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Mary Skelter: Nightmares
Score: 86%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Idea Factory
Developer: Compile Heart
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
As a rule, I really enjoy horror themed RPGs. They have all the fun of an RPG with the added bonus of a horror story. Along those lines is the new dungeon crawler, Mary Skelter: Nightmares. This isnít your typical dungeon crawler though, as you will find the monsters can chase you!

In Mary Skelter: Nightmares, youíll immediately notice how creepy this place is. Of course, you wonít have any clue of the full extent of how creepy until you start playing. This world is Hell, and itís easy to see why. The people are stuck in a living city called Jail. The walls of the cells are quite fleshy and everything is bloody-looking and gross. You have to feel bad for all the people stuck in this place. Nothing is clean and white, except the clothing for the people of the Order of the Sun. Everyone else is clothed in black and red. Given that pretty much everything is scavenged from the remains of the city that was once there, the inhabitants show creativity in their clothing and living areas. While the color palettes are all dark, theyíre varied in looks. The monsters are the same. You can almost tell what they might have been before they were changed by Jail, but theyíre definitely monstrous now. The Nightmares can possibly give you nightmares when you fall asleep. Theyíre beyond creepy!

The music is very interesting. Itís like chamber music at times and at others, it's a fast pop. Whatever you want to call it, it fits the story well. You can choose between English and Japanese for the audio. Youíll also have subtitles in English, so if you choose Japanese, youíll still know whatís going on. In both languages, the voicework is well done. They did a great job of matching the voices to the characters and their personalities.

An entire city disappears into an abyss. All the people who lived there are now being tortured by creatures called Marchens in this new hell that they live in, Jail. The torture is so strange, like licking the walls, forcing you to scream, and other oddities. Jack and Alice support each other and want to escape. When Red Riding Hood shows up for Alice, she refuses to go without Jack. Red tells them that Alice is a blood maiden, like her and the blood maidens are the only ones who can fight the Marchens. They are part of a group called Dawn, people dedicated to trying to save others from Jail. They want to provide a place where people can attempt to live a more normal life, without Nightmares. This is definitely not an easy task! Luckily, there are some interesting people to help you.

The Professor is the leader of the Dawn. Red Riding Hood calls him Dad, but Iím still not sure if he is her actual biological father or not. Haru is a craftsman for the Dawn and he runs the Blood Weapon Factory where you will go to upgrade/mend your weapons. Clara is his assistant. Miko Ueshima is basically going to keep you patched up at the Rescue Center. Kaguya is a stuck-up Princess who is powerful, but she refuses to fight. You can give gifts and interior items to others in their rooms. Gifts can raise their affection for you; Interior items will change the room decor. Hitsuka and Oohime are the "representatives of the Order of the Sun," basically a religious organization and Iím still not sure I trust them. Order HQ is where you will get new missions. You can get orders from the people that live in town. Take all on that you can because you will get rewards for completion. I have yet to see a limit on how many you can take at once.

In this strange world of oddities, Alice is also different in that she can end (and survive) a Blood Skelter state, thanks to Jack. A Blood Skelter state happens after they have essentially been pushed over the edge of sanity. Dawn is very interested in how this is possible, and whether it is Jack or Alice thatís the key. In this search for truth and escape, Jack and Alice are not going to find things easy, but hopefully you will find answers.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares provides three difficulty levels: Dream, Normal, and Horror. Dream has easier enemies and a mini-map everywhere, but less gold and EXP. Normal does not give you a mini-map when you come across a Nightmare while Horror has harder enemies, but more gold and EXP. You can change the difficulty at any time under Settings, so donít worry that youíre locked in. If youíre like me and have no sense of direction, you might find you want to play on Dream simply for that mini-map during the Nightmare chase. I found myself turned around and running into dead ends continually, not to mention getting caught in my own traps, while being chased by Nightmares just because I couldnít remember where I was going.

Youíll need to pay attention to the elements of your attacks and the elements of your enemies if you want to take them down effectively. There are five elements: Water, Fire, Wind, Lightning, and Earth. Water beats Fire -> Wind -> Lightning -> Earth -> Water. If you attack a weak element, you can cause blood splatter, which will fill up the maidenís gauge. Once filled, the maiden will go into "Massacre Mode," which will boost their stats and give them more powerful skills. Massacre Mode will only last a certain number of turns. Overkill defeats and critical hits will also cause blood splatters.

They are all about licking in this game. Once the blood splatter gauge is filled, you can lick that character, which will activate their Blood Soul Skill. These are a variety of healing and restoring skills. Just be aware that once you lick them, the gauge will empty.

Nightmares are monsters that donít die. Youíll know they are close when the dungeon gets darker. They will chase you until you are dead, unless you can get far enough away (which is why you get to keep the mini-map on Dream difficulty). You can battle the Nightmare if you get caught. Hit it to knock it down and then you might have more time to escape.

Game Mechanics:
The battle system in Mary Skelter: Nightmares is turn-based, so you shouldn't have much trouble getting used to the controls. Battles are randomly walked into or youíll see a pink diamond-shape on the screen. You will also fight a battle anytime you pick up a memo. In battle, the turn order is determined by agility, so make sure to keep an eye out on your characterís agility and whose turn is coming up soon. You win your battle when all the enemies are defeated and you lose if all party members get KOíd.

You can use the mini-map to automove to a specific spot of your choosing. Itíll even let you cross floors. Press (Square) to bring up the map full-screen if you need to see it better. You can select to automatically move from here. You are going to need to use the characterís Blood Abilities. Use (RS) to switch between the characters (youíll see their picture on the bottom left of the screen), and then press (O) to use Blood Abilities. These are special abilities that are different for each character. Alice can create "rabbit holes" that you can use to save. Red can cut wires, so you can get to all those chests that are behind screens. Sometimes you are going to have to get over any fear of heights you might have and walk across chains. You go forward like normal, but you will need to use (RS) to balance. Itís not extremely hard, but it can be a bit difficult to get used to.

If you like turn-based dungeon crawlers, you should check out Mary Skelter: Nightmares. Itís a well done game that just might scare you at times, in a good way.

-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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