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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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.

Lisa the Painful: would you bet the life of your party characters in a deadly Russian Roulette?

Lisa is a dark, grotesque and unique surprise in the world of indie RPG, a game with a mature and touching story. In a post-apocalyptic scenario a dad, Brad, should fight back to rescue her kidnapped daughter, the only surviving woman in this patriarchal society. During the game, the player should face several tough and permanent decisions, but some of them are also integrated directly in the gameplay.

In a particular moment of the game, Brad will be kidnapped and forced to play a deadly tournament of Russian Roulette. Yes, post-apocalyptic wastelands are a crazy place where people get bored easily. After surviving three rounds of the deadly Roulette, once set free, Brad could come back again to join willingly other tournaments. Each surviving round will provide an increasing amount of money, useful to stack on cash early on in the game, with few efforts. Of course, there is a price to pay for joining the tournament.

The lives of your party members are used as bet.

Each round, a party member is selected by the player as contestant for the Russian Roulette. When the deadly game starts, each shot of the gun as 20% chances to kill one of the contenders. If this is the case of the enemy, the tournament will continue and the player will get money. If instead is the party member to receive the deadly bullet, he will of course die. Worst news? Death in Lisa is permanent, so say goodbye forever to the follower that was scarified for the hope of obtaining money. The last round of the tournament is against a fat man covered in scars. He can survive to two shots in the head before dying, making him an especially dangerous foe. Of course, nothing forbids the player to load an old save, on Normal difficulty. In case of Hard mode the situation is different, since save points will self destroy after being used, making saves more rare and permanent deaths more dangerous.

Lisa offers a dark and interesting way to offer money to the player, easily, but with terrible consequences. Even if is true that in Lisa there are dozens of recruitable characters, and some of them are also quiet useless in battle, is it anyway worthy to risk their life for money?

Will you permanently bet the life of your followers for money?

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Digital Devil saga: A cannibal JRPG — Surreal and Creepy

Digital Devil Saga (DDS) is a spinoff of Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) for PS2. If you think that Shin Megami is creepy, with all its disturbing catholic imaginarium, you should know that the main theme of DDS is: the cannibalism. Imagine a world, called the Junkyard, with 6 tribes fighting each other to access a […]

via Digital Devil saga: A cannibal JRPG — Surreal and Creepy