And it’s time for Fatal Frame 5: Second Drop! I have all my fingers, falanges, and fangs crossed that this chapter is a good one. So far, it’s been a bit of a slow burn. And while that’s not unusual for a Fatal Frame game, I’m so ready for the training wheels to come off!
Since there are so many character names, here’s a list of all relevant names this chapter:
- Yuri Kozukata – Our play character this drop. She’s an orphan rescued from suicide by Hisoka, who can see “spirit traces”, like Hisoka. She’s in possession of the Camera Obscura, the camera that can combat ghosts. She also makes questionable decisions.
- Hisoka Kurosawa – Yuri’s mentor who runs an antique shop. She also reads fortunes and finds missing items and people by following spirit traces.
- Fuyuhi Himino – A new character who is looking for her missing friend on Mt. Hikami
- Haruka Momose – Fuyuhi’s missing friend who was seen on Mt. Hikami.
- Ren Hojo – An acquaintance of Hisoka who asked her to find a photobook in the abandoned inn.
A text card provides context about where the second drop starts:
“A few days have passed since Yuri’s introduction to shadow reading at the abandoned inn…
Since then, Hisoka has gone off somewhere and hasn’t returned. Yuri worries for Hisoka, but isn’t sure how or where to start searching.
As she sits waiting at the antiques shop, a girl named Fuyuhi Himinio shows up, claiming to have enlisted Hisoka to help her find a missing person.”
Yuri, looking exceptionally bored, sits behind the counter of an antique shop drenched in sepia tones. It’s been days since she’s seen Hisoka, who left to research a client request. The antique shop is quiet and has been for quite some time.
But a bell chimes and Fuyuhi enters.
Fuyuhi seems soft-spoken and gentle and incredibly sad, and I have nothing but bad feelings about her. She just feels like someone who has a tragic fate waiting for them.
Fuyuhi tells Yuri that she’s been waiting for Hisoka’s answer about whether or not Hisoka can find her missing friend, Haruka. But when Yuri doesn’t have the answer, Fuyuhi resolves to go to Mt. Hikami to find her friend… alone. Despite its reputation as a suicide destination.
Before Yuri can speak any sense into her, Fuyuhi is gone, determined to find Haruka herself. But Yuri’s moved by Fuyuhi’s case, and decides to investigate Hisoka’s room to see if there’s any clues about the missing Haruka.
Leaving the shop, we go into the back office. There, we find a book that provides a bit of lore about Mt. Hikami. And I can’t resist a nice bit of lore.
Mt. Hikami has always been a famed ghost spot and is also home to the “Maidens of Black Water”. Women who, if you see them, will surely lead you to your death. Those caught in the maidens’ gaze will never leave the mountain. And those who die on Mt. Hikami, but don’t die in accordance with “local practices” become cursed and are forced to relive their final moments for eternity.
If you see either a looping spirit or a Maiden of Black, you’ll desperately want to take your own life.
Or so the rumors go.
It doesn’t sound like a place you should go by yourself. Or maybe at all.
Upstairs, in Hisoka’s cozy room, Yuri finds a letter and an attached photo from Fuyuhi. In it, Fuyuhi and Haruka smile happily.
This is the token Yuri needs to find Haruka.
But why would see risk everything, after all Hisoka’s warnings, to chase after someone who’s likely been spirited away?
Mikomori Hot Springs
The sun sinks behind Mt. Hikami, but Yuri makes the walk to Mikomori Hot Springs on the mountain. She clasps the photo of Fuyuhi and Haruka, hopeful that it will lead her to Fuyuhi before things go terribly wrong.
She crosses the bridge beside the abandoned inn, and see the first trace of a spirit, climbing up moss covered stairs. It’s possible it’s Fuyuhi, but at the distance it’s hard to tell. She climbs up the stairs and sees the trace again.
It’s Fuyuhi! We’re on the right track, she definitely went this way. And yet I have nothing but feelings of foreboding.
An item lies on the ground beside a small creek, and we reach to pick it up. But the moment we do a hand grabs us, forcing us to violently struggle out of its grip. Even though these grabby hands are a staple of Fatal Frame, it’s a jump scare that absolutely got me. I’m more nervous than I’d like to be to finally be on this mountain.
Yuri breaks free and claims the item — a tourist brochure of Mt. Hikami, which includes a map. How useful! It turns out we’re on our way to the Pool of Purification, and if we continue onward we’ll reach the Unfathomable Forest.
What a… charming name for a tourist spot.
As we pass close to a waterfall, we get a little wet, and we’re introduced to the “wetness meter” aspect of the game. The wetter we are, the easier a target we’ll be for malevolent spirits. That makes sense, when you consider how spirits and water are often tied together in Japanese folklore.
Above us a woman screams, and we see a dark shadow fall as she plunges down the waterfall. Yuri scarcely reacts – did she even see it?
At the end of the path, we find a pool of water, roped off. No doubt this is the Pool of Purification. It’s clearly a ceremonial place. But within it we find Hisoka’s camera obscura. That’s not a good sign.
It was swept her by the currents and caught in the shallows of the pool. So, Hisoka must be here on this mountain, alone and unarmed.
Two spirits lumber out of the pool before we can contemplate the severity of the sitation. They’re much more aggressive than the spirit in the inn. But they go down easily enough, and Yuri is left standing with the camera in her hands.
Hisoka is here, but so is Fuyuhi. We need to find her first.
We reach the top of the cliff, where the waterfall begins, and see the spirit of a woman standing atop it. She screams – the exact same scream we heard below, and leaps, plunging to her death in the waters below.
Is this one of the looping spirits written about in Hisoka’s book about Mt. Hikami? A spirit cursed to repeat its final moments for all eternity? What a terrible way to go.
We turn and reach a fork in the path, indicating that we’re close to the unfathomable forest. We turn left and see a spirit trace of Fuyuhi. On the ground is a note she’s left behind. Has Haruka been spirited away, Fuyuhi wonders?
At this point, yes. I think it’s safe to say she has been.
We follow the trace deeper into the woods. Stone lanterns have been lit, but instead of being comforting, the flames only add to the feeling that we’re somewhere we shouldn’t be. Who lit all these lanterns in a place that is supposedly abandoned?
We delve deeper into the woods and find a crumpled note. The writer states that he’s seen the same girl hang herself over and over. But whenever he tries stop running he winds up right back where he started. Then, he stated he start to mimic her, hanging himself. But that death took a long time to come. And yet when he awakes, it all starts again.
A looping spirit watching a looping spirit. But it’s interesting that ghosts can write notes.
We find Fuyuhi again, her back to us like always. But her trace ends here.
But where she was standing is a note – and it’s one written with desperation, love, and a more than a smidge of darkness. Fuyuhi states that she wishes she was the one that disappeared. That Haruka is irreplaceable to her. And that she has a secret she wishes she’d told her before Haruka vanished, and that she wishes they could end things together.
Is this letter influenced by Mt. Hikami, which seems to drive people to self-destruction? Or does this truly reflect Fuyuhi’s heart? It’s hard to tell.
Yuri uses the note to try and pick up Fuyuhi’s trace again, but the moment she glances up a hanged woman is staring down at her. The hanged woman vanishes, and Yuri’s set upon by a gang of ghostly men.
They’re dispatched easily enough.
A little deeper into the woods and we find an old, abandoned tent, with a note peeking out of its entrance. The tent belongs to a man who came to the woods to die. It feels right, he says, and he isn’t lonely. There are plenty of people here who are already dead.
But one woman is watching him. A woman in white. And he knows that one day she’ll come for him.
It’s worth it to stray off the beaten path to find spots like these. The lore is what makes the Fatal Frame series so rich, and there’s so many items to find. It’s better to find them during the drop then spend your hard-earned points on them!
Not too far from the tent we find a series of small Jizo statues arranged around an air hole. A low howl of wind comes from the hole. This, Yuri infers, is a place of some significance. Perhaps later on we’ll find out what that significance is. But Fuyuhi is waiting, and we leave this mossy nook to find her.
We cross a bridge, and arrive at a shrine. There again we catch the trace of Fuyuhi.
But I hate this shrine. I hate everything about it.
It’s a shrine dedicated to dolls.
Why would anyone come here? Seriously, why?
And don’t they look a little TOO similar to the one in the abandoned inn? The one who turned to stare at us?
Another note of Fuyuhi’s has been discarded here. In it, she reminisces about Haruka. I really think she must be in love with her. But the moment we drop the note we’re treated to a child ghost. The Girl Watching from Behind.
She’s undoubtedly connected to this doll shrine. She and her staring companions don’t do anything but stare, and I’m grateful for that. I hate ghost children.
But as we try and recatch Fuyuhi’s trace, we’re beset by another spirit. He’s alone and easy enough to take down.
Yuri searches a little farther and sees a woman plunge to her death from a cliff, hitting the ground. Snapping her photo is tough, but when we grab it, we see that it says “Pushed Woman”. A note beside where her body fell is titled “Apparent Suicide Note” and says: I can die alone here. I can take things slowly. A peaceful, dignified death.
Someone thought she was taking a little too long, I suppose.
But just a bit beyond that is Fuyuhi. The real Fuyuhi. Yuri calls to her, but she seems to be on a trance. She murmurs that she’s certain Haruka is here on this mountain. But when Yuri lays a hand on Fuyuhi’s shoulder her mind is flooded with a vision.
Five school girls, standing hand-in-hand in a pond, wading deeper into it, as if they mean to drown. Then, only Haruka and Fuyuhi, lying in the ponds shallows. They were the only two to survive a group suicide attempt.
The vision ends, and Yuri understands the deep connection the two girls share. She promises Fuyuhi that she’ll find Haruka. Fuyuhi, placated for now, follows her.
We find another note on the ground from a person who says they felt compelled to come to this mountain before sunset, and sink into its waters, where a woman calls for them. But they have to sink before sunset. And they have to write. It didn’t matter what they wrote – only that they did it.
It’s nice to have a reason for the absolute scrapbook of notes we’re finding everywhere.
But who’s calling these people, and for what reason? Is this woman the reason why Mt. Hikami has a reputation for spiriting people away?
Another writer of a different note seems to have encountered the same woman. But he seems to think she was a shrine maiden, and he was happy she was there to watch his final moments.
A little farther and we’re attacked by a ghost who seems unlike the others. She’s almost… familiar. She wears a dress, and she seems lost, maybe confused? We exorcise her, but the moment Yuri touches her, we’re faced with the woman’s memory.
She was in the woods and saw someone jump from a cliff. But the broken body got up and chased her until she reached the cliff overlooking the waterfall. And it was there that the terrifying, broken ghost pushed her. The confused woman was the very first ghost we saw here – and now she’s cursed to run and fall off that waterfall forever.
We draw back towards the doll shrine, and the children are here. Now they want to play, but every time they lay hands on you, you take damage. They’re mischievous, fast, and utterly annoying.
We exorcise and touch The Girl Watching from Behind and see her memory. She and the other children were lured by a girl with white hair further into the mountain. The same girl in Ren Hojo’s dream, who was stabbed in the back and pushed into the black box.
Once the fight is done, we find Hisoka’s pendant by the river. Touching it, we see a vision of Hisoka fighting in the water, only to be pulled under by a ghostly woman. The camera obscura floats away, and Hisoka is nowhere to be seen.
Fuyuhi vanishes and there’s someone singing nearby. But a strange, off-kilter song.
“Play with me forever. I will always remember you. I know I’ll remember you. Forever and ever—”
We follow it to find Fuyuhi, standing across the river, a blade in hand. As she sings, she raises the blade to her own neck and the song abruptly cuts off. When Yuri brings herself to look again Fuyuhi is gone.
No, she’s not gone.
She’s right behind her.
Her neck is scarlet, as is the front of her dress. And her head lolls in a strange, disjointed way. She lunges, and here comes the boss fight.
You exorcise her and she turns to her unbloodied self, collapsing to the ground. Yuri touches her, and again Fuyuhi’s memories flood into her.
Fuyuhi sees a blade on the ground and picks it up. A few yards away, she sees a spirit cutting its own throat.
As if her hand is being controlled by someone else, Fuyuhi puts the blade against her own neck, mimicking the spirit, and she struggles desperately against it. Behind her, we see the spirit that had cut its own throat with a vice on Fuyuhi’s hand, trying to force the blade against Fuyuhi’s skin.
In the mist Fuyuhi sees Haruka — or what she thinks is Haruka. And in her surprise her resolve loosens and the spirit takes control, forcing Fuyuhi to cut her own throat. But the spirit that was watching her wasn’t Haruka at all. Rather, a woman wearing a veil. The woman, perhaps, described in so many notes. This woman watches Fuyuhi die.
The memory fades but the woman who watched Fuyuhi die doesn’t. And now she has her sights set on Yuri.
This woman, a spirit, is our tutorial in being “tainted”. Some ghost attacks can leave us tainted by the Black Water. While tainted our health continuously decreases. Only by purifying ourselves or defeating all present ghosts can we cure this status effect.
This fight is challenging because of the status effect, but we defeat her. She kneels, and we perform the fatal glance, glimpsing her memories.
A man flees a woman who seems intent on killing him. Is this mad woman the woman we exorcised? No matter who it is, Yuri is certain that she’s the one who brought Fuyuhi here. The one who made her kill herself.
Where does that leave us? Empty-handed, traumatized, without our only mentor and friend. Yuri can only retreat to the antique shop and try to regroup.
Well! Fatal Frame 5 Second Drop is certainly the best part of the game so far. The atmosphere is spot on. Fatal Frame is a series that has always prided itself in grounding its games in Japanese environments and it’s done so perfectly with this drop.
It’s also done a much better job introducing us to new mechanics while also allowing us to practice the basics. I never felt too overwhelmed with fights, either in number or difficulty.
The only true critique I can give is that the level felt flat at times. While it’s great that they created an in-game rationale for why there are so many notes, it sometimes felt too much. But I enjoyed the ability to see the backstory of some the more memorable ghosts.
Overall I had a great time. I’m glad I stuck through it.
Completion Time: 2 hours, approximately
Heretic’s Fork Review: Punish Sinners Like it’s Your Job (It Is)
Welcome to your new corporate job. It’s Hell. No, really. In Heretic’s Fork, Punish sinners, chat with your co-workers, and don’t forget to check your email before you clock out!
Heretic’s Fork is a 2023 video game by 9FingerGames and published with Ravenage Games. 9FingerGames is a one-man studio run by Stevie Andrea that is also responsible for titles such as Zapling Bygone. While only out since September, Heretic’s Fork has already garnered several accolades. These include selection for Fear Fest 2023 and The Mini Indie Showcase as well as making Rock Paper Shotgun’s Bestest Bests list.
Heretic’s Fork is a deck-building, tower defense, bullet-hell (ha) game where you take on hordes of souls trying to escape Hell. To begin, you choose an employee to help you in your task. Each employee has a special ability (and variants) that do everything from nothing to stat buffs to adding whole new mechanics. For example the starting character, Intern Ruby, gives no bonuses. But, Gilbo Gibbins introduces a luck-based wheel that encourages you to gamble your cards away for potentially big rewards (and risks).
As the game progresses, you build and upgrade structures to bolster your defenses against the increasingly difficult hordes of sinners. You also have a deck, through which you upgrade your stats and gain special abilities. With rogue-like elements, you are able to unlock new cards and characters by completing goals, using coins, or finding secrets. This leaves a lot to uncover as you work your way through the circles of Hell. While your screen quickly becomes bullet hell, your structures are more or less automated and do all the sinner punishing for you. The real strategy comes in what cards (and structures) you play, upgrade, and get rid of as the game progresses.
I have a soft spot for rogue-like deck building games. Heretic’s Fork is no different. I love the diversity of game play through the many structure, character, and card options. The mechanics really complement the game play choices, making each run feel unique and rewarding.
It was easy to spend hours at a time achievement hunting and exploring the hidden secrets buried in your file systems. In fact, I easily put 20 hours into Heretic’s Fork within two weeks of buying it! It also helped that it was an easy game to play on the Steam Deck, despite it not being created with the Steam Deck in mind. That being said, endless mode did stretch my Steam Deck to its limits (but my PC did just fine). It is also of note, that since September the game has been regularly updated with both paid and unpaid bonus content. It feels like every time I’m ready to move on, something new drops and I’m forced to dive back in!
If you are a fan of tower defense, rogue-like, or deckbuilding games, Heretic’s Fork is definitely worth checking out! It’s only $10 on Steam, which is well worth the price for an interesting gaming experience.
(5 / 5)
The Thing in Review, Movie 1, Movie 2 and the Board Game
The Thing… Where to start? I guess we’ll start at the beginning, or the first movie as it were, in 1982…. (Note: for all that it is based upon the same book, I am not including the 1951 The Thing from Another World in this review as it is very different from the later iterations. Nor am I reviewing the book itself.)
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a cult classic film and a staple of the horror genre despite its original release to lackluster attendance. It focuses on a small group of Antarctic researchers desperately trying to piece together the mystery of what happened at a neighboring outpost before succumbing to the horror itself. Seems that some “thing” was unearthed from its burial in the long frozen ice and has been released to roam the desolate Antarctic wasteland in a ravenous bodyshaping doppleganger frenzy.
The psychological thriller aspect of this film is laid on thick, with distrust sown between the scant trapped crew remaining, trying to figure out who is and isn’t affected. The characters don’t act irrationally based on tired tropes, making somewhat reasonable choices based on what information they have and learn over the course of the incident, save for acting solo or in pairs despite known risks.
Paranoia reigns supreme and the implications of the circumstances the crew finds themselves in are not lost in the shuffle. This elusive us-versus-them setup is the film’s best quality. And as for another film great, I totally want MacReady’s helicopter flying hat. That is some grand fashion, if I do say so myself. But I digress…
The Bad (or at least, The Ugly)
I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I will mention that the alien being appears in numerous gruesome scenes. Personally, I feel that this is where the film falls short. I get that we had to see its evolving body horror nature to better understand the implications of what the alien can and cannot do as its abilities are revealed.
But it starts to fall into the campy uncanny valley bordering on comic relief when there is too much focus placed on showing the intruder. In my opinion, such vagaries are often more terrifying when left unseen, for the viewer’s imagination to run wild. That said, I will remind everyone that this was before CG, and it was a wholly different world of special effects then. So, for 1982 amidst the shiny happy wonderment surrounding E.T., The Thing was freakishly damn creepy.
I give the original film 4.0 Cthulhus.
(4 / 5)
On to the prequel, the 2011 version of The Thing exploring exactly what had happened at the Norwegian base camp, as seen in the setup in the John Carpenter release…
So, despite all of the mixed reviews out there, I rather liked the prequel. I thought it did pretty well conveying the same moods and story as the 1982 release.
As expected, the prequel did use a lot more fancy pants computer generated content to depict the sheer terror of the Thing itself. Although it relied heavily on this, I think it used the new capability rather well while still paying homage to the original. The scene developing the two-faced monster was wonderfully creepy in much the same spirit as the 1982 release. The psychological distress revved up very convincingly, with the characters’ paranoia escalating in ways that made sense internally. And the jump scares and grotesque features were good.
The Bad and the Ugly
The way that the events panned out and how the characters interacted within their circumstances was unfortunately less developed than in the original film. As a prequel, not all of the actions led into the 1982 film in ways that were believable, and thus beg the question of when all that research was conducted with the videos made and written records chronicled. The timeline just doesn’t feel at all consistent. Did this occur over a day, two days, a month, or even a few months’ time? This is not wholly clear. The movie plays out as if everything happened within 48 hours but that doesn’t naturally follow with all of the setup.
And the 2011 release relied more on typical horror tropes like scientific secrecy and splitting up in ways that don’t entirely make sense. A lot of the characters behaved less rationally even despite being shown to process the information at hand quickly. It’s almost like they were trying to set themselves up to be jump scared and assimilated. Who knows, maybe they were?
But my biggest beef with this film is the weirdness with the alien spaceship. I won’t spoil the plot by giving it away, but suffice it to say the alien’s capabilities seem more influenced by how quickly the humans learn what they can do rather than what they are actually able to accomplish, which creates a sort of unique dysfuntion all its own. I’d have shrugged this off if not for the spaceship but instead was left feeling like the movie just had to push for an Iron Man moment (like in The Martian). I guess sometimes we need a big red sign on the wall that says “Bang head here” in the form of a WTF movie moment.
So I give the 2011 prequel only 3.0 Cthulhus. If I had seen this first I don’t know that I’d have gone out of my way to see the 1982 release, and it really just wasn’t as good as the original despite the psychological tension and creepy factor. I know I started off this mini-review stating that I rather liked it, and I genuinely did. But then again I also rather liked parts of The Minions movie from the Despicable Me enterprise (it had me laughing any way; what can I say, I’m easy sometimes), so you do the math…
(3 / 5)
The Board Game
And finally, The Thing the board game, based on the 1982 film. Note: there are previous games along themes of The Thing, but I have only played the recent 2022 release. All of the versions have had mixed reviews, mostly being compared to the Battlestar Galactica game of hidden identities, often held as the pinnacle of this “hidden role” game style.
I really like this game. I love that you can sow paranoia as you try to figure out who is and isn’t human. And if you don’t have enough players to really delve into the psychological aspects of this, with every man out for himself, you can play cooperatively against the game itself as the harsh environment, sabotage and alien infiltration take their toll. And as many of you know, I adore cooperative games.
The board game is a hidden identity structure featuring characters from the 1982 movie. Player characters do not know whether the others are human or are alien-imitating-fake-human trying to assimilate them into the alien threat. Everyone is acting upon their own motives and suspicions as they try to get the hell outta Dodge back to the civilized world. I have not been able to approach this in the full version as my tabletop game group is small, but the cooperative version does still offer some sense of the terror and urgency felt.
The game mechanics are a bit chunky but they aren’t overly complicated and the game doesn’t generally outlast its run time of around an hour once you get the hang of the actions and how the phases play out. Again, we’ve played it cooperatively and this may or may not hold true depending on your game group. First off, you have to account for the weather, which always comes first in such an inhospitable environment as Antarctica. Next, player characters determine where they are going and theoretically what they are doing, though this doesn’t reveal itself immediately and doesn’t necessarily make it apparent who is and isn’t human. Then the alien threat is established and the leader takes a role in determining what happens where. Eventually, food is eaten, tests are administered, and the dogs get out and wreak havoc.
The art is lovely and hearkens to the original film. And the game is fun. But the game mechanics and rules are not entirely well-explained in all circumstances, including the translation between standard and cooperative play, and the playbook raises more questions than answers. There is much heated debate over the interpretation of this, and my group was not exempt from the discussion around when exactly the dogs get out.
Returning to the film does not offer a better explanation, as the game deviates from the movie in enough ways to create possibilities around actions too far gone, such as blood testing or repairing the communications to call for help. And the original monstrous dog has a big role at the start of the film, pretty much going wherever it likes, so are the dogs supposed to be in or out? Unsure. So expect to get bogged down in this discourse for awhile, especially if you don’t all agree on how the game should be played.
The Fine Print
Because of this extra confusion, sowing dissent for reasons that have nothing to do with the movie or theme and everything to do with people having their own ideas of how the rules and setup should be interpreted, I give the game only 3.0 Cthulhus. Lack of definition in these circumstances is not a boon, and should not be left to the imagination (unlike the portrayal of monstrous creatures which can benefit from not revealing too much). And since everyone is paranoid and self-serving, it only muddles up discussion of how to interpret the rules more, depending on what side you’re on, human versus alien threat… That said, the game is fun and, if your gaming group isn’t full of a bunch of rules lawyers like mine is, hopefully you won’t get too bogged down in the fine print.
(3 / 5)
And for follow up, we decided to ignore the forums and make a house rule that one dog begins outside of the kennel sowing confusion and the location deck is interacted with from there to see if the other dogs are released. This seems to be more in keeping with the spirit of the original film, for whatever that’s worth. The other dogs weren’t even shown to be at risk until that dog is taken to the kennel, so maybe they shouldn’t come out to play until exposed. And here we go again…
More Game Reviews
If you enjoyed this review and want to explore another creepy cooperative game with lots of character motive, feel free to read about Dead of Winter. Or you can delve further into the survivalist genre with Ravine.
Fear & Hunger (2018), a Game Review
Fear & Hunger (2018) is an RPG survival horror game developed by Miro Haverinen, using RPG Maker for a dungeon-crawling horror.
Fear & Hunger (2018) is an RPG survival horror game developed by Miro Haverinen. This RPG Maker game brings to life a dungeon-crawling horror set in a grimdark fantasy world. Published by Happy Paintings, this game remains available on Steam and Itch.io.
You are one of four adventurers tasked with uncovering the truth of a dungeon simply called Fear and Hunger. Fighting through the horrors, you must manage your hunger, health, and sanity. But with fate stacked against you, how can you hope to survive?
What I like about Fear & Hunger
Despite the plethora of RPG Maker horrors, Fear & Hunger stands out in nearly every way. While it looks like an RPG Maker game, the aesthetic provides a uniquely decrepit and haunting visual uncommon even among the horrors.
Fear & Hunger wears its inspirations on its sleeves. Any casual search on the development, even the aesthetics, will reveal these influences. However, it weaves these inspirations to add something new.
This game is excruciatingly hard and unfair in the best of ways! I tried a few runs with specific tests in mind. One was on the default experience, or “easy mode.” This mode affects how much damage monsters can take before dying but doesn’t notably affect your “luck” rolls. It’s these luck rolls that truly make the experience. Every step can lead to danger, forcing you into rolls that may cost your life.
Many factors lead to abrupt endings or benefits, making each playthrough unique. Each level has a few different potential layouts. While not procedural generation, this provides variety throughout playthroughs.
There are several options and ways to play that I enjoy indulging in, following the structural choices akin to Souls-like games. While there are no inherent right ways to play, there are easier options and tactical decisions. This truth applies to character selection. In fighting, the Knight gave me the easiest introduction. The Dark Priest requires more tactical gameplay but companionless potential if played to their unique strengths. The Barbarian can provide the easiest food resource and competent combat. Lastly, the Mercenary acts more like a rogue, so try and avoid initial confrontation.
Tired Tropes and Triggers
The most important trigger to mention is sexual assault. This game, unfortunately, includes several examples of sexual assault and abuse. While these often lead to blackout screens, the game leaves nothing to the imagination. The creator took the feedback to heart and made drastic changes to the sequel to minimize these moments. However, this doesn’t change the first Fear & Hunger.
If you get squeamish by pixelated nudity, then it’ll be hard to overlook the quantity found in Fear & Hunger. There’s more male nudity throughout the game. This point is especially the case when concerning enemies. Regardless, it remains ever-present. A game option might even turn you into a nude abomination.
As a sanity meter implies, characters can have mental breakdowns. Characters must indulge in various activities, including drug use, to survive.
What I Dislike about Fear & Hunger, or Food for Thought
Failure often leads to punishment. Where most games provide a game over, Fear & Hunger forces you to play. In these moments, the character is usually bleeding out and crawling, with little hope for salvation. I don’t exactly understand this gameplay decision. You lost to die again? There are likely ways to survive these scenarios, but some moments seem impossible and unrewarding.
I’ve heard mention that this game “hates you.” While I disagree with the wording, I will say that chance plays a heavy role in your survival. You can do everything right, but a few uncontrollable rolls can doom you to death. These dice rolls even affect when and if you get a saving book or can rest (to save), which likely means you lose progress.
Despite the innovation in gameplay mechanics, this remains an RPG Maker game. Movement remains linear, requiring the keypad to adjust to specific angles.
Fear & Hunger remain terrifying. As one delves further into the dungeon, harder choices force the character into more desperate acts. Few games truly make these decisions necessary, like Fear & Hunger. While mechanics are a bit janky, and the material does shock for the sake of shocking the viewer, it captures a darkness few games dare to cross.
(4 / 5)