Tag Archives: ghost

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people have been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girl’s their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spirit healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has it a weird charm. At one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding death bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason of the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have, is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul power fully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since, there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of the UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. In some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flash light.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives of eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you in every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth it’s price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

And with that said, I have really said everything I could say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

My top 25 DS games of all time. (Part 2/3)

25 – 20

Welcome to part 2!

#19: Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes

MMClashOfHeroesBoxshot

Look! There is a dragon on the box-art. Best game ever made! 10/10. Next game.

My love for dragons has nothing to do with this game. It was only a lame joke to start my explanation for my pick for the 19th spot.

I do love playing puzzle games sometimes. But when there is a battle element involved, I enjoy it even more. It has also been released on Steam, so you can enjoy it on the PC as well.

I have to admit that I haven’t beaten the game. But I’m really trying to find time to play this game. Sadly enough, this is a game I can only play in short bursts. That’s mostly due to the nature of the gameplay. But I’m sure that some people might be able to keep playing this game for hours on end.

What I have seen from the game shows that this game is a very good game. Further proof is that on some lists of forgotten gems on the DS, this game appears. So, I don’t have to further proof myself… I think.

 #18: Orcs And Elves

Orcs_&_Elves_Cover

Sometimes, I love myself a good dungeon crawler and adventure game. This game nails most of the things I was looking for in these kinds of games. The game feels old, which made me love it even more. Yet, I was surprised how this game is a port of a mobile game. And this port is actually pretty well made. iDSoftware and EA worked on it after all. (And there aren’t any microtransactions from EA, thankfully.)

In this game, you play an elf that is fighting the orcs to stop corrupting the land. You fight through various dungeons and explore them. Best of all, it’s in 3D. So, that makes the atmosphere even better. What I love most of all, is that this game is turn based. If you make a move, your enemies make a move as well. This makes the game very tactical.

I haven’t beaten this game since the final boss is pretty brutal. At least, to me. Maybe, when I restart playing this game and thought out the evolution of my character a bit better, I might be able to defeat that boss. We shall see. And maybe then I’ll write a review about it! So yeah, we shall see.

#17: Ghost Trick

Ghost_Trick_EURecently, I have beaten a game called M.U.R.D.E.R.E.D. – Soul Suspect. My buddy, Seraph made a great video review for it. I highly recommend you guys watching it some time.

But this game is how it should have been. This visual novel and adventure game puts you in the role of a ghost. You have to avoid the death of a character by going a few minutes back in time. Then you have to poltergeist items to change the course of history.

The game became really memorable to me because one of the characters is a black cat, one that reminds me a lot of my own cat, Sparta. If only, my real life cat could talk to me.

When I started writing about this game, I actually wanted to replay this game. Since the memories are getting vague. Which is a good thing, because I remember enjoying this game a whole lot. Maybe, one day, I might write an article about it.

#16: Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures

lego-indiana-jones-the-original-adventures-cover548534

It would be a shame if I hadn’t put an Indiana Jones game on this list, right? Well, here it is! Lego Indiana Jones. I know that there is a sequel and an other game of my favorite hero on the DS, but I don’t think they deserve a spot on this list (yet). Because, I haven’t played them enough.

This game is simply one of the best LEGO games I have ever played. In 2014, there is an overdose of LEGO games with all a similar formula.

This game is pretty fun to play. It follows the plot of the movies pretty close. It helps introducing the movies to a younger audience, since it doesn’t contain the graphical scenes which made the movies not meant for their eyes. The humor of this game makes it even better. I actually laughed with some jokes they made with the characters I love.

I hope that the sequel can bring me the same joy. I finally got myself a copy, so fingers crossed!

#15: Wario games (Best: Wario: Master Of Disguise)

Wario Master Of Disguise DS cover

I know what some readers are already thinking. Isn’t this cheating? Putting these games on spot 15, while I put all the Mario games on spot 23? No, it’s not cheating. The reason behind it, is that these games are pretty different from the Mario series in my opinion.

The honorable mention for this spot is WarioWare D.I.Y., which helped DS gamers to make their own mini-games. That was simply an amazing experience.

But if this spot has to go to one game, it has to be Wario: Master Of Disguise. Because I think that this game has a brilliant idea behind it.

You play in the role of Wario. He just stole a magic wand that gives him the ability to transform in different suits that give him special powers. Maybe, I should take a closer look in a review or something?

 #14: Super Scribblenauts

252px-Superscribblenautsboxsmall

In the past, the Scribblenauts series was criminally overlooked. Because the game was on the DS, it looked like a kids game. While in reality, it’s one of the best games to be creative in.

I could have put the original too in this spot, but there is a reason why I don’t. Super Scribblenauts is just a better game then it’s original. It surpasses the original by so much.

While the user interface isn’t the best I have seen on the system, it’s highly addictive to play. Oh, you might be wondering what this game is about? Let me tell you, it’s about writing things to helps people. The people in Maxwell’s (main character) area aren’t very smart. So, you have to write words on your magic notepad.

The words you write however, come to life. In this version they added adjectives! So you can write “big blue truck” and you will get just that. You can basically write anything, as long it’s PG-13 and it isn’t trademarked. The game is a lot of fun, and if you are interested, there are a few titles of this series on Steam. So you have no excuse to give this series a try!

#13: Club Clubhouse_Games_coverHouse Games / 42 Game Classics

This game blew me off my socks. I think that this is one of the best games in it’s genre. This is how you should make a game about card and board games. I barely have anything negative to say about it.

The multiplayer is quite fun and I mostly remember this game because I played it a lot with my sister while we were young. The hours we spend on this game secretly playing this game while we are supposed to sleep. I really enjoyed those times.

I recently got this game back, since I lost my first copy. And I play it from time to time. In the present, I play this game while I’m on the train towards work. But I’m afraid that I’ll miss my station one day because I’m too addicted to this game. So, fingers crossed that it never happens.

Actually, I should write a review or something about this game. Maybe next month, since in September I will write about games I wanted to write about for a long time.

#12: Another Code: Trace Memory 

Another_Code_Two_Memories_cover_artAlso known as “Trace Memory” in Europe, this visual novel game is quite an overlooked gem. The story of this game touches me on personal levels. There are some things that happen in the game that make it quite memorable to me. I won’t give the details about them, since they are personal.

A while ago, I actually took a look to the sequel of this game on the Nintendo Wii. If you are interested, you can follow this link to it: Another Code – R. In this game, Ashley is on a quest to look for her father. While she is on that quest, she will unravel a mystery about her dead mother. It’s a quite thrilling story, actually.

Ashley has a sort of PDA-ish device that looked like a DS. Her father developed it. It might be an easter egg or not, it’s quite an amusing touch.

Sadly enough, the developers of this game went bankrupt. Cing made also the smash hit named Hotel Dusk. Before you ask yourself which spot that it’s going to have on the list, let me save you this disappointment. I couldn’t really get into the art style.

#11: Time Hollow

Time_Hollow

I wrote a review on this game not too long ago! I praised it enough, so you guys might have seen this entry coming.

So, the reason why this is one of my favorite games, it’s simply because the story, theme song and gameplay kept my playing until the very end.

While the game’s length is criminally short, the actual content is highly enjoyable. The soundtrack is one of the ones I have heard in a visual novel game.

That themesong, that’s the most important factor in this game. The memories that are connected to it, that’s what I gave this game such a high spot on my list. Some memories about it might be personal, but they sometimes come all back when I listen to the song. At once.

I still remember playing this game, with my back to a radiator. It was quite cold. It was in the middle of the winter and it had snowed a whole bunch. A part of the wheels of my mothers car where even stuck in the snow. But I couldn’t be bothered, I was too drawn into this gem of a game.

#10: Retro Game Challenge

Retro_Game_Challenge_Coverart

xSeed, I’m sorry to hear that the sale of this game didn’t went all that good. For that reason, you couldn’t release the sequel in the west.

I urge everybody to start playing this game. If you love challenges and retro games, it’s right up your alley. If you liked games like NES Remix on Wii U, this game is something for you.

The humor, references and actually pretty accurate evolution of the video game industry… It makes for a gem of a game. I really wish it was more successful then this.

This game appears on various overlooked / underrated and top DS games, and it has every right to do so. This game has multiple games into one. And they aren’t simply mini-games, no! They are in itself full games.

They were even able to get a story into the game. Before, I sound like I’m trying to sell this game to you, I actually am. I’m not being payed by xSeed, but I think you should give them your money for this game! Or check it out at least!

End of part 2.

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