The most disturbing eldritch creatures from the bestiary of World of Horror

World of Horror is one of the most original horror games of this year. Strong of a peculiar art-style, important references to horror manga, and a system inspired by retro text-based RPGs, World of Horror created a unique and disturbing universe for modern horror-RPGs. The cosmic horror typical of Lovecraft meets the aesthetic and the creatures of Japanese horror manga, such as the works of Junji Ito or Kazuo Umezu, creating the perfect melting-pot for creepy and disturbing creatures.

Grotesque ghosts, cursed cultists, unthinkable abomination, and ancient eldritch gods surround the small town at the center of all the events of the game. There are bosses and random encounters, and the battles occur using a classic turn-based system. The entities can hurt the player’s Stamina or Reason, based on their background, while the stronger abominations can damage both. Cryptic creatures will not damage directly the player, but will increase Doom, a doomsday counter, difficult to reset, which will awake the Old Gods when reaching 100%, causing of course Game Over. Worth to specify that ghosts and other intangibles entities are immune to physical damage, and can be mainly defeated by guessing the correct ritual. World of Horror is a rogue-lite game with a heavy random component. To face all the monsters, the player needs to finish the game multiple times.

In the following article, I will describe the most disturbing, grotesque, and interesting creatures from World of Horror. The game is still in Early Access, so more creatures will be added in future updates. However, even now the bestiary is very generous, with more than 50 disturbing enemies. Probably this article will also expand and update following the final release of World of Horror, including even more twisted and eldritch abominations.

  • Scissor Woman

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The first boss of the game and one of the most amazing designs, the Scissor Woman is an innovative interpretation of a classic Japanese urban legend. Three faces are vertically fused, with a giant and grotesque smile working as a bridge between the heads. The rest of the body is just a normal woman dressed in a long coat. As the name suggests, she fights using long and sharp scissors, a dangerous foe able to inflict an insane amount of damage.

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The Scissor Woman has 3 different forms, each more difficult than the other. The human form can be faced by performing the correct ritual during the case. A wrong ritual will instead summon the Horror version of the boss, definitively a tougher battle. The Burned version is more rare and can be faced only by burning the school as result of the ending of a previous case. In this case, not only her face is a grotesque nightmare, but the flesh is also burned and fused together, creating probably the creepier manifestation of this boss.

  • Puppet Matron

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A group of three hideous and grotesque dolls, which were hiding in the wardrobe of an ancient mansion. Their faces are like bloated and sweating, looking more organic than it should be. The two dolls behind look more submissive and scared, also missing the eyes, compared with the one in the middle. The matron looks definitively more dangerous and dominating than the other two. She is holding a knife and is not afraid of using it. The creature can slightly damage both Stamina and Reason, affecting both body and mind. The creature is probably inspired by Jean Pierre, the puppet from Junji Ito’s House of Marionettes.

  • Class of 1971

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Definitively this is a unique and disturbing creature, with a simple but effective design. The story behind this monstrosity is rooted in the tragic accident of the class of 1971. All the kids of the infamous class felt inside the sea while taking a group picture. Till now, the bodies were never recovered. The collective creature is an amorphous amalgam of the drowned bodies, a grotesque creature missing any trait, except for several limbs. The monster can be faced only as a random encounter in the seaside. It is a tough enemy, considering that it is not a boss, which can damage both Stamina and Reason.

Class of 1971 could be inspired by Kazuo Umezu’s work, more than Junji Ito’s ones.

  • Ribcage Woman

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What can be more disturbing than a woman having a ribcage opening directly inside her face? If you are looking at the picture, the answer is probably “very few things”. The creature is odd and grotesque, an enigmatic being outside of any logic. She is quite weak and not very dangerous, damaging the body of her victims. There is no explanation for her terrible state, or why her face is a mass of flesh and bones, she is just a mysterious creature emerging from the darkness of a forest. Another secret of World of Horror.

  • Drowner Sponge

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The disturbing creature at the beginning appears only as a rock lying on the seaside. At a closer look, the abomination is revealed. The name and the description (“It needs another body now”) imply that the black spongy mass full of mouths is a sort of parasitic entity, which uses dead bodies to move around. The Drowner Sponge is a creature probably living in the oceans, preying on the people swimming, drowning them to then control their bodies. The creature is tough but weak, relying mostly on its disturbing appearance to damage the mind of the victims outside the water.

An interesting detail is that the creature was before called the “Bondage Demon” with concept and head-design completely different.

  • Dream Devourer

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Dream Devourer is one of the most cryptic and dangerous entities of World of Horror. Cosmic abomination defying reality and sanity, the creature is an invisible force feeding on the dreams of its victims. The Dream Devourer is responsible for a series of unexplained comas, of course, related to the victims that it is feeding on. The Dream Devourer can be faced only by retrieving a specific powder, which will reveal its presence while feeding on a comatose subject. The worm-like creature is otherworldly, with an empty face full of void and glyph, while the body is slimy and naked. The real mystery behind this creature will be revealed only after defeating it: the long worm-like body is connected directory to a huge mass in the sky. The Dream Devoured is not a monster, but just a part of it, like a finger of a gigantic hand! The battle is also one of the most challenging in the game: the creature is highly-resistant and able to heavily-damage both the mind and the body of its victims.

The Dream Devourer is heavy-inspired by Juni Ito’s Long Dream, not for the design of the creature, but more for the background related to dreams inducing coma.

  • Tatoru

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A chaotic mass of fur, teeth, and dirt, disgusting in the appearance but not very dangerous. The floating entity lives in the woods, hanging on trees or telephone poles, just a hairy ball ready to drop on its victims. The creature is unable to inflict direct harm, but with its only presence, Tatoru will speed up the awakening of the Great Ones, increasing Doom at each turn.

  • Forgotten Specimen

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A twisted and grotesque mass of flesh, devoid of any consistent shape. In the amorphous conglomerate of flesh, the only distinguishable thing is an intense spiral pattern. If the creature was part of a bigger being, it is now a mystery, since this is only a biological sample stored in the school lab. However, I could speculate how this is only a sentient sample of Oetaru (see below), due to the similarities. A teacher killed himself with a knife in front of the mysterious jar, highlighting how the creature is probably able to irradiate suicidal impulses. This is consistent with its way of attacking, since the creature can only damage Reason. However, regardless of how creepy and mysterious it could look, the Forgotten Specimen is a weak and easy fight.

The spiral pattern is, of course, a strong connection with Uzumaki, probably the most famous Junji Ito’s story.

  • Bloated Swimmer

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There is nothing so original about the background of this creature, basically it is just a ghost or a ghoul infesting a swimming pool. But its design is so mysterious and creepy, so I feel that the Bloated Swimmer should be here. The body is wet and partially bloated, while the face is hidden in shadows, increasing the sense of dreadful mystery of the creature. Judging from the silhouette, the creature is bold, with big sparkling eyes. The bloating of the drowned body looks weirdly wrong, like if the female creature is somehow pregnant, more than simply bloated. As previously said, the Bloated Swimmer is a sort of ghoul living at night in the school swimming pool, drowning the people wandering there. The battle against this creature is an easy one, since its attacks are weak and its body fragile.

  • Oetaru

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Here we are entering the world of colossal cosmic abominations. Oetaru is an old and forgotten god living underground, and probably the only one that can be directly challenged in World of Horror. Just to better understand the size of the monster, the small background behind is a city, with also a lighthouse far on the horizon. The part that we can see of Oetaru is a mass of twisted flesh, a sort of colossal tentacle emerging from the ground below the city. The battle is of course impossible to win, the colossal creature cannot be damaged by any mortal weapons. The only way to survive is to escape or to sacrifice an ally, to please the old gods back to its slumber. Oetaru will not directly harm the main character, but will quickly speed up the Doom clock toward an early Game Over. In this case, the creature will kill the player by causing a massive sound wave.

The spiral pattern is again a strong reference to Uzumaki. But the references are not ending here, since Oetaru also clearly resembles the final form of the entity in Ito’s work.

The Pocketcat of Fear & Hunger: what RPG merchant could be more disturbing than one exchanging items for children? [Evil Characters]

If you read other articles about Fear & Hunger, you would know that it is a really grim and dark world, where the world friendship does not exist. Between the many creepy and twisted enemies, with disfigured and mutated bodies, Pocketcat is just a human figure with a cat head. At first glance, he looks goofy and out of the content, a character ready for a cartoon, not for a sadistic and horror RPG. But as often as in real life, sometimes appearances are wrong.

Pocketcat is one of the merchants in Fear & Hunger, and it will establish its shop in the depths of the mines. After interacting with the player, Pocketcat will say how happy it is and how much life is beautiful. Living in the depths of a prison, with people tortured and mutilated, its positive view of life is definitively out-of-place. Pocketcat sells interesting artifacts: a powerful sword, a book that allows saving once everywhere, and the Necronomicron! Strangely enough, you cannot buy anything with gold in its shop. Because the Pocketcat is using another coin.

In the most normal and joyful way, Pocketcat will exchange its powerful artifacts for… human children. The cartoon-ish and joyful character is, in reality, a sort of children predator, a mischievous creature exchanging items for kids. Even one of the main characters could be exchanged in this way, as in other evil deals (for more info check my article in Evil Quests section: Fear & Hunger: the many ways to permanently sacrifice the Girl [Evil Quests]). Who or what is the Pocketcat? It is not only a merchant enslaving of kids for who knows which disgusting purpose, but also a more ancient and evil being.

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By asking information about the Pocketcat to the New Gods, the player will know that the Pocketcat is a Trickster associated with the ancestral Moon God. The Moon God is hidden and mysterious in Fear & Hunger, but it looks like that will be more integrated into the plot of the sequel: Termina. Anyway, the Pocketcat is clearly something more ancient and powerful than a sick and deviated merchant. The origins of the mysterious Pocketcat are also revealed inside a book, apparently telling a sort of fairytale.

The book tells the story of a child called Willem, ignoring his mother’s warning going to play in the woods during a rainy day. But as his mother says, rainy days bring problems to children. The Pocketcat suddenly emerges from the bushes, stalking the kid till home, with its big glowing eyes. When safe at home, the boy will find a parcel addressed to him, with a mouse printed on it and catnip inside. He was marked as prey from the Pocketcat. In a picture from the book, the creature is unnaturally tall, “twice as tall as Willem’s father would be.” The hidden nature of sexual predator of this entity is even more highlighted in the book, since “its hand was moving swiftly inside its pocket while the two big yellow eyes glee’d inside a burlap bag in great excitement.” Maybe this is why it is called the pocket-cat.

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The player can also witness the true boogeyman’s nature of the Pocketcat. During a dreamlike flashback, the player will visit a town before the madness started to spread, a more peaceful compared to the insanity of the dungeon. However, in the darkness of an empty corridor, a kid is running, maybe scared of the darkness behind him. There is no time to do anything since something will drag the kid in the darkness. Before everything gets silent again, the distorted smiling face of the Pocketcat will briefly appear in the darkness.

A boogeyman, a servant of an ancient God, a slaver, and a merchant, the Pocketcat is all these things, and probably more. An ancient being who hides its true evilness behind a cartoon-ish facade, playing its own game with very mysterious rules. Another disturbing character in the grim world of Fear & Hunger.

 

 

Monster of the Week: Exposito, Scion of Abjuration (Blasphemous)

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Origin: Blasphemous

Appearance: At first glimpse, he could even look like a normal child, a sort of oversized baby Jesus or a giant cherub. Then, his nightmarish profile will become very clear in all the sick details. The giant baby is blindfolded, and looks like that he is constantly crying tears of blood, flowing down under the bandage in red rivers. Exposito wears on his head a big wicked crown, a very clear symbol of Catholicism, and a close recall to the figure of baby Jesus. The baby is held by a wicker woman, a colossal figure missing detailed traits, holding the baby like a maternal shadow. During the battle in the game and also in the last released concept art, a  snake-like creature extended itself from the main body of the wicker woman, like a sort of appendage. While the wicker woman simply moves around, and the baby only tries to catch and dismember whoever can perceive, the snake creature is attacking and protecting the baby with a multitude of skills. It is interesting to notice that, especially in the concept art, the face of the snake is like the one of a sad woman, probably representing the deceased mother of Exposito, which still tries to protect him.

Background: Exposito is really the embodiment of whatever could be interpreted as creepy or scary inside catholic art. The holiness fades because of the disturbing details of this figure, which clearly express the contrast between holy and profane. The complex creature is also a sort of unholy trinity, composed by 3 wicked creatures: the mother (instead of the father), the son is clearly there, and let’s suppose that the snake is a sort of holy spirit. However, the story of Exposito is provided directly by the game itself, and it is really a sad one. Just as introduction, the name Exposito is used  in Spain for orphan children with unknown parents. Exposito was a child, when the Inquisition burned his mother for heresy. The child was blindfolded to avoid to see the horrible scene but, even blindfolded, the poor kid was continuously crying. The last wish of the mother, while burning on the pyre, was that the people build a wicker figure in her image, to hold and to comfort her baby for when she will be dead. The Miracle, an energy mutating and twisting religious events in the land of Custodia, saw this scene and granted the wish, creating Exposito. The giant baby and the wicker woman are the perfect representation of the dualism between mother and son, even if in this case it is twisted with sadness and horror.

Regarding the fight itself and the attacks, the snake-like creature will do most of the job. The monster can attack with its own body, or can spit  poison or fire bullets. The creature will move following complex patterns, making really difficult to fight while avoiding its body. The giant baby will instead target specific regions of the arena. If the main character will be unlucky enough to finish in one of those areas, the giant baby will instantly kill him, brutally dismembering his body.

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.

When it is impossible to Save: surviving all the mutilations of the Crow Mauler in Fear & Hunger [Boss Battle]

Saving anywhere is a luxury of modern game, but it was never really common in old-school JRPGs, for example. Having fixed save-points would of course make the game harder by planning good the gaming sessions, putting a lot of care in your strategy to survive till the next save, or else you would be cursed to repeat entire sections. Some games push this even further, almost to a masochistic level. Permadeath is surely the worst case, erasing your save files after dying. Other games will also try different strategies. For example, Fear & Hunger will try really hard to make your journey a nightmare.

The save point for the first half of the game is a bed hidden inside a cell. If at the beginning this will look like a lucky event, after saving for the first time, the situation will get worse. Each tentative of saving has 50% possibilities of triggering a deadly fight against a really tough boss: the Crow Mauler. The abomination has the head of a crow, with a really exalted expression, on top of a muscled human body. The left arm is fused with a spiked mace, which of course is used as his main weapon. Official lore of the game describe the Crow Mauler as something that “was set on purifying the dungeon from filth and deprivement”. This deadly creature will easily wreck an unprepared party, and it is one of the most difficult bosses of the game. But only by defeating the Crow Mauler, the player will be able to use the save point without any more worries.

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However, the fight is a real challenge, and surviving without casualties or deadly injuries is an almost impossible dream. Because the Crow has several nasty surprises to show to the player, so many ways to kill or mutilate the characters. The huge mace is for sure the main source of damage of the Crow Mauler. This scourge can inflict an insane amount of damages, and can easily kill a character with a couple of blows. Each attack has also a really high probability of breaking bones, a negative status effect which will permanently reduce the maximum HPs of a character. Without any possibility of healing it for the rest of the game. Also his arm-mace has an insane amount of HP, making practicality a waste of turn trying to cut it. But if you think that this is the most deadly attack, you are terribly wrong.

The Crow Mauler’s beak is not there as a simple animal vestige, but it is in fast his most dangerous weapon. The beak has a really high probability of hitting a character, resulting in… an instant death. With a single attack the Crow can one shot whichever character, by pecking away his head in a gory geyser of blood. Let’s also remember that as any mutilation, death in Fear & Hunger is permanent. So even if you can finally kill the Crow, there is a critically high probability of losing at least one character.

Sadly for the players, death and broken bones are not the only permanent statuses that the Crow Mauler can inflict. The creature can summon a flock of crows to strike the eyes of the main character. The damage is pretty ridiculous, but a mysterious symbol of an eye-patch will appear as status, while a threatening message will also describe how the flock of crows clawed your eyes. But, apparently, there are no consequences of this attack and the battle can continue as usual. Let’s imagine that, after a tough fight the player, manages to defeat the Crow. The moment after the battle, the screen will be completely black. The character can still move and examine, but in the absolute darkness. Could this be a bug? Of course no, the main character was blinded by the crows, and there is no way to revert this, since has any other mutilation in the game thus is also permanent. The only way to prevent this status is by wearing a complete helmet. There is absolutely no way of playing the game with this affliction, so the only way is to load a save to try again to fight the Crow Mauler. After a tough fight and an impossible win, the last sarcastic joke of the Crow Mauler is to let you believe that you won, while without eyes, this is just another burning defeat, even if the monster is dead.

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Also if one Crow Mauler is not enough, the very late game has an unpleasant surprise. The last secret dungeon, and also the most difficult level of the game, hides several pits, which will throw the party in an organic basement. If falling in this viscid and damaging underworld was not enough as punishment, this place is also the hunting ground of a two-headed Crow Mauler. Even a well prepared party will find its hell in this fight, since double heads means also double beaks.

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The Crow Mauler is a deadly adversary, and a sadistic trap for unprepared players. He will strike you when you least expect it, when you feel that finally you found a resting place where to Save. Every tentative against this monster is a breathless challenge, hoping to defeat it quickly, before having casualties or losing the eyes. The Crow Mauler embodies the atmosphere of Fear & Hunger, a dark, hopeless and unfair world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Remarks:

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

“Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea” review: fight or flight in a horror JRPG inspired by Sweet Home

Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea (or Cthulhu Mythos RPG to simplify) is not only one of the games with the longest name ever, but an unexpected call back to the first horror JRPG ever created: Sweet Home. For people that doesn’t know it, Sweet Home was a game created by Capcom in 1989 for NES. If the plot was merely about a TV crew trapped in a haunted mansion, the game has instead really unique gameplay elements, such for example the permanent death of the party characters. Thanks to strong horror elements and a punishing gameplay, Sweet Home is still remembered as the precursor of modern horror games.

Many years after, Cthulhu Mythos RPG could be intended as an indie spiritual sequel to Sweet Home. From the aesthetic, to the complex gameplay focused on the correct amount of horror elements, many things in Cthulhu Mythos RPG are a homage to Sweet Home. But there are also many new interesting and complex mechanics to provide to Cthulhu Mythos RPG its own identity. Cthulhu Mythos RPG is apparently part of a series of indie JRPG quite famous in Japan, but this one is the only one that got translated to English. However, the saga looks interesting, so I hope that also the next entries will be translated. Just by looking at the main art, I feel curious to check the other titles.

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As for Sweet Home, also in this case, the plot is really an accessory. Four teenagers decide to challenge their braveness by exploring a haunted house, and of course things will go wrong. The characters are not very deep in terms of personality, from the scared schoolkids to the mysterious policeman, but are instead very different and peculiar in terms of skills and utility in combat. A girl knowing karate could become lethal if equipped with a brass knuckles, while a bizarre nerd can easily learn new magic and possess an item that allows to save everywhere. There are lot of possibilities and combinations, and it is exactly in these role-playing elements that Cthulhu Mythos RPG really shines.

The skills are a deep and interesting feature, able to create a variegate and replayable experience. Not only different characters have different skills, but also at the very beginning of the game, the player can select between a huge lists of skills to create the main character. They are very variegated for utility and applicability, with some of them that are useful in combat, others to avoid enemies, to explore easily or to access to new areas or events. For example, Martial Arts allows the player to be deadly in combat, while Hide or Navigator are useful to escape from combats. But the most interesting skills are the one that allow specific access to otherwise hidden areas, such as Jump, Climb or Swim. These skills also improve the replayability in another run, since a different party could access to different areas in a new play.

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The game also features a sort of internal system of achievements. The interesting thing is that each achievement has points associated, based on the difficulty to obtain it, which will increase the starting points used to select skills. The more the achievements obtained, the more the points during the character creation.

Cthulhu Mythos RPG has even more features that improve the replayability. For example, during the dialogues, the player must often decide how to advance in the game. The choices are quite important and heavy, not only selecting the characters composing the party, but also to decide which area to explore. This means that, in a single play-through, the player could not explore all the areas or the events, since many decisions are mutually exclusive. The multiple branches also affect the ending and, according to the forums, the game features around 4 endings. Worth to specify that there is also a powerful secret boss that can be challenged only after obtaining all the endings.

The combat system is simple but anyway satisfying, and players with enough knowledge of old school JRPG will instantly feel at home, with turn-based combats and random encounters. If each character has his own core skills, it is also true that they could learn new spells by using books, or could be personalized by equipping new weapons. The monsters are very interesting, with a nice pixel art. If at the beginning they are more Gothic inspired, such as Zombies or ghosts, or grotesque things, such as a Mass of Cockroaches, later in the game they will evolve into more Lovecraftian creatures.

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The weapons are also interesting and quite deep. Handguns and bows uses ammo, while silver weapons are the only ones that can damage ghosts. In Cthulhu Mythos RPG the health is not the most vital parameter, but it is instead the Sanity. Facing a monster for the first time, or specific skills of the most creepy creatures, will damage the Sanity. When this will receive too many damages, the characters will go crazy. It is important to heal Sanity promptly with items, or it could be too late. The Sanity of the party could be also damaged while exploring, for example after finding something terrible and shocking.

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Cthulhu Mythos RPG could also be consider a survival horror, not only for the Sanity system, but also for the items management. Each character has only few spaces available to collect items. When burdened, old items could be left on the floor to be collected again lately.

In Cthulhu Mythos RPG, running away and escaping from the mansion are a real and often suggested possibility, especially in a game featuring the permanent death of the characters. By running away, the player can start again the game by keeping all the levels and the knowledge collected. This feature is very interesting and useful. Your party went half-crazy? Run away and try to face the mansion again. Normal difficulty is not so challenging, but in Hard Mode this feature could be very useful.

The game is not perfect, especially from the aesthetic point of view, which is very simple. The backgrounds and the rooms are sadly empty and void, making often very difficult to navigate the mansion, especially without a map. The music and the dialogues are also very minimalist. However, fans of old school horror RPGs will find in Cthulhu Mythos RPG an interesting indie title. The new mechanics, such as the legacy mode, the different endings and choices, are very interesting and will keep the game balanced and replayable.

The developers provided a free key for the review. I would like to remember that the English version of Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea is available on STEAM.

The creatures of the Line: classic paintings under mutations

The Line is a weird and original indie-game, a sort of queue simulator set in a dystopian world. In this article I will focus on the bizarre creature design of the game, but if you want to know more about it, you can find more information in my review: The Line: waiting in a queue was never so extreme and bizarre .

The combat system is turn based and optional. It is possible to entirely avoid any fights, jumping the queue by waiting or bartering. The art-style of the game is bizarre but effective. All the characters are made as a sort of classic art collage, creating a strange world where classic art meets horrible mutations. Because the characters show their true face only during the fights, especially while attacking. If some huge abominations are dangerous by simply looking at them, a normal man repentantly attacking by throwing another head or with a hidden tentacle, it is even far more creepy.

Below you will find the bestiary of the Line, including only the creatures that I find more interesting. Some of them are portrayed during an attack, especially if it is showing their twisted nature. The name of the creatures are arbitrary invented, except for few ones. Many creatures are also not present in this list, including other aberrant peasants or animals, such as squirrels and crabs.

  • The man with another head

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If this man looks like a normal well dressed aristocrat, one of his main attacks will highlight his twisted nature. From one of his sleeves, the biting head of an old man will emerge, connected to scarf like a grotesque tentacle. The man is on of the most dangerous common enemies in the first area of the game.

  • The mother and the infant

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To continue with the bizarre classicism, the mother is another example of painting under mutation. Apparently simply a mother with her infant, she is however able to attack in really bizarre ways. She can attack with her clothes, which will mutate in a sort of bloody tentacles made of fabric. Also the infant can directly attack by throwing different kinds of beams.

  • The woman with dogs

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A weird woman wearing an eye-patch and a long coat. She is waiting in the queue with her little dogs. Also in this case, her twisted nature is revealed during the attacks. The dogs will mutate in a sort of amalgam of fur and teeth, very deadly and scary to watch. This enemy is quite rare and she could be faced in the second area of the game.

  • The messiah of tentacles

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This guy looks very similar to many paintings of Jesus during the Renaissance. If this half naked man could look an easy foe, also since is showing very few HP, he can be one of the most aggressive enemies. The man will completely mutate, when attacking, in a mass of tentacles and snake-like appendages. This is something that Cthulhu would be proud of! This man is one of the most common enemies in the second area.

  • The plague doctor

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A big man dressed in red, with a black hat and a plague-doctor mask. The figure is already intimidating by his own, but when will attack with his mask like a beak, it will get even worst. This enemy is very rare and could be faced only in the third area of the game.

  • The huge mutant

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A colossal abomination similar to an alien made of swellings, mouths and tongues. The monster is difficult to describe and to contextualise, but will act as fist boss of the game. The monster has lot of HP, but its attacks are quite weak. Its favourite attack is a protruding mouth, which will bite the main character like a proper Xenomorph.

  • The big wolf

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Another mandatory fight that will act as boss. The big wolf is a huge black canid, already intimidating in its normal form. During the attacks, the creature will mutate, morphing its body in a agglomerate of jaws, opening below its belly. A not so difficult fight with an interesting creature.

  • Swinemantis

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Here we are entering in the land of the bizarre. This mutant was introduced after a patch and, as the official name says, it is a combination of a pig with a mantis. Everything is well balanced into the design, creating a weird creature but somehow quite believable. The Swinemantis is a mandatory boss in the forest.

  • The Wall

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The last free update of the Line introduced a secret area where to face several hard bosses. Many bosses not only have an official name, but also a background. The dystopian city home of the Line was devastated by multiple social and natural cataclysms, and these bosses are their embodiment. The Wall represents a wall that was built to isolate the city. The huge wall is connected to a ancient roman statue, which will be the one attacking. The Wall is a terrible boss with a massive amount of HP, creating the most tiring fight in the game.

  • The Rain

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The Rain is the official name of this horse-humanoid creature, embodying the natural and toxic disaster that plagued the city. The creature has several arms, each one wielding a bizarre weapon, and he is not afraid of using them. The boss is probably the strongest attacker of the game, able to inflict massive damages if not killed quickly.

  • The Hunger

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The Hunger is the most interesting of the secret bosses. The monster is a sort of dinosaur, made entirely by living bodies fused together. The idea is creepy and well executed, creating one of the most emblematic creatures made using a collage technique. The creature is the embodiment of a deadly famine which afflicted the city. Probably people turned into cannibals, and this is why the monster is made of conjoint humans.