Game Review: Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PS Vita)

I’m a huge fan of fan-service-y type games. At 32 years of age, and in happy relationship, I think I’ve earned the right to play whatever I want, as long as I’m a responsible adult about it (as much as a gamer can be, anyway). I was scared about Mary Skelter, though: on the one hand, I absolutely love Idea Factory games (specially the Neptunia franchise). On the other hand, I’m not a huge fan of first-person dungeon crawlers. So, what did I make of Nightmares?

The story is, truth be told, fantastic. It is much, much darker than the usual JRPG fare, with not only adult overtones but also touching on slavery, abuse, torture, dependency and co-dependency… it really is a multi-layered affair, and one of the highlights of the game. It is all told through top-notch voice-acting (which we’ve come to expect from Idea Factory titles).

You play as Jack, a prisoner in a city-turned-dungeon-tower-jail. You must control Blood Maidens as you traverse the dangerous dungeons and overcome all manners of scary things. At your disposal are the aforementioned Blood Maidens, who get power from the blood spilled by enemies in battle. Too much of a good thing can be bad, though, so you must avoid entering a stage of total rage by… ehem… licking the blood off each other? You must also escape Nightmares, which are creatures that give the title to the game, but I felt they were rather under-developed. They cannot be killed, yet… Well, I won’t spoil the game for you.

Characters are beautifully drawn, adding to the already fantastic presentation.

I’ve read that some people feel like the fan service stuff is a bit tacked on, and to be honest, while I absolutely love any excuse to be a bit of a pervert, the story does not call for what comes packed with the game. I still enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but… it isn’t as organic as it is in, say… the Criminal Girls series.

Speaking of, I’m sure many of you will wonder how Mary Skelter: Nightmares compares to Criminal Girls. The answer is: positively. There’s much more variety in the former, both in story and in presentation, which was the huge drawback I found when playing the latter. It just felt like the creators of Criminal Girls went through a couple of color palettes, changed some enemies around, and called it a day. Mary Skelter, on the other hand, feels much more polished, and much less tedious to play through.

Oh, Alice <3

The presentation, as I said, is top notch. Idea Factory and Compile Heart have this Criware-enhanced engine tuned so that it sings on the Vita. It looks great, and it sounds awesome. The music is good, but nothing compared to the voice acting. Not all dialog is acted, but the key scenes are acted, and acted beautifully to boot.

My only complain with the game is my general complain with first-person dungeon-crawlers, really: the world doesn’t feel as interactive. I know this is totally on me, and fans of the genre will actually find a ton of cool stuff here (like jumpoints, bridges, etc). But it just isn’t the way I like to travel. You know how some people like flying? I’m more of a trains guy. Does that make sense?

Overall, Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a great game. It is hampered by the fact that it seems as though those in charge were not sure what kind of game they wanted to make, so they made two games and then blended them together. The fan service, though welcome for a person like me, detracts from the beautifully crafted story. Minor gripes with the genre itself aside, this is yet another Idea Factory title that graces the Vita with all the subtlety of a rampaging rhinoceros: it’s big, bold, it’ll take you two centuries to complete, the story is engrossing, and if first-person is your thing, you’ll be glad you picked this up.

At a glance:

  • Title: Mary Skelter: Nightmares
  • Developer: Compile Heart
  • Publisher: Idea Factory
  • Format: PSN Download / Physical
  • Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Required: TBC
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC

Vita Player Rating - 08

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