Sunday, October 7

Review: The Midnight Sanctuary [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One of the things that the Switch has done a very effective job of is delivering a truly diverse lineup of games of all types and styles. In the case of The Midnight Sanctuary that now extends to what effectively aren’t games at all, and instead bizarre visual novels that you don’t so much interact with and instead experience. Having never indulged in this sort of experience I’ll say it caught me by surprise, and though it was a bit frustrating having on real agency I’ll admit that if you’re looking for something weird and different it at least does a fair job of checking those boxes.

Without revealing too much, since the entire experience is woven around the bizarre narrative, you’ll follow Hamomoru as she explores the small village of Daiusu sometime in the 1920s. Summoned in order to help this isolated village document its history and culture, and then to try to help it promote itself as a tourist destination it doesn’t take long to notice there’s simply something odd about the village and its residents. What follows is a very slow-paced exploration of themes including religion and faith, mythology and symbolism, and just a bunch of unusual odds and ends thrown in for flavor.

The bizarre feel of things isn’t only conveyed narratively, the visuals are also quite jarring as the more generic denizens of the town are textured in the game’s main image, and can only be differentiated by their headgear. Aside from frustrations with the obtuse mix of symbolism and attempts to generate intrigue through mostly just being strange, there are times when I had to look away from the screen because of this visual style as its simply a lot to take in and it can make it hard to tell what’s going on at times.

If you think this sounds interesting be sure to check out the video in order to get an idea of the pacing and tone of the whole package. I would imagine this will be a very divisive title where there’s very little middle ground, you’re either a fan of it being different and intriguing or you’re looking for interactivity and something without such a plodding pace. I credit The Midnight Sanctuary’s creativity and willingness to stick it all on the line, but I’d say I spent more time with it wondering when it was going to get to making a point than enjoying it.

Score: 5

  • If you’re a fan of a slow burn story mixed with intrigue it may appeal to you
  • Attempts to tackle several themes and concepts

  • The visuals, though distinctive, can really make everything a visual mess in places
  • It being a visual novel there’s no real opportunity for player agency at all
  • Things don’t really get rolling until you’re 2 - 3 hours in, with much of the time getting to that point feeling wasted