NS Review – Spirit Hunter: Death Mark


Hey, have you heard that rumour? If you get a strange scar appear on you that means you’re going to die?

Suddenly you’re outside a mansion with no memory of how you got there or why you’re there. Once inside a talking doll informs you that you have a death mark and will slowly lose your memories till you die. The death mark is given by spirits with a hatred of humanity, who want to drag humans into the depths of despair. Basically it’s petty spirits who have suffered so now everyone has to suffer. You only have till dawn to to solve the mystery of the curses in H city before you die from your mark. Will there be some Dragonball Z timing? Or will this be a very short game? I’m not going to spoil solving that mystery for yourself.

Spirit Hunter: Death Mark is the first in a series of visual novels with the sequel coming out later this year and boy is there a lot of reading, sort of to be expected with a visual novel though. I don’t like books but this was so intriguing and interesting I loved every minute, the environments and atmospheric music and sound effects drew me in like a Portuguese Man O’War paralysing and pulling an unsuspecting fish in its tentacles.

Uhhh…..

During the game you’re a bit like a ghostbuster mixed with Scooby Doo as you have to go around solving mysterious mysteries involving spirits who are vengeful of us living folk. You defeat spirits but don’t really solve their mysteries of how they died and why they now want to take said anger out in unsuspecting bypassers, you get an idea of what happened but really have to piece it together yourself and a lot is left to your imagination. 

You meet a colourful cast of stereotypes in your time playing Scooby ghostbuster ranging from snobby brat, idol, otaku to former detective. Most of whom have an interest in the occult and OOParts (disappointingly not an art dedicated to alley-ops in basketball). While textually adventuring you only ever have one sidekick  with you at a time and do need to swap your would be Robin’s from time to time to do things like a boost up to a high place or be a woman.

That’ll be helpful to solve a mystery.

The one continuous character and your trusty guiding Alfred is Mary the marionette but despite having spiritual powers and knowing about all the rumours of spirits around the extraordinarily haunted she’s as much help as boiled cabbage at knowing what to do next until a new death mark victim comes strolling along.

Death Mark’s gameplay element is like grid based text adventures of old mixed with a Metroidvania as you gain entry to previously unreachable squares on the grid as you progress. For each spirit you Scooby Doo around the place armed with a flashlight and a strange obsession feel up every little thing of vague interest until you’ve collected enough items and information to confront the ghoul. Luckily these angry spirits whose soul remaining hobby is murdering innocent people in gruesome ways are rather good sportsmen and don’t confront you in an unavoidable situation until you’re ready.

It’s easy to get lost when all the corridors look the same.

One of the main mechanics of the game is deadly choice whereby you have to select the correct answer out of three. You are given clues beforehand, sometimes from a voice in your head helping to further my own curiosity as to what’s going down in boringly named H city. If you pick wrong and get a game over you can handily just select just decide again giving little consequence other than having to repeat the preceding scene. This means no frustrating ends which is a win in my eyes. What can be frustrating is despite the clues you can easily be clueless in later deadly choices such as needing to know how a Greek letter is pronounced. Maybe this is a cultural difference and Americans need to know how to pronounce Greek letters so they turn up at the right frat to get wasted at when at college but I guessed wrong twice on that one with a long scene beforehand.

That was an easy one.

You venture around a few different mostly stereotypical environments such as an abandoned school, haunted forest and underground bunker as you uncover the truth behind the mark. While the environments look eerie and set the atmosphere well there aren’t as many as I’d hoped nor do they really differ within the environments themselves. The spirits and some of the bizarre objects/corpses all look fantastically petrifying making me look forward to what was coming next.

Time to put my hand in a decapitated animal head.

The soundtrack is perfectly eerie with the sound effects of things like clocks ticking, footsteps and doors creaking, leaves rustling and water dripping being far more prominent than the music further setting the genuinely uneasy atmosphere. However in sections when the music is prominent it’s gothic and creepy so you know something strange is afoot. Death Mark is definitely a game to turn off the lights and stick some earphones in for full immersion. It’s just a shame that there’s only a few words that are voice acted such as Mary greeting you when you return to your temporary abode of a creepy old mansion.

Something gives me the feeling he might already be stinky.

As a side note Death Mark is rated 16 by PEGI only because it contains bag language, no mention of the pictation of bizarre corpses found throughout the game. I guess corpses are family friendly nowadays?

Death Mark features the perfect amount of creepiness, intrigue and ominous atmosphere only being let down by the developers laziness in naming places taking away from the immersion (H castle, T elementary, H shrine, a person called P are examples) and the price tag not feeling consistent with the brevity of the chilling story (it took me 12 hours but there’s another two hour chapter if you get a good end), along with the lack of voice acting. I suppose that’s the problem with niche games, even if the production values aren’t AAA the publishers simply can’t afford to sell the game at a reduced price as it wouldn’t generate enough extra sales. However Death Mark had me completely sucked in after about an hour as I wanted to solve the mystery of the mark and see what mysteries and horrors await our for once non silent but pretty straight laced protagonist. It was sad times for me when the story ended and I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel Spirit Hunter: NG which is coming to my Switch and hopefully yours too this October so I can resume combing harrowing locales with a flashlight and touching up disgusting oddities.

Decisions, decisions.

Spirit Hunter: Death Mark is available now both physically and digitally on eShop for £44.99/$49.99/€49.99. A big thank you to MMPR and Aksys Games for providing the review code.

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