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Death Mark #GameReview

You have been Marked…

A strange rumor is spreading through the shadows of Tokyo’s H City: a mysterious disfigurement, like a grotesque birthmark, has been appearing on the bodies of certain individuals. Anyone who receives the Mark will rapidly die of unknown, horrifying causes.

Deprived of your memories, you arrive at a mansion rumored to protect the bearers of the Mark. As the doors swing open, the countdown to death has already begun…

Title: Death Mark | Developer: Experience Inc. | Publisher: Aksys Games, Experience Inc. | Release Date: June 01, 2017 | Genre: Horror | Style: Adventure, Visual Novel | Series: Spirit Hunter | Platform: PS4 | Content Warning (see below) | Source: Self-Purchased | Starred Review

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Death Mark Review

Death Mark has everything I could want in a video game. Urban legends, mysterious curses, and interesting characters. I was initially attracted to it because it seemed in the vein of the Fatal Frame series. I try not to look into games too much before I get them, just enough to be able to see if I would like the story or not, so I didn’t know it was a visual novel until playing it.

You play as Kazuo Yashiki, a placeholder name since Kazuo is afflicted with amnesia from the curse. The story progresses through several different chapters, each with its own side characters and urban legends.

I really liked the side characters. They were all pretty interesting and I can’t think of any that I outright disliked. They weren’t super deep and based on general character tropes – Satoru Mashita (a down and out cop, fired for potentially exposing a scandal), Eita Nakamatsu (an anime-loving geek who lives with his mom), Madaoka Hiroo (the cold scientist), and Ai Kashiwagi (who I kept calling Su-metal on accident because her outfit made me think of BabyMetal).

Even though they are somewhat one-note they each display a surprising characteristic that made me more attached to them than I normally would have been. Mashita, for instance, had some humour (dry, to be sure, but humour nonetheless). Eita was very concerned at having drug a small girl into the curse mess and was surprisingly sweet.

The spirits and the stories attached to them were also surprisingly deeper than I expected. In fact, it’s one of the few games I would add a content warning for (see below the review). They’re very disturbing and include child abuse, rape, cults, and animal experimentation. Some of the scenes were not exactly graphic, but definitely sexual poses. These are found more in the main game, not the backstory sections. The backstories are all told through text.

Since visual novels are mostly visual I will say that I did really like the art style to it. It wasn’t cookie-cutter looking and some of the scenes (referenced above) were very cool. The spirits were very unique and weren’t just copy-paste villains. Their styles each fit their scenes and levels. I really liked the roses in Hanahiko’s story and Miss Zoo was by far the most disturbing looking spirit. The only one that felt iffy to me was Hanayome. She looked pretty cool until the confrontation scene but when her face was revealed it was not scary (in fact, the person I was playing with and I shared a giggle over it because the eyes look a bit too much like googly-eyes).

The interactive elements were fun to play and the Soul Power timer gave it a good tension. My only complaint regarding gameplay is that it is not obvious at all that there are two ways to do the confrontations with the spirits. Story-wise, the game appears to give you one way to do things and maybe a very subtle hint that you can do it differently. For instance, during one of the chapters you need a certain character to get the good ending. The character with you says they’re scared and they don’t think they’ll be able to help. This character is very timid throughout so I thought it was just their characteristics, not the game telling me “Hey, you might want to swap people”.

That’s my biggest complaint about it, really, Overall I enjoyed it and it was fun to play. The story was interesting and I like the visual novel style a lot when I want to play with someone. It’s very easy to switch off chapters. It was also easy to go bac and try again if you failed at something. The story was strong and ended in a very satisfying way with a follow-up to the characters you’ve been spending time with.

Published inHorror GamesStarred Reviews
┬ęSci-Fi & Scary 2019
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