I really enjoyed Hello? Hell…o? It’s short, unusual, and I like how it tells its story.
The biggest problem I’m running into with the horror games is that sudden deaths are good, but losing your progress is frustrating and ends up numbing you to whatever cool thing was being pulled out. The best way of handling it I’ve seen was in Misao, where you could quicksave easily and just learned to do that before touching anything, thus allowing you to enjoy the jump scare of getting killed for looking at paper without suffering the annoyance and tedium of having to redo everything. Of course, this still ends up ruining much of the horror. This game takes it a step forward, where the endings actually build, and the lack of control over events keeps things frightening.
Interacting with just about anything ends the game and kicks you back to the start screen. But getting endings causes the room to change and the overall storyline to progress, unlocking new endings as you progress to the ultimate endings, and as you do so, the start screen changes word by increasingly worrying word.
Then there’s a sort of bonus mirror section after you hit the ultimate endings to access the secret endings, weird as that sounds. I’m a bit more ambivalent about that one. In order to progress in the girl’s story, you need to choose to examine the room as the guy at the end and call on the phone so it’ll ring in her room, which just seemed really unintuitive to me, and there’s no logical reason for that to change anything – why does ghost boyfriend kill you immediately if the phone doesn’t ring? For that matter, I don’t see why ghost boyfriend is so much more murderous than ghost girlfriend. I guess it’s there to clue you in that you need to fix something, but I was told was the fireplace was important so I kept poking that, and even checking the phone didn’t do anything unless it was while fleeing now-murderous girlfriend to examine the room and why would you pick up the phone and call her to beg her to move on when she’s right in front of you? Making it easier to get the wrong number end would’ve been the best fix. Maybe have her able to call but not get any response, then make that alter the ghost girlfriend side so his phone rings right when ghost girlfriend shows up. Then it’s more obvious you should check out the phone and try to call.
I also enjoyed Ghost Party. It has some very simple graphics, but they work. It also has a small area jammed full of delicious, delicious flavor text written in an adorable style. There are several areas with walls of windows, and every tile of those windows says something different! If that doesn’t sound as delightful to you as it does to me, run screaming from this game.
And the game itself is all about talking to people – there’s a number of humans and lots of bats, all of whom say something different in each segment. My only problem with it is that while it seems to hint at a backstory, it doesn’t actually deliver on any of it, and the endings are just AND THEN IT IS RESOLVED IN MANNER A OR MANNER B depending on if you manage to figure out the answer in time to save anyone or not. (I did like how things progress.once you talk to everyone – it’s a good way of handling time passing. If you talk to everyone rather than working on what you need to do, well, murder won’t wait.) Still, while the ending wasn’t much, the ride there was gorgeous and full of flavor text.
Finally, there’s The Desolate Hospital. I don’t know what’s wrong with this game. It’s got nice graphics depicting an an unknown gas-masked protagonist using a flashlight to explore a ruined hospital with a creepy girl and blood everywhere.
But it’s just so…eh. There’s a couple good moments, but there’s not enough sense of threat, especially since you have a gun. And in order to finish the game, you have to find all the notes, which requires checking everywhere, but trying to examine anything else but the six notes and a really obvious monster has no reaction, so I was only looking in the most obvious places. Then to defeat the girl at the end, you have to use a completely different mechanic, aiming with the mouse and clicking, that I wasn’t aware even existed. And the resolution is that it’s some sort of game where the girl gives out the jewel to anybody who comes in and goes through the hospital, and something about the world ending probably being a damper on that, so I guess that’s why there’s no sense of threat but wtf? It’s basically the evil mirror twin of Ghost Party.