Misao is the first game by the same person who did Mad Father. The graphics are a lot cruder but otherwise I found it enjoyable, if hard to take quite seriously. Also, the backstory reveal involves unnecessarily nasty abuse, down to including rape, so avoid if you’re bothered by that.
It opens with a nine minute cutscene, but unlike Mad Father, the rest of the game has very little of this.
It isn’t particularly well designed. I found another classmate being menaced by an evil spirit. I’d just found a bat, so I tried to figure out how to use the bat to stop it and couldn’t, all while it just stood there.
And stood there. And stood there, as I looked up online how to use items I’d selected only to discover apparently, what I was supposed to do was go back to the entrance and get a fire extinguisher to hit it with instead. And somehow my short trip back there was the limits of the extraordinarily patient spirit, because only then did it act, and frankly, anyone who can’t run away in five minutes deserves what they get. In the room right next to it, there’s a puzzle that requires you try to open a door three times, which also isn’t particularly intuitive. And there’s a pointless mechanic where you have to have an item equipped to use it, even though items can only be used once on a particular thing.
Absolutely everything kills you. I was actually enjoying that until I was killed because I walked by a telephone. It didn’t even spit out acid or something when I tried to answer it, I was just so startled by the phone’s ordinary ring I jumped, hit the ordinary wall that was not made of any spikes, and instadied. Lame. Anyway, it’s generally more entertaining than annoying because there’s a quicksave mechanic, so you just have to remember to save before interacting with anything. Sometimes it’ll tell you you can’t save, which means you’re about to be in a dangerous situation, but generally you can retreat, save, and reenter the area. It also has a warp function, where you can teleport to one of two locations. One is the save point. I mostly used this to move between areas more quickly, because one is on the third floor next to a pathway to the first and the other is in the middle of the second floor.
It’s also limited by the fact it only has a single profile pic for the characters, and most of them are in jaunty, expressive poses that fit their initial cutscene casual school chatting dialogue but not the blind terror and/or hideously injured dialogue of most of the game.
There’s two endings, done in the pretty good style of a final choice you can make so you don’t need to replay the whole game. I stupidly saved after that and had to replay to see the other ending, but the game is also extremely short – you can power through once you know where everything is in about half an hour. Getting the good ending unlocks a bonus game, which is basically just several long cutscenes, but they’re interesting in the information they give – although like a lot of Japanese forgiveness things, I wasn’t too impressed by the whole idea. And you can also unlock another version where you play as a male character instead of a female one, and there’s some slight story changes there.
Storywise, there’s not much here. There’s a last minute twist that was mostly done well but relies on a cheat for one scene where someone remains quiet for no reason at all, and otherwise it’s just run around gathering body parts. There’s two fake choices you can make to try to save someone, but one kills you and in the other you actually don’t save them. But, perhaps because of this minimalism, I found the protagonist to be more consistent than in Mad Father – she’s weirdly obsessed with the dead girl and completely unfazed by the gore, chirping “I’ve found you, Misao!” upon Misao’s eyeballs falling out at her feet. And that’s weird, but it never tried to portray her as not-weird, so it works.
Then there’s some random elements, with the student council and the slasher film mad scientist lab, that seem shoehorned in from some other idea the designer had (and in fact, they pop up with a similar lack of any explanation in the next game). If anything it’d probably helped for those to be even more prominent, so they could justify their existence a bit. I think it might have been that the school was fused with another area, since one of the characters says her bedroom and library have fused, but there’s no explanation for the lab beyond the implication it’s part of the same place they came from.