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Game Info:

The House in Fata Morgana
Developed By: Novectacle
Published By: MangaGamer
Release Date: May 13, 2016
Available On: Windows
Genre: Visual Novel
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: N/A
MSRP: $24.99

Thank you MangaGamer for sending us this game to review!

Recently, one of my visual novel (VN) reviews made it to Reddit’s r/visualnovels, and after engaging with those folks there for a bit, one member of the community highly recommended I check out ‘The House in Fata Morgana’. Armed with their recommendation, I approached MangaGamer, and they graciously offered to send us a review copy. I’m glad they did, as this is one memorable story that I won’t forget anytime soon.

The House in Fata Morgana takes places in what is called a cursed mansion, where the protagonist awakens with pretty much no memory of their past, or any knowledge of anyone at the mansion. A well-dressed and reserved maid welcomes you, sees your condition, and offers to give you a tour, which she hopes will help you jog your memory. Each room leads to you viewing various memories of past events that have taken place there. These memories are quite memorable, and set the stage for future revelations, even if it’s quite subtle in how it does it.

The first story is about a boy and his younger sister, and their comfortable, if lonely, lives as children of nobles. He lacks in confidence, but is a quick study, while she absolutely adores her big brother. Their relationship is quite heartwarming, and the writing, and especially the music, does a great job of really getting you to love these characters.

The second story is one of the darkest pieces of storytelling I have ever seen in any media – though to be fair, I am not one who seeks out horror stories. Here you see the story of an intelligent beast who is having a hard time understanding who or what they are. This beast has a nearly insatiable bloodlust – he enjoys nothing more than killing, plain and simple. The screams of his wounded victims, their cries for mercy as they beg him to spare them, all serves to further empower and enrapture him. This story is extremely gruesome and graphic. Is it not for the faint of heart and I felt a little sick reading it at times.

The House in Fata Morgana
Highlights:

Strong Points: Deep, engaging story with memorable characters and relationships; writing and localization is top notch; fantastic Gothic art style; music is extremely memorable, with hauntingly beautiful singing
Weak Points: Game engine is fairly primitive, and the options menu is not really discoverable without luck or the one hint the game gives you that one time; resolution is in 4:3 aspect ratio; art and text is in a low resolution; could only get to the text history with the mouse wheel (not with keyboard or gamepad)
Moral Warnings: Blood and gore abounds, and is one of the bloodiest pieces of media I have ever consumed in any format; foul language used of nearly any variety, including '*ss', 'sh*t', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'd*mn', ‘b*st*rd’, and 'f*ck', and sometimes with God used in conjunction; tragedies abound for the characters, and include things like mass murder, rape, and attempted incest; said rape is described in some (but not excessive) detail; the darkest aspects of humanity are presented in an extremely human and detailed manner; reincarnation is a major part of the story; God is mentioned a lot in the story, as is the devil; the Church is represented in a mixed light at best, as humanitarian actions are shown as positive, but motivations are impure, and more than one character resigns to being a priest/nun when they did not have the strength to do something better; some meant to represent the faith are closed minded and kill those they deem to be demonic; miracles are present, and represented in a mixed way; one character is shown topless with her arms covering her nipples; some breast size and a few other sexual jokes

The third story is about a very wealthy businessman, and how poorly he treats his lovely wife, and the trials that come about from this later. It’s an incredibly moving story that shows how even the very best and self-sacrificing people have limits, and everyone will eventually break.

All of these stories have incredibly tragic ends, that could have been avoided with some other decision – be it better communication, honesty, or repentance. But they serve to introduce characters that have a long-lasting effect on the overarching narrative, as well as establish the relevance of the mansion and its curse. Describing even a word past chapter three leads too far down spoiler territory to say any more.

I’ve already mentioned that the writing is excellent, and this is absolutely the case. There is quite a bit of foreshadowing in even the simplest of events, and the story takes the time it needs to expound on each character, story, and theme. And to back up that writing is amazing art, in a style that is wholly its own. It’s properly Gothic in style (not just people wearing black), and semi-realistic. It’s awesome, and I hope I haven’t been spoiled to anime art after reading this VN...

As great as the art is, and indeed it is, the music is perhaps even more amazing. Now I have to say, the first time I heard it, I was like ‘what?’ It’s not of a style that I would have chosen at first, but it didn’t take long for me to warm up to it. Each character, scene, and mood is properly represented with a theme, that is sometimes really eerie with noises and sound effects, other times a moody piano, and often with simply incredible female vocals. The words are all in an ancient dialect of Portuguese, and sound very Latin and mysterious. Some of the songs will make your hair stand up, while others sound nearly reverent. This OST (original soundtrack) is nothing short of fantastic.

After the initial chapters, the story turns to another set of characters, that also faces tragedy and suffering. Some of these are simply unspeakable. Unfortunately, I have to share with you some of what happened, both now and before, because of the content concerns. I would much rather not spoil this as such, but be warned – it’s hard to speak of the appropriateness of this game without addressing the incredible darkness contained therein. So here we go.

One character finds himself in a love triangle with a woman and his... sister. She loses her mind and causes unspeakable pain to them all. Another is literally a serial killer, who ends up hurting the ones he loves, and even wipes out a whole village. This chapter is incredibly disturbing; there are not words to describe how depraved and evil it gets. Even cannibalism is a reality here. Another story has a strong component of deep-seated hatred and betrayal.

One story revolves around two characters who have each gone through incredible pain. I hate to even describe this, as it’s massive spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep it as spoiler-free as I can, and blocking it out as needed.

First, a woman is terribly raped by the lord of the manor she is working at. He does this repeatedly, and even carves words into her skin to further humiliate her. She describes what he does to her in some detail, and as such, is for mature audiences only. When she tells part of this tale, she undresses, and the reader sees her completely naked from the navel up, while she holds her breasts with her arms, which hides her nipples. Given the art style, it’s more realistic a sight than perhaps expected, and my wife, who knows I review a lot of VNs was like ‘what are you doing?!?’ I explained it was part of the VN, and in context, not as bad as it looked – but still bad. Most of the VN is not like this, but it does have this scene. They never have sex. For the record, there is also a prostitute character later on who wears very skimpy clothing, with little left to the imagination. She does describe her line of work in front of a child, though. Most women are very conservatively dressed otherwise.

*** Spoiler begins ***

Another character was born what appeared to be female, but, at the age of 14, started having his voice become deep, grew very tall, and had broad shoulders – he clearly had a birth defect, and was born a man, but you could not tell this before puberty. His external appearance, after puberty, was male in all but the most private parts, where he was missing what is expected in a man. (It’s a very rare but not unheard of birth defect.) Those born with such defects have it hard enough in any era – but in the medically ignorant era of the eleventh century? He was called a demon, and banished from the family, after years of torture and isolation. Eventually, when he wanted to return home with the woman he loved, he was called a demon and a witch and was literally crucified and burned at the stake by knights of the Church.

 

*** Spoiler ends ***

The House in Fata Morgana
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 20/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 40%
Violence - 0/10
Language - 3/10
Sexual Content - --5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 4/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

When it comes to spiritual content, there is quite a bit to discuss. First of all, God is mentioned quite a bit, as are nuns and priests. In a couple of cases, people who eventually became nuns or priests did it for the wrong reasons – the love of their lives were lost, or they didn’t have the willpower to say no when asked to serve, despite their faith not being strong enough in their opinion. The Church is a mixed bag; though there are positive examples of the Church helping people, there are also cases where it is being used as an excuse to hurt others.

Reincarnation is also a massively important theme in this story, and it would literally be impossible to tell without it. It’s also said that strong wishes made in death can be made to come true, including wishes for your next life, as well as carried forward memories.

At this point it may seem like an afterthought, but virtually all common curse words are present and accounted for, including '*ss', 'sh*t', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', 'd*mn', ‘b*st*rd’, and 'f*ck', and sometimes with God used in conjunction. By far the most common curse words are probably God used inappropriately, typically with some form of ‘d*mn’. Cursing is not common as a whole through the nearly forty hour story, but it’s most definitely present. Some people are also somewhat prejudiced against someone from another continent.

Technically, the game engine is honestly nothing special. The interface and art is very low resolution, and some of the interface elements require a mouse, despite having basic support for both keyboard and controllers. I could not figure out how to see the scrollback history without a mouse wheel, for example. I could not get to the options menu without either luck or that one time the game tells you where to go; it’s in the bottom corner of the art – not the screen. All art is in 4:3 aspect ratio, which is where you need to move your mouse to save the game. Once you figure this out, it’s fine.

The House in Fata Morgana is one of those tales that is incredibly mature, dark, and bloody like few others – but also exceedingly well written and memorable in a way that few other stories have been. I recall looking at the store page in the past and thinking ‘Gothic? Nah, not for me’ and moving on. But now that I have stopped and actually experienced this masterpiece for myself, I can’t help but sings its praises. It’s an extraordinarily well-written story, and if you are a mature adult, and can stand the content, is worth experiencing. But you need a strong stomach, and it is absolutely not for children under any circumstances. Just be aware that if you do decide to experience this story for yourself, you get to see both what true, sacrificial love looks like – as well as get a good, long look at the deepest, darkest depths of depravity in the human soul.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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