Game Info:

Mary Skelter: Nightmares
Developed By: Idea Factory / Compile Heart
Published By: Ghostlight LTD (Idea Factory on Vita)
Release Date: July 19, 2018 (September 19, 2017 on Vita)
Available On: Windows, PS Vita
Genre: Role-Playing Game, Dungeon Crawler
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
MSRP: $24.99 (Windows), $29.99 (PS Vita)
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Thank you Ghostlight for sending us this game to review!

Everyone is being held against their will in a strange living organism called the 'jail.' This existence is punctuated by nearly daily torture regiments where they are abused physically to within an inch of their life (but rarely killed), inflicted pain such that they scream and wail or, oddly enough, asked to lick the walls for hours on end. This seemingly endless abuse is done to satisfy the carnal desires of the jail - which seems to both enjoy and gain power from the suffering of its occupants. Marchens are the creatures that are native to the jail, and humans are their victims.

Jack and Alice are two such torture subjects, who have known each other since they were very young. They share a cell together, which helps keep them as strong and sane as they can be. Sometimes, after a rigorous torture session, Alice's eyes turn pink, after which she can also become quite agitated. Strangely enough, by licking a bit of Jack's blood, she returns back to her normal self instantly, and feels much better. Since they discovered this, Jack has been supporting her literally with himself as the torture continues day in and day out.

One day, they hear a strange commotion outside of their cell - it sounds like Marchen screams! Not long thereafter, a girl who calls herself Red Riding Hood bursts through the cell door, tosses some Marchen blood (which is pink) on Alice, sees the pink eyes, and frees them from their cell, after proclaiming that she is a Blood Maiden, as is Alice. On their way out to escape, Alice starts to lose it again, after which Jack gets in her way to stop her from injuring anyone else, getting gashed in the process. Here is where it's discovered that Jack's blood can heal the state known as Blood Skelter – where a Blood Maiden loses control of her powers and attacks anyone nearby.

When Jack and the girls make it to the Liberated District where Marchens are not in control, they quickly join the Dawn, which is the group that Red works with who are trying to work together to escape the jail.  They fashion a Mary Gun for Jack to use, which can help Blood Maidens keep control by spraying blood onto them directly from his veins, which purges their corruption.  Of course, the more he does this the weaker he gets, until he finally passes out from the blood loss.  This system of balance between allowing the girls to gain power through Marchen blood but avoiding losing control through Blood Skelter is constantly at play throughout Mary Skelter.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares

Strong Points: Interesting story and characters; excellent dungeon crawling; classes and character customizations are interesting and engaging; tons of content; fantastic art, music and voice acting; performs great on almost any modern PC (even with an integrated GPU!)
Weak Points: Some dungeons carry on almost past their welcome; there seems little incentive to fully map out everything (though I did it anyway); there is room for interface improvements, like knowing what effects a class change would have on stats; certain kinds of grinding (like for blood crystals) can be needlessly annoying; a few notable bugs on PC, and I had the game hang once
Moral Warnings: Blood is a central theme to the game, as everything from licking to spraying it occurs on a regular basis; quite a bit of violence, as characters are tortured as part of the story, and your party (and others) gladly kills the enemy Marchens, after which pink blood splatters everywhere; minor curse words like "d*mn" and "h*ll" used; topics like death and reincarnation discussed; lots of very dark and haunting environments and creatures, including ghosts, demons, and other undead; some excessive outfits on the girls, leaving almost nothing to the imagination; a 'purge' mini-game is present where you rub the blood and clothes off of the girls, and they moan and make suggestive noises, with only strips where their genitals and nipples would be remain; certain cutscenes are quite suggestive, though nothing sexual actually happens; the main hero, Jack, is a gentleman, but sure finds himself in a lot of compromising situations

Their team is joined by several other Blood Maidens throughout their adventure, to include others like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Thumbelina, Gretel, Rapunzel, and more. Each character is one of five fixed class types, and can change to one of six subclasses. They all have different passive and active skills, stats, and weapon selection. There are physical melee attackers, ranged fighters, healers and offensive magic users, and jacks-of-all-trades. The first two types, the melee and ranged attackers, are by far the most powerful from a damage perspective.

There are two main modes to the game: the various conversations that can happen in the Liberated District, and the dungeon crawling itself. The Liberated District section is a series of menus of places to go, along with visual novel-like conversations that happen therein. You can upgrade your equipment, change your classes, and buy and sell your things here. You can also talk to everyone and accept sidequests as well. This is also where an activity called ‘purging’ can take place. This is an incredibly erotic rub down of the girls where you can clean them of blood to give them a bonus on the next dungeon run. It’s not the only erotic thing in this game, but probably the worst. More on that later.

Most of the game time will be spent crawling dungeons. There are a ton of dungeons, and each level can be expanded, and there are also several hidden levels once an area is completed. Like many dungeon crawlers, this one has a first-person 3D view, with an auto-populating map and turn-based battles. Some of them are random, where walking is interrupted with a battle screen, while others are visible before you walk up to them. The graphics and art style are actually quite engaging, for the levels, characters, and enemies. The music and sound effects are also excellent, as they really set the mood appropriately, and when a nightmare threatens you, it’s legitimately spooky. The voice acting is absolutely top-notch and extremely well done.

Each of the regions has a core that you are trying to destroy, which, once all are removed, should lead to you being able to eventually escape the jail. There is a nightmare in each one that can’t be killed without removing the core first. Hearing that nightmare growl is quite unnerving; they did a great job setting the atmosphere, though the lightheartedness of the characters and relative ease of the game itself prevents it from being truly nerve-wracking.

I played the game on normal, and other than a few bosses, I rarely got a strong challenge from the game. Though I suppose if you avoid abusing multi-hit attacks, it would be a different experience. By the end of the game, I was clearing random battles in less than a round (usually no more than 1-2 character attacks) and most bosses in no more than three rounds. (Rage Rush, and skills like that, are just boss against bosses.) If you want a challenge, choose the hardest difficulty. Despite that, this is quite a long game; I spent well over sixty hours on it, and didn’t even go back and clear out all of the dungeons or check out much of the post-game content.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with it, and I would say it’s a solidly built dungeon crawler, with a few minor quirks that I could easily overlook. For example, when you want to change classes, you have no idea what skills you would be gaining, or how your stats (or portrait!) will change. Thankfully, all active skills can be brought with you, and switching back is possible eventually. There is also a character reset feature at the cost of levels, but I never found the game difficult enough that I actually had to do that.

But where this game really falls down is in its appropriateness. There is a huge reliance on blood, both as a game mechanic and its presence on the battlefield. Of course there is violence to go with that, and descriptions of past tortures and such, though you don’t see much there; it’s mostly written descriptions along with some sound effects. There is a small amount of curse words, like ‘d*mn’ and ‘h*ll’. It’s honestly not that bad, and pretty rare. Most of the issues revolve around sexual titillation.

It has to be said that most, if not all of the girls, are between, say, eight to sixteen years old. The game never comes right out and says their ages, but it hints at it. That’s relevant because everyone has at least one outfit that is in some way sexy or revealing. When a girl enters Blood Skelter, they are shown completely nude except for lines of pink blood or energy covering them where it is required. And of course there is the aforementioned ‘purge’ process, where you can rub them down and rub their clothes away.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 56%
Violence - 4/10
Language - 4/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

You can get to know each girl better by giving them gifts, and when you max them out, some of them make suggestive statements when you check their affection levels, saying things like ‘I want to be with you.’ Jack is generally innocent, but gets himself into inappropriate situations, like a girl wearing just a shirt licking the blood off of his finger, or finding his face buried into a girl’s bosom or bottom. In other cases he helped a girl change clothes or slept in the same bed with her (innocently). One girl says she wants to grow up and make babies with him.

There is a generally creepy and dark atmosphere, with dungeons having themes like a carnival or a graveyard. Enemies are often similarly dark, with ghosts, demons, undead and various other things as enemies. They match the areas they are in well. There is a cult that worships the sun. There is also discussion about death and reincarnation.

The PC port is really solid, especially in performance, but it has a few major bugs in my experience. For one, dungeon icons, which show things like treasure chests and planned battles, can either disappear entirely, or never disappear after they are activated. It completely locked up on me once. Another persistent issue I ran into is that it always tries to launch fullscreen on the left monitor first, even if the right one is configured as primary in Windows. I had to press Alt+Enter three times each time I launched the game, as I would change it to windowed mode, then borderless fullscreen (which still shows a white border on top, sadly) to finally fullscreen again, which worked fine. On the other hand, it performs brilliantly, even on the Intel integrated GPU on my GPD Win 2.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares is a generally very solid dungeon crawler with some equally serious appropriateness concerns. I enjoyed my time with it, and feel it’s a solid offering in the genre, despite some of the dungeons winding a bit too long for my tastes. Nevertheless, the girls’ lack of clothing in many cases, and the overdone titillation and sexually charged situations make this a tougher recommendation. Regardless, stick with the M (17+) rating at the very least.

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Jason Gress

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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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