Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo review: a hair-raising and subversive horror visual novel

Heed my phrases, pricey reader: Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is greatest performed when you go in figuring out nothing about it. Zilch, zero, nada. Its twists and turns from the get-go have my mind doing psychological gymnastics, not simply within the sport however in attempting to determine find out how to write round them for this evaluation. I’m not going to spoil all the pieces, however retaining your expectations completley vast open lets Paranormasight snake proper on in and shock you once you least anticipate it to.

Right here’s a fast elevator pitch: Paranormasight is a Squeenix-developed horror thriller visible novel about lethal rituals, ghost tales, curses, and the occult. Its subversive method to basic visible novel staples make its puzzles really feel sensible and its horror scares hit onerous. Should you’re a fan of the thrills discovered within the Danganronpa and Zero Escape video games, Paranormasight is sort of a bite-sized model of these two behemoths. It’s quick, sensible, and can maintain you in your toes till the top.

So yeah, if that appears like your factor, then have at it. From right here on in, I will be gabbing abut it in-depth.

Alongside being a entrance runner for ‘worse identify in videogame historical past,’ I’m bestowing Paranormasight the gold for being one of many yr’s greatest surprises. Revealed over the past Nintendo Direct livestream – however solely within the Japanese model of the present – there was a worrying second the place it appeared like it could be a Japan-only launch. However fortunately not, as a result of, put merely, Paranormasight is sensible.

What begins out as an informal hunt for an area ghost within the sport’s opening quarter-hour spirals right into a sprawling thriller with roots which have been buried within the floor for a whole bunch and a whole bunch of years. Paranormasight takes place in Eighties Honjo, a supernatural hub because of a gaggle of ghastly and ugly city legends from the Edo interval referred to as The Seven Mysteries of Honjo. One evening, a bunch of highly effective Curse Stones begin mysteriously showing, granting the proprietor use of their lethal curses, every associated to one of many seven mysteries. Not solely that, however the bearer of a Curse Stone additionally has the power to convey somebody again from the lifeless utilizing a ritual referred to as the Ceremony Of Resurrection. Dredging up somebody’s soul isn’t a freebie, although. The Stone-bearer wants to gather sufficient Soul Dregs to activate the ceremony – which they get by killing folks. Oh pricey.

Two detectives, a P.I and a woman stand in the streets chatting in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo

Caught on this net of killings and lethal curses are Paranormasight’s forged of characters: two detectives investigating a sequence of murders, a median Joe workplace employee and his occult-loving buddy, a highschooler and her psychic classmate searching for the reality behind their buddy’s suicide, and a mom in search of revenge for son’s dying with the assistance of a personal investigator. You play as every character individually, hopping between their timelines throughout completely different elements of the story. Every individual is in a roundabout way entangled within the wider thriller of the Curse Stones, and their timelines interweave because the thriller unfolds.

A handy file information system in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Serving to Hand

There’s plenty of discuss of folktales, rituals, newspaper articles, historic paperwork, essential folks, Japanese historical past, and far, rather more. Fortunately Paranormasight has a tremendous file system you can entry at any time – grouped into “Individuals of Curiosity”, “Tradition and Society”, “Phenomena/Curses” and so forth. It was a life saver throughout my playthrough (usually actually).

I really like this arrange. I’m a giant fan of getting a number of events in thriller video games discovering out completely different snippets of data for you, the form of overseer, to piece collectively. It builds a form of suspense that you simply don’t get with taking part in as a single character who hoovers up all the data on their very own. Connecting particulars from these completely different story routes offers you an omnipresent data of issues the characters are unaware of, which is such an excellent thrill and it is one thing that Paranormasight likes to relish. The pacing is nice too; over 10+ hours it didn’t really feel like there was a dip within the sport’s tempo, even when switching between story routes.

The sport’s core thriller – the Curse Stones, the ritual, the place they got here from, and probably find out how to cease them – unfolds as you click on on objects within the scene and decide dialogue choices. You’ll usually get a alternative of solutions, a few of which result in the identical consequence (booo!) however will usually trigger a schism within the timeline, resulting in completely different occasions. Investigating a metropolis within the hopes of desperately bringing a cherished one again from the lifeless, whereas folks might be on a killing spree, makes for some, you understand, uneasy encounters. There are quite a few standoffs the place you must navigate a dialog safely, or (if issues go south) shortly use your Curse Stone earlier than an opponent makes use of theirs, a quick-fire kill-or-be-killed state of affairs.

Two high schoolers prepare to chat with the dead in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Two school girls talk to the dead with a spirit board in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo

Utilizing a makeshift spirit board to talk to your lifeless buddy. This could’t finish properly ;_;

Should you do find yourself biting the mud, you’ll be able to all the time begin from earlier within the timeline after a fast chat with the elusive Storyteller, a masked man who acts as your fourth-wall-breaking information – consider The Curator from The Darkish Photos Anthology. This dapper trickster gives you hints to keep away from the identical consequence, getting extra particular every time you meet an unlucky finish. This retains occasions shifting alongside properly as Paranormasight’s puzzles can generally get obtuse. There was just one event the place I used to be correctly stumped, however it’s an simply forgivable offense in a sport that is actively attempting to suppose exterior the field. The vast majority of puzzles are intelligent twists that stored me continually stunned. Ach, I wanna speak about it extra, however that actually can be wading into spoiler territory.

One sport characteristic I’ll contact upon briefly is Paranormasight’s 360-degree character viewpoint, which critically elevates the sport’s horror components. Some visible novels solely transfer the character’s usually-static perspective just a little bit, however Paranorasight permits you to look throughout a scene, and wow, it’s completely good for ghostie-ghoulie scares. You all the time really feel like one thing is lurking simply off-screen, or – a Paranormasight favorite – straight behind you. It’s sooooo creepy.

The paintings additionally provides to the horror, as characters are extremely expressive, particularly after they look shocked or scared. And when the onomious choral choir, screeching violins and creepy piano keys begin to escalate, that’s once you may wanna pause, tab out, and press play on that cute pet compilation video you’ve got ready within the wings (a legit tactic I exploit when taking part in horror video games).

A young girl point at something off screen in shock in Paranormasight The Seven Mysteries Of Honjo

For essentially the most half, Paranormasight’s fusing of actual Japanese historical past, the supernatural, and complicated character drama makes for a superb story, however there may be one bit that feels bizarre to miss – particularly a subplot involving the blackmail and sexual assault of a excessive schooler. It’s indirectly a part of the story and is just talked about as second-hand data, however yeesh Squeenix, I may actually have achieved with out that. I form of noticed it coming, and it handles the topic higher than different related video games, however it’s nonetheless a drained trope of the style I hoped Paranormasight would keep away from. It’s one uncomfortable footnote in what is a superb sport, however yeah, it was the one factor that made me pause for a second earlier than slapping on the coveted RPS Bestest Greatest sticker.

Minor puzzle misses and yucky subplots apart, Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjois is that this yr’s first main shock. It actually retains you hooked till the top with its sensible and subversive method to horror visible novels, and its antholgy of ghost tales gives you main chills. A possible cult basic, for positive. Right here’s hoping it will get the eye it deserves.