Everything we do in our lives is a risk. We may not think about our lives in that way often, but it’s true. Nothing we do has a 100% success rate. Risk-takers aren’t just stunt doubles or fearless people. Even the most average person is rolling the dice every day when they wake up. We don’t like to think of ourselves as risk-takers, as it’s a scary thing. So because of that, we don’t force ourselves into thinking we are. In the world of video games, dungeon crawlers thrive off the risk-taking lifestyle. Mary Skelter 2 takes some risks by adding new gameplay elements that are not often present in dungeon crawlers. Do these risks pay off in the end? Or were the wrong set of risks taken?
Warning: Mary Skelter 2 is rated M for large amounts of blood, sexual content, violence, and partial nudity. If those things are not acceptable to you, you may want to proceed elsewhere.
Japan was once thriving and in perfect harmony, but this didn’t last long when the Marchens appeared. One of the most famous and busiest cities of Japan was soon forgotten as it sank into the ground. The Marchens took over the city and an inescapable living prison (which is known as the jail) took over. The citizens of this city were captured and are subjected to daily torture. The captured citizens have lost all hope, but the group Dawn persists on fighting the Marchens and the jail. Otsuu is a part of this group with her fellow Blood Maidens. Blood Maidens are characters that can take out the Marchens, but there’s only a select few that can be a Blood Maiden. Otsuu must find other Blood Maidens by throwing Marchen’s blood on girls. Ostuu and the gang must conceive the newly found Blood Maiden to join their crew.
Most characters are named after famous fairy tales. Little Red Riding Hood, Alice, and Little Mermaid are just some of the many Blood Maidens that will appear in the story. Although they are named after fairy tales, their lives are full of despair and darkness due to the situation. Most of the characters will invoke a common anime trope for their personality, but the cast is still highly enjoyable. The story itself can be highly entertaining at times, even if it’s a bit predictable.
Mary Skelter 2 is a first-person turn-based dungeon crawler. Battles start through random encounters. Agility is the determining factor on when your characters move. You have your basic list of actions, such as attack, defend and escape. There is a blood licking system in place that fills up your characters’ meter which gives them a specially added boost in battle or lets them change into different modes. The goal is to expose the enemies’ weakness to perform overkills and to fill your blood meter up. This is the combat system at its basic level. It only adds on as the game progresses. The different gameplay mechanics will require your full attention as the battle can quickly turn against you. Keep in mind that all of the covered gameplay topics can appear in one battle. Grinding is not necessary due to all of the different gameplay mechanics at your disposal.
The dungeon crawler aspect is surprisingly newbie-friendly. The mini-map auto-fills as you move around and keeps track of all the locked doors you encounter. Once you flip a switch, the map will show which door is unlocked. There is also a function where you can auto-map your trail, but keep in mind you will still have to fight in any random battle you encounter. Controls are simple, but players have to use the D-pad to move around as the joystick is used for the mini-map.
Puzzles and Savepoints
Puzzles are scattered around the map and help break the mundane traveling and battling most dungeon crawlers contain. There are puzzle interactions like flipping switches, walking on tightropes and swinging from ropes. Other puzzles such as taking out flames, filling up holes and blowing up walls are done by using a character’s ability. For example, if you want to take out a fire you must use Little Mermaid’s water ability. This cost skill points so keep that in mind when encountering these puzzles. The puzzles themselves are not difficult, but some switches may be traps so keep that in mind. Certain areas may be inaccessible until you gain a certain’s character ability. All sections of the jail are connected together so backtracking to an earlier section is not a hassle.
Savepoints are rarely given, which may intimidate some players. However, you are able to create your own savepoints with Jack’s rabbit hole ability. This skill also uses skill points, but it’s a small amount. Jack’s rabbit hole allows players to save or escape the dungeon. You can only have one rabbit hole out at a time, so put in a place that is easy to access otherwise you risk the chance of being ambushed and losing your precious progress. These savepoints also do not heal you, so you must use items, level up or use a character’s healing skill to heal your team. If none of those options are available for you, you must leave the dungeon and return to base. Save often so you don’t lose much progress.
Massacre Mode, Blood Skelter Mode, and Purification
Killing enemies fills up each character’s blood meter, once the meter is full characters can transform into one of two special phases. If the blood is a bright pink that character will go into Massacre mode. Massacre mode is a supe up version of that character that allows you to use special skills. This mode doesn’t last long, but it’s very powerful and it’s a mode you will want to enter as possible. If your blood meter is dark, you will enter into Blood Skelter Mode. In Blood Skelter mode you are unable to control your character. Your Blood Maiden will go on a wild rampage attacking anything and everything in sight. She could wipe out the entire enemy squad or kill herself and everyone on your team. It’s a huge gamble as it’s unpredictable. Avoid getting KOed or hit by your character’s weakness to prevent your blood from darkening.
There are ways to remove the chance of entering Blood Skelter. During the battle, Jack can purge a character’s blood, another character can lick the blood to prevent that character from hitting a full meter or performing the purification mini-game back at the base. This timed mini-game is highly inappropriate, as you must rub off the corrupted blood off your characters. Most characters look and sound like young high-school girls, so this doesn’t make for a pleasant experience. Now you can decrease performing this mini-game, but you will miss out on the added stats boost and your character will be more likely to be corrupted (Which leads to Blood Skelter mode).
While trying to survive, you will encounter Nightmares. Nightmares are super powerful boss-like enemies that will chase you. At first, you cannot defeat the nightmares. You must simply run away to avoid fighting them. If you run into a random encounter while running away from one, you must complete that battle as fast as possible. The Nightmare will still attack you while you are in that battle. On ‘normal’ and higher difficulty levels, the mini-map is not displayed while a Nightmare is chasing you, so beware of your surroundings. Sometimes they show up on the exact path you need to take, but you must retreat which can lead you to other battles that feel like wasting time.
If you must fight a Nightmare, quickly stun it so you can quickly escape the battle. Nightmares can be defeated once the core of that section is killed. Once in that battle, you must strip away layers of the Nightmare to kill it. Nightmares can appear goofy at first, but their disgusting interior matches the terror you feel while running away from one.
The jail is well aware of your existence and because of that, there is a special meter that is displayed. This meter has two sections one being a bonus meter for yourself and the other being an aggravation meter for the jail. The special meter is broken into three parts. Hunger, lust, and sleep are those parts, fill up those meters to achieve a bonus in battle.
Bonuses can range from earning more blood crystals, attack boost or healing your entire party. Hunger is fed by performing overkills in battle, lust is fed by finding the pleasure hearts around the dungeon and sleep is fed by not disturbing the jail. Once one of these three slots is filled a spinning wheel will appear and you must select your bonus (they can appear in battle or while dungeon crawling). If you aren’t filling up these slots often, the jail may become annoyed and its meter will fill up. This meter leads to an increase of more difficult enemies and Nightmare appearances.
Each time you level up, you receive a set of points in which you can buy new skills/moves for your characters. You can also increase the move to do more damage. Eventually, the job system opens up which allows you to change jobs to gain even more skills to use. No character is locked to a single job and this allows for a more experimental team set up. Each character has their own personal set of jobs and as an added bonus, their physical appearance will change once you change their job. Be aware that changing jobs can cause some weapons to be unequipped and certain stats may increase/decrease.
For example, Little Mermaid specializes in magic and healing as her main role. With her five different jobs, she’s able to learn new skills and switch her focus in battle. All of her jobs focus on healing or magic attacks/buffs/debuffs, but she focuses on different aspects of those types of attacks depending on her job. In her magician role, she will learn powerful magic skills that can only be learned by that job, well as in her counselor role she focuses on buffs/debuffs. Skills, once learnt, can be assigned to your character’s skill slot no matter which job they have. Five classes to each character may not sound like a lot, but the cast of your team is huge and each job can learn up to a dozen moves. So experiment as much as you want which each character’s five jobs to create a unique set up to your squad.
You can change jobs as often as you want as long as you have a particular job unlocked. A character’s job isn’t their only customization as you can also give them gifts for their rooms. In return, you will get special bonus scenes and items from these characters. This is completely optional.
Weapons can also be customized by adding blood crystals (which you can earn in battle, through treasure chest, or as a bonus on the jail wheel) to increase their power. There is a blood flower system in which you can plant blood flowers in certain parts of the dungeon. These weapons are stronger and rarer compare to the weapons you can buy or find.
In most dungeon crawlers, the visual style is bleak and destructive, but that is not the case in this game. Instead, you are met with a world filled vibrant bright colors that are paired with whimsical fairy tale world designs. This is an unusual approach to take in this genre, but because of this, the game can stand out and achieve its own identity. In other dungeon crawlers, the art style help set a severe and intense tone. Mary Skelter 2 does not rely on using that common approach and instead focuses the gameplay to create that tension. At first, it may seem strange that such a serious story has the appearance it does, but it falls in line with the classic fairy tales inspiration. When a character speaks their anime-style art portrait appears on the screen.
The game’s budget comes in view through its graphics and voice acting. The graphics look rather cheap and in some cases give off a plastic-like appearance. Each area has its own distinct set of monsters that matches the environment they inhabited. You will see lots of recolors of the cool, creepy and cute monsters you encounter. There is voice acting in the game, however, it’s not for everything.
The music is oftentimes engaging without being overpowering. The comedic scenes are accompanied by whimsical music that often makes the scene even funnier. The only standout track was the nightmare fight track. The start of this track is so painful to listen to with its high screeching like sounds. It gives you another reason to regret running into a nightmare. Headphone users might want to be extra cautious of running into a nightmare.
While you are searching through the different dungeons you can hear faint groans and moans. This small detail adds in so much atmosphere because it makes you believe you are traveling through a living self-aware jail. For example, finding a heart will result in the jail giving out a joy-filled moan. Hearing the eerie groans as you search for the way out adds tension as the jail is waiting for your mistake that will cause the end of your life.
Mary Skelter 2 has multiple endings, so the replayability lies in whether the player wants to achieve the best ending. Going through the game again shouldn’t be a bore, due to the large cast at your disposable and the wide use of all the gameplay mechanics. As a bonus, Mary Skelter 2 includes the first game Mary Skelter: Nightmares. It’s recommended to play the second game before the first. This way players can understand the world and gameplay of the series. Players will see some familiar faces and have no difficulty understanding the gameplay. However, if you have a strong desire to start with the first game, you can download the free add-on content (available at launch) that unlocks the first game.
Although Mary Skelter 2 may cut some corners due to its budget, the game makes up for that with its ingenious gameplay. The unique clash of bright, cute colors in a dreadful setting helps it visually separate itself from other dungeon crawlers, giving a fresh breath of air to the genre. The amount of customization is a real treat for anyone who likes to strategize. Accessibility of the dungeon map is beneficial to new players. Gameplay can feel a bit overwhelming at times due to all the different mechanics, but it makes for a dynamic combat system. Some of the sexual content may turn off some players. With the right amount of budget and a tone down of some of the sexual content, Mary Skelter 2 stands a chance at being a real contender for topping the dungeon-crawling genre. For dungeon-crawling fans, this is a risk worth taking.
Mary Skelter 2 gets an 8.5/10