Spirit Hunter: Death Mark is a game I wanted to play for a long time, and, in a recent sale, I finally jumped into its creepy world of countering curses and thwarting spirits. It’s more than your typical visual novel, and it manages to scare up a lot of fun. If you’re wanting some chills and thrills in a horror game, this one is surprisingly good.
It starts with you following an amnesiac main character to a spooky mansion to try to fix the weird bite mark on his arm. Other characters with the same strange mark begin showing up, and a talking doll lets everyone know that they’ve been cursed by a spirit. Unlike some visual novels, the story jumps right into the action.
That action takes place in the form of an investigation split over different chapters. You hear a legend of a certain spirit and go to a location to look for clues. This is where the game veers off from other visual novels too. Aside from speaking to other characters and reading on-screen text, you’ll be shining your flashlight into dangerous forests and abandoned school classrooms to look for clues and items.
That’s not the only dangerous part of the game. The Live or Die sections force you to answer questions or make decisions before your soul power runs out. The soul power acts as a timer that runs down until you make a choice, so you have to choose quickly. Answering incorrectly will take a chunk of your soul power as a penalty. If you run out completely, you are dead.
However, death is not the end. When you die, you can restart the Live or Die sequence and make better choices or restart a boss fight. Besides having to play it again, there is no heavy penalty for dying, and you’ll receive feedback when you made a mistake.
The overall narrative is pretty good. Each of the spirits has its own tortured history for you to unravel. Each of the characters you meet in a chapter has just enough personality and problems to keep you invested in saving them, and, ultimately, in saving yourself.
Spirit Hunter: Death Mark’s strengths are its ambiance and art. The sound is simple but very effective. There is a sense of dread that permeates most of the game that is far more effective than constantly drenching every frame in blood and guts, although that’s well-represented too. The environmental noises keep you on edge and make you wonder when the next horrific discovery will be made, and there are little things that pop up in the environment when you look. It manages tension incredibly well by ramping up and releasing at regular intervals.
The art is fantastic too. Although generally simple like the audio, it communicates everything you need to get a feel for wherever you are, but there are some exceptions to the simplicity. Without sounding like some kind of deviant, the murder art is stunning and beautiful. Finding a dead body or a living body in peril can be gross or bloody, but it can also be incredibly intricate and striking. These are scattered through the game, and they can be a punch to the gut when you don’t expect it. You can revisit these in the gallery. Although it’s mostly great, it’s not all sunshine and corpses in the art. Characters could stand more variety since it seems like they are limited to two poses for any response or emotion.
The one other thing that I found a little annoying was the use of “they” in the translation. You can choose to take certain characters with you, and you’ll have to do that to solve some puzzles. I’m guessing it was easier to add a generic they in the game than programming she or he for each character. Without being the pronoun police, it took me out of the experience a little.
Spirit Hunter: Death Mark is a great visual novel that took an estimated ten hours or so to complete, and I was hooked for the entire time. It leaves the story open at the end, and a sequel has already been released. If it’s as much fun as Death Mark, I can’t wait to play it.
Spirit Hunter: Death Mark PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Spirit Hunter: Death Note is a great visual novel filled with creepy moments and horror around every corner. The combined elements of sound designed to keep you on edge and art that will shock you in both quality and severity act together to create an experience that kept me engaged from beginning to end. If you like horror visual novels, overlook any minor problems. It’s an easy buy.
- Mysterious story with twists until the end
- Great sound and art
- Jumps into the action without much preamble
- Character models only have two poses
- Generic pronoun used in translation
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro
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Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.