- System: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS Vita
- Publisher: Aksys Games, Experience Inc.
- Developer: Experience Inc.
- Release Date: Oct 31, 2018
- Rating: M for Mature
- Genre: Visual Novel, Adventure, Horror
- Players: 1
Who it Caters to
What to Expect
Death Mark—originally known as Shin in Japan—throws players into the role of a man who has lost a lot of his memories and finds himself in front of a strange mansion with a mark emblazoned on his arm. It doesn’t take long for players to realize that this mark isn’t a nice tattoo but actually stands as a curse that will slowly make the player lose their memories and eventually die in some horrific manner. The player has until dawn—or the game’s version of dawn—to rid the curse of a ghost, to remove the mark, and stay alive. While that seems simple enough, Death Mark throws players into a visual novel experience that is reminiscent of Corpse Party’s second English release—Corpse Party: Book of Shadows—but also is something else entirely. In many ways, Death Mark is a truly unique visual novel and its why we loved our experience with it.
The core gameplay of Death Mark can be broken down into 3 parts: exploration, dialogue and battle—we’ll explain the battle part last—all of which cultivate in a horror visual novel unlike many others. The exploration part has players exploring creepy locals that change with each chapter—some of which are genuinely spooky—that are filled with clues and items needed for the player to progress and survive the later battle segment. During these exploration sections usually, you’ll look around rooms and have occasional jump scares appear on screen when you shine your flashlight on random spots or areas. The few jump scares that are in Death Mark are very well-timed making for some nice atmospheric moments filled with tension, worry, fear and dread. Exploration doesn’t change much over the course of the game, but at least due to the constant area location changes, you rarely feel like you’re in the same dark hallway or school like other horror games tend to do.
Dialogue is where Death Mark does some rather curious things with gameplay, Players will interact with a multitude of characters all of which are unique and quite different from one another. During some moments, Death Mark will give you a few choices that rarely change the game more than just what the character will say and how they will respond accordingly. However, Death Mark has dialogue sections called Live or Die where the game plays a bit with you and your memory—which is a big factor of the game after all—by making you quickly choose between several actions. You can’t take all day though as the Live or Die sections have a timer indicated by Spirit Points which decreases as you try to decide what course of action will keep you alive. If you do it right, you’ll find you lose no Spirit Points—other than the time it took you to decide—and be considered safe. Do it wrong, however, and you’ll lose Spirit Points as well as face a possible dead end. Surviving these sections will be based on your critical thinking skills and memory as often Death Mark will tell you in advance how to deal with a situation but won’t just point it out so you can easily answer.
Lastly, the Battle section is where Death Mark tries to be almost like a RPG. Near the end of every chapter players will run into that chapter’s ghostly enemy. Based on exploration, dialogue and various other clues battles will tend to come down to using the right combo of items in the right order. Battles also change the course of the game’s multiple endings as if you don’t adhere to the right battle options you’ll most likely win against the spirit but in return they will kill whoever you decided to partner up with in your revolving team of mark bearers. We recommend saving prior to each battle section so this way if you do fail and lose a person you liked, you can just restart and see if you can figure out what went wrong. Remember to pay heed to the chapter’s multitude of notes and hints about the ghost you’re dealing with to find a solution to surviving the battle at the end.
Wrapping up our gameplay section, we also wish to talk about the graphics and music of Death Mark. In terms of graphics, we loved the creepy still CGIs and setting locales as they really feel Japanese horror-like. The characters also have a nice amount of variety but sometimes can look a bit silly but it’s a minor gripe. The music and sound design of Death Mark hit all the right…marks…with wonderful tunes that keep the haunt locations feeling spooky and often will make you feel like a slight noise or motions might be not in the game but in your own home/apartment. We did notice the lack of voice acting for Death Mark with only minor voice lines being delivered, but it’s a visual novel so we can live without it.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
- Wonderful spooky art design and impressive haunt locations
- RPG battles work quite well and infuse some replayability in Death Mark
- Characters and stories are very interesting with a mixture of Japanese and Western horror themes
- Exploring gives you some nice visual novel breaks from dialogue moments
- Solid sound design that makes Death Mark truly creepy
- Dying doesn’t punish the player much
- Needed some more voice acting