armours, masks and weapon using baseball materials. He wore the head of a mascot to hide his identity, while learning how to fight with baseball bats. He trained to transform a common baseball ball into an explosive, or how to attach circular saws to a bat. A standard baseball uniform became his bulletproof armour. No, not only a simple armour, but a superhero suit. After months of training, he finally came back to Diamond City as the hero he was supposed to be: the Bloody Captain of Diamond City. Or just for friends, the Captain.

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Now it was time to truly build his name, fighting the evil and achieving heroic challenges and epic deeds to reach the absolute fame. It was time to become a superhero not only for himself, but for the people around him. After all, he was immune to radiation and a master of the ancient fighting art of Baseball. While criminals and gangs were fighting using military weapons and guns, he was fighting only with his baseball bat. Dozen of criminal lairs were cleaned up by a crazy guy wearing the head of a bear and wielding a baseball bat. But strangely, he was really difficult to kill, and with time his name started to be on the mouth of the every criminal.

But for the Captain it was not enough to be only the scourge of the criminal underworld. He wanted to be a hero, responsible of legendary deeds that a common human could only dream of. He started to use his legendary baseball bat to challenge colossal and ferocious creatures in deadly duels. Of course the trail of blood and fights started with his revenge against the Deathclaws. The Captain was able to defeat in close quarter combat, after a deadly and brutal fight, several Deathclaws by using only his modified baseball bat. He was now the real alpha predator.

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But this was not enough. The next opponents were really colossal creatures, such as the Mirelurk Queens. The Captain was able to track one of this ancient beasts, and was able to inflict the final blow with his faithful bat. Deeds and epic challenges continued, but his name never became a legend in the mouth of everyone. He was able to control the atomic power, unleashing a rainfall of bombs on the main quarter of the most notorious gang: the Gunners. The Captain took also control of several weapons of  mass destruction, including an old submarine and some cannons. He became a hero even more powerful than the statue that inspired him at the beginning.

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He also never forgot the ancient art of Baseball, that was always part of his deeds. A museum of baseball was opened by him, showing the hugest collection of balls and bats. The technique called “Manrun!” was also perfected by him, who was able to send humans directly flying in the sky with one hit of his bat. He also achieved to build the biggest baseball field in the world by positioning baseball bases on the extreme corners of Boston.

But it was never enough, and his name never became famous such as the notorious Silver Shroud or Grognack. The alcohol and the grudge became his hideout. The fault of his failure was in the hands of the other heroes, for this reason he started to discredit them. First thing, he found ancient clothes of Grognack the barbarian in a comic shop. He hired an incompetent sidekick to dress as Grognack, always making him fail in every deed, always hurt and exposed to the enemy fire. Second, he challenged Silver Shroud by freeing his city from crime, taking his name and role but dressing anyway with his iconic baseball uniform. But this was not enough, so he started to impersonate them by dressing with their costumes, to discredit and ridiculed them. It was never a hard deal, sometimes he got drunk dressed as Grognack, or he broke a window as Silver Shroud.

But whatever thing he made, it was still not enough for him to be a legend. He was famous, but was not “The Legend”. Nobody was making radio shows or writing books about him, he was a minor celebrity according to his own eyes. Something in him broke, and something new born in his mind. When the atrocious crimes started in Diamond City, he couldn’t believe a human being could be responsible of such monstrosity. At the third killing, the local newspaper started to address the killer as the “Deathclaw Ripper”. The serial killer used a homemade Deathclaw’s hand to make his victims in pieces, with a inhuman barbarity and a sadistic violence. He also always left on the scene of the crime a real severed Deathclaw’s hand.

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The city was shocked by this rampage of violence, but the guards couldn’t stop him. The Captain placed all his effort to catch the criminal, but the Ripper was always one step ahead of him. For how much he tried, he was never able to collect a single clue. The crimes continued and our baseball hero became the worst nemesis of the Ripper. The citizens appreciated his effort to catch the monster, and he became the most beloved hero of the town, often collaborating with local authorities.

Of course, a part of him always knew what was happening, especially when he found the homemade claw full of blood hidden in his own house. His mind just couldn’t accept that he had another personalities, something so dark and evil that was harvesting the people of the city, something arising from the traumatic attack of the Deathclaw. Because what every hero needs, it’s an evil villain to stop.

He continued trying to catch the Ripper, but always failing. Of course: who could be able to catch himself?

Bloodborne: the dark side of birth, maternity, infants and conception — Surreal and Creepy

The adult fear of giving birth to an aberrant creature is always a big taboo. If in the movies this dogma was already faced several times, especially in 1977 with the nightmarish David Lynch’s Eraserhead (check my article talking about surreal sex and “wrong” birth: Eraserhead Intro: a surreal sex scene), in videogames this concept […]

via Bloodborne: the dark side of birth, maternity, infants and conception — Surreal and Creepy

The Human Hydra of Fear & Hunger: never trust a NPC [Creepy Characters] — Surreal and Creepy

Fear & Hunger is for sure the darkest RPG ever made, set in a dungeon without morality and full of horrors and brutality (you can find a complete review in my other blog Dark RPGs: Fear & Hunger a journey in a land without morality). The enemies are grotesque and creepy foes, and even the […]

via The Human Hydra of Fear & Hunger: never trust a NPC [Creepy Characters] — Surreal and Creepy