Wednesday, October 31

Review: Death Mark [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Interactive novels are something that I’ve not had much experience with to date but that certainly offer some interesting opportunities. A well-written narrative has the power to excite or scare, depending on the genre, so in theory by using both audio and visual elements to enhance the experience you can get something better. Death Mark has some game-like elements but what will make or break it for you is the somewhat odd story, the characters you interact with, and the spooky atmosphere and events you’ll encounter. 

Without giving too much away after setting the stage to minimally establish your character and learn about the tales of this thing called the Death Mark, which dooms people to lose all of their memories and then die within a few days, you’ll discover you’ve been cursed with it. You’re drawn to an old mansion where you’ll meet a few other people who’ve been marked and a pretty creepy talking doll who tells you that you must uncover the secret behind your marks quickly or you’ll be unable to escape a grim fate. From that launching point you’ll work through 5 distinct episodes, each dealing with a new environment and ghost who’ll be your focus.

Gameplay may be a generous word to describe how you’ll interact with the title, but there is more to do than read through loads of text. Adventure portions of each chapter consist of you searching rooms, using your flashlight to find cues that will encourage you to search specific areas or objects to find items that will help you progress or insights that could make the difference between life and death (well, a Game Over screen that you can quickly recover from and keep playing). While your actions in the game don’t feel like they carry much consequence in the end, the story is somewhat on rails and you’re just given ways to interact within the confines of the track you’re on, these sequences do help reinforce the mood and overall creepy nature of the story. Having text describe the spooky rooms or things like faces that will appear suddenly wouldn’t be as effective as you experiencing them directly, hopefully alone in a dark room with headphones on to get the maximum experience.

Appropriately released on Halloween, Death Mark is a title that has the power to suck you in and give you a range of feelings from dread to some scares depending on how you react to weird images and sudden jumps in music. Playing out as a mix of interactive novel and traditional adventure it has a flair to it, but you’ll also need to invest some time in it before it bears fruit. If you’re able to dedicate your full attention to it, playing it as was intended, it does heighten tensions nicely. While it won’t be satisfying if you’re in search of action and thrills, if you’re down for ghost stories that you experience at a slower pace it may be satisfying.

Score: 7

  • Some terrific and bizarre art
  • Played properly, in a dark room with headphones, it does a great job of creating tension and a creepy vibe

  • If you’re not down for something with a slow pace that takes its time and has you reading quite a lot you’ll find it aggravating
  • Gameplay is more about you exploring and getting you into the mood of things, your choices and decisions ultimately do little to change final outcomes
  • The initial asking price is surprisingly high