NG Review

NG is a visual novel survival horror that is developed by Experience Inc and Ghostlight and is published by Experience Inc and Aksys Games. You play as a young man in a race against time to not only save himself but someone very dear to him. The story takes place within the city where a simple game such as hide and seek is anything but child’s play. You’ll have to face off against spirits, and search for the truth if you want to survive. At first I was a bit put off that NG didn’t start out as strong as its predecessor. It’s quite the slow start and left me wondering, when something eerie was going to happen. Despite the slow beginning once it gets going the story packs a punch and isn’t afraid to hit you where it hurts.

The raw emotion invoked by learning the truth of what happened to said spirit is powerful. Each story gets more and more intense. Just when you think a line has been set, the next story crosses it. For someone who is invested in both the characters and the story this game delivers entirely. Both the living and the spirits in this game feel very real.

The game marks the second installment of the Spirit Hunter games. While it’s not a direct sequel to Death Mark; there are mentions throughout NG. It’s done in the form of card hunting which interestingly enough will have you hunting for each card for the next bit of information. Which I found to be a charming detail that made the game even more enjoyable.

NG uses the same point and click mechanics as the previous game. You can also move using the directional arrows on the controller. It’s worth mentioning that you can now expand the map to better navigate the area. Plus they added name plates, making it possible to distinguish who is talking. Another feature that will have you really thinking is the decision whether or not to purify or to purge the grudge of the spirit. If you choose the latter you could end up losing a valuable teammate along the way.

The game is a lot more interactive where the protagonist can react to the characters around them. They go so far as to base the situation around the protagonist’s facial expressions. Rather than have a character who’s a blank slate like most visual novel games; they’ve allowed the player to be further immersed in the story. There are more puzzles to solve some of which are fairly easy to complete. While others will take a moment to stop and think. Some require you to have the right partner. Though the game normally will hint or directly tell you that you don’t have the right person. It’s an easy fix as going right outside and switching, so it’s not a frustrating mistake.

The music is hauntingly beautiful and does a wonderful job of evoking emotion proper for the scene. Alongside the art that is one part grotesque and the other breathtaking, the music compliments each area. Each note is impactful and does an amazing job of setting the scene. Overall I enjoyed my time with NG once the game got started it was honestly hard to put down. The way the title manages to invoke emotion truly impressed me. The soundtrack is so enchantingly eerie that I could listen to it on repeat. Plus the visuals and use of color had me in awe at every turn. Add in quirky characters who make the experience enjoyable along the way and I’m there.

There’s talk of another game in the works which is set to release next year in the East. Although there’s no talk of a NA release presently I shall eagerly be waiting. Personally I can’t wait to see what’s next for this series and the company itself.

You can find NG on the following platforms Playstation, Playstation Vita Nintendo Switch and Steam.

The World Next Door

The World Next Door

The World Next Door is a fast-paced puzzle game with visual novel elements and was developed by Rose City Games and published by Viz Media. The story follows Jun, who gets a once in the life opportunity to visit the world of Emrys. A world that is normally closed off to humans. After a mix-up, she gets stuck on the other side and has to figure out a way to get back home.

Right away from the time, I began my journey with this game, I was immediately drawn to the art. It’s both very detailed and super cute, especially the sprites of the characters as they move around the board. It added further character to what I found to be a charming game. I was very impressed with the amount of detail that went into the backgrounds of each area. With each new shrine, I couldn’t help but anticipate what the next one would look like. Let’s just say I was not disappointed!

Moving onto character design, I loved how each character looked different than the last. At the same time, the characters still looked as though they belonged in the world of Emrys. I found myself often talking to everyone I came across to get a feel for their personalities. I liked the variety of how many different types of magical creatures there were. Plus the fact that they speak their own language was rather enduring. Even the enemy design had me marveling at the detail that was placed into them. 

The next thing that really grabbed my attention was the music in this game. It gave me strong nostalgia points. It brought out memories from my time with Animal Crossing and A Night In The Woods. A lot of the time, I found it very soothing as I played through the game. The music does a beautiful job of setting the scene, which is an important factor. 

The controls were relatively easy to pick up when navigating the world. Despite the fact that this was a puzzle and visual novel game, you can move freely. I found this to be very interesting as both styles of games aren’t always known for their movement. When it comes to battling the controls weren’t hard to learn so much as remembering to press the right buttons while dodging and matching.

Which brings us to the battle portion of the game. Within each shrine, you have to defeat enemies by matching the runes. I personally liked how you could freely move across the board. The player isn’t locked into a certain row like you usually would be with typical puzzle games. As long as you can slam that rune down next to its match; then you can make a move. You can also have those you choose to bring with you into the shrine aid you in battle. All you have to do is line up the summon rune with the correct pattern that corresponds with your party member. They can then make their specialty move. The further you go the more characters you can bring along. 

I really enjoyed the aspect of fighting enemies while matching the runes up with one another. It really kept me on my toes and surprised me how challenging it could be at times. The player has to do just more than solve puzzles, they also have to avoid taking damage while trying to clear the board. How cool is that? Although I will mention for those who just want to to get through the shrines, there is an assist mode that you can turn on to avoid taking damage. At the end of each level, you face a boss unique to that shrine. Which was super fun and further added to my enjoyment of this game. While I didn’t particularly find the bosses to be overly difficult; I did enjoy going up against them. 

The biggest elephant in the room for me was the story. The dialogue was entertaining enough and well written. However, there were far too many holes that were not filled throughout the story. Apart from Jun trying to make it back to her world; there is also a mystery that presents itself. Sadly it just didn’t deliver in the way that I expected it to. It was also fairly predictable, and that is not always a bad thing. But when you add in the fact that there were so many things that remained unexplained it matters. Mysteries are all about the in between, and the story within this game severely lacked that. I hope that there is a second game in the works to further explain what was left unsaid within this game.

Despite that the lack the of story I still had a ton of fun with The World Next Door. I would have much preferred if it had been longer, but this would be a good game for someone who doesn’t have time to log several hundred hours within a heavily story driven game. Plus there’s a versus mode for those who like to go head to head with friends. I recommend giving this game a go, it’s not one to be missed. You can find The World Next Door on Steam and Nintendo Switch.

My Time With Death Mark

https://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/death-mark-ps4/

‘You’ve been marked, the clock is ticking, and the race to survive is on.’

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Death Mark is a visual novel developed by Experience Inc and published by Aksys Games. The game follows the protagonist who finds himself in an isolated mansion without his memory. It is there that he meets the mysterious Mary who informs him that the Mark on his body will be his doom if he can’t find a way to remove it.

From the very beginning Death Mark drew me into the world and made me feel a part of it. It starts out by pulling you in by telling you a story. It gets you invested by piquing curiosity and urging that inner part that most people have that makes you want to know more. In that sense, it starts out strong as it builds its way up to introducing the central theme of the game. It throws you into a very heavy situation right from the beginning and pulls absolutely no punches. Needless to say, be prepared for major feels. This game really hits you hard and continues to do so. One of the main things I appreciated was the fact that every story invoked a different emotion within me. There was never a time where I was bored with what was going on, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat wanting to know more. Each chapter just keeps getting better and better as you continue on. I really enjoyed how each new spirit is introduced in a ‘campfire’ story style giving some background on the ghost itself. As a fan of horror that part really stood out to me.

However, there were times where I felt that they could have offered up more information than what was covered in the main story. Some chapters only give base information about the different ghosts within the files that update as you find out new information. For someone who enjoys lore like myself, this would be an area where it lacked slightly. As you go through the story, you’ll meet an array of characters that accompany you along the way. Each one who is in the same situation as the protagonist. In a visual novel game, the characters are the main component to whether not a gamer is drawn in. In this area, Death Mark delivered an entertaining cast of quirky individuals who had me further invested in the story. Although I did find that I connected more with the other cast members than the protagonist himself. Often times characters with amnesia allow the gamer to develop their own idea of who the person they are playing is. Throughout the game, however, I couldn’t really connect with the protagonist. He wasn’t a completely blank slate, but there were often times that he came off as very bland which is a bit disappointing since the game is solid in so many other areas.

One component that took away from the story was the fact that there were no name tags when the character was speaking. Which is a different direction than most visual novel games, where the name is typically displayed over the text box. The protagonist is the only one who gets a different colored text, while everyone else has the same color. At times when multiple characters are talking its easy to get lost on whose speaking. The fact that the game is also not fully voice acted also doesn’t help with the confusion. There were also various typos, throughout the game that were missed while editing. To say the least, it’s not a deal breaker, but it is unacceptable for a full priced game.

https://www.siliconera.com/2017/10/24/experiences-spooky-visual-novel-death-mark-headed-ps4-switch-upgrades/

Where the art is concerned, you’ll hear no complaints from me. The graphics are beautiful and eye-catching. The dark tones create an eerie scape that works well with the overall theme of the game. It does a wonderful job of setting the scene that invokes a sense of dread within the player. Plus it’s tastefully grotesque and feels like it fits the scene rather than just being created for added shock value, although it certainly does have plenty of that as well. As a nice added touch I liked how I was able to slightly change the appearance of the protagonist. It’s simple at best, but it gave me the freedom to choose in a way that most visual novels don’t allow that.

The music does an excellent job of setting the tone of what’s going on around the main character. It’s eerie scores invoke a sense of dread and urgency further enveloping the player in the spooky atmosphere. From the anxiety of hearing the clock letting you know that death is near to the final showdown with each spirit, the music does its job to create a feeling of foreboding.  Each score impacts a lot of emotion that really spoke to me as a gamer.

When it comes to gameplay, it does things a little differently than most visual novels. During investigations, you can move the character in a grid style fashion. It also makes use of the point and click mechanics. I did love the fact that you could move within the game. It added a nice flair to a genre that is not often known for its movement. One grief I did have with it was that it was hard to follow the small map they gave you in the corner. Often times I would find myself turned around, only to realize that once you left a room, the movement would be flipped to where up was down and down was up. I was not fond of this style at all and would have preferred to just move freely with both analog sticks. The lack of being able to enlarge the map also led to this being a more significant frustration than it needed to be. In some areas such as chapter two, I found it was way too easy to get turned around.

I enjoyed the battle portion of this game I thought it did well by depending on the natural style of a visual novel game by incorporating the choices you make into how well you do throughout the game and leading up to the battle and in battle. Everything from choosing the right partner and using the right items depends on whether or not you survive the battle/scenario. Timing is essential; you must also use the correct item at the right time. You can also fail if you run out of time by failing to answer. Once the countdown begins, you have to really think on your toes on what choice you’ll make. With every second your soul power begins to rapidly drain and should it hit zero its game over. The game gives you plenty of chances to regain lost soul power by winning battles/making the correct Deadly Choice. You can also investigate each area, and it will ultimately reward you with soul power. When it’s time to have a showdown with the spirit you will need to combine the right items between you and your partner. Failing to do so or misusing the wrong item will more often than not lead to a game over.  The game itself is pretty forgiving if you fail, you can easily retry the battle rather than retracing your steps, although the game does offer that as well. This is something I preferred as opposed to having to do the entire chapter over again. Which we all know can induce a great feeling of frustration and a want to pull our hair out from the sheer thought of having to start over again.

Despite my few critiques I very much enjoyed my time with Death Mark. It delivered an intriguing story line with compelling characters and provided art that truly entertained the eyes. There aren’t enough games that have ghosts in them as the main focus. So it was a pleasant surprise to find another enjoyable game that can stand alongside some of my favorite ghost games. I would gladly recommend this title for anyone who’s craving a spooky tale that they can get lost in and easily come back to again and again.

You can play Death Mark on the Nintendo Switch, Steam, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.