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I saw this up for pre-order for Halloween 2018 along with Yomawari: The Long Night Collection. It had been a while since I'd played a Japanese horror game, like Silent Hill or Fatal Frame, so I was excited to give this a try even though I couldn't find much info about it pre-launch.
First and foremost, this is a horror game, but it’s not an action-adventure like Dark Souls, or an FPS like Left 4 Dead, or third-person like Silent Hill. It's a visual novel game, meaning it's like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book with beautiful digital paintings. It's text-heavy, atmospheric, suspenseful horror.
There are a handful chapters to enjoy in the full story. Each chapter takes you to a different Haunt location that seems to be based on actual Japanese folklore (for example, the infamous Suicide Forest). Certain decisions during the chapter will result in a “good” or “bad” ending.
Gameplay is similar to point-and-click adventures, but I'd most compare it to the Phoenix Wright games. You navigate to and explore each frame of your environment for clues, items, and puzzles. This can also prompt dialogue from your partners, which you choose before going to a Haunt.
When you stumble upon "Live or Die" sequences, it's kind of like Psyche-Lock or court battles in Phoenix Wright. You have a very limited time as your Soul Power (HP) counts down until you select an answer. Your answer will determine whether you live, die, or continue onto the next question. If you die, you can pick up at the beginning of the "Live or Die" sequence or where you last saved. You can freely save anytime at the Mansion or in a Haunt, and you can replenish Soul Power by finding hidden worn-out talismans during your adventure.
Combat is turn-based and requires you to think about the story and the items you’ve accumulated. Use the right items at the right time, or in combinations with your partner, to defeat spirits.
The translation from Japanese to English was well done and eloquent. The music is lush and dark, like slower-paced Castlevania songs. The sound effects are creepy and immersive. There have been instances where I moved my flashlight to investigate a frame, and there was a glimpse of a ghost disappearing, followed by hollow laughter or crying.
Overall, I'm happy with my Death Mark experience. I haven't played anything quite like this, and I welcomed the change of pace. Just know what you're getting into before you buy it.
I'm a big fan of visual novels so I was looking for something to scratch the itch on the Nintendo Switch. I'd say this game scratched close to that itch, but didn't fully satisfy. The exploration/encounters are a bit clunky, there is little to no voice acting (none in English) and the story didn't hook me from the get-go. But, I'm still giving the game three stars because it was definitely a unique experience and parts of the story we're intriguing.
That being said, if you like visual novels, horror, and the Switch...there's not a lot else on offer so this game should be somewhat satisfying for you.
To be fair, I feel Phoenix Wright games are the bottom-of-the-barrel expectation for how good a visual/interactive novel should be. Not because I dislike PW games, but because I love PW games and am too old to throw away what little life I have left on uninspired story-telling.
The game doesn't crash, and it runs reasonably well (though the voice acting is tiring).
One additional star is applied as a participation trophy.