Title: Mary Skelter 2
Developer: Compile Heart
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Genre: Dungeon-crawling RPG
The original Mary Skelter took me by surprise. The game managed to blend a compelling story with themes of horror, dungeon crawling, and fairy tales that I don’t think I was expecting. After hearing of the sequel, I didn’t understand how they would reuse some of the characters while telling a brand new story. Well, that is until I remembered that these characters are in hundreds of original stories and reboots, so why can’t Mary Skelter do it too? Surprisingly, the developers have perfected their craft with this title and created a compelling dungeon crawler with minimal setbacks.
Mary Skelter 2 introduces a new main protagonist named Otsuu. Her key characteristics resemble a knight in shining armor as she does whatever she can to protect Little Mermaid. They reside in the Liberated District, a place protected from the threat of marchens who prey on anyone who leaves. However, Blood Maidens possess the power to survive in the depths of the dungeons and fight against the marchens.
On route to find who would be a strong Blood Maiden, Otsuu and her party meet Alice and Jack, amongst other imprisoned humans. After setting them free, an unbeatable creature known as a Nightmare found them and caused Alice to enter Blood Skelter Mode, which then caused Otsuu, Jack, and Little Mermaid to fall to a lower dungeon. Sadly, Jack doesn’t survive the fall but uses some power to transform himself into an unsettling Nightmare who can somehow communicate with Otsuu.
The opening of Mary Skelter 2 is fast-paced and full of action, which all leads to a heartbreaking realization when the group ends up returning home. As the cast grows, each character makes their mark on the story as they make themselves useful around the base. The game’s writing seems to know how to get the player invested into these characters and puts a lot of focus on relationship building with main characters as well as the supporting cast.
What’s most interesting here is that the game doesn’t have a fully aware Jack to drive the story. You see, Jack can only communicate through Otsuu, so his interaction is limited. However, he is an excellent asset to the team and also has the power to calm the girls down with his blood. This dynamic, although strange, works for the story and creates some exciting moments of dialogue as you learn more about how Jack turned into the Nightmare in the first place.
There are some excellent moments of storytelling found within Mary Skelter 2. Throughout the game, players can interact with the characters by giving them gifts or participating in side-stories, which makes it easy to invest in this horrific world. With so many emotional scenes, it’s good to point out that the English voice acting is fantastic. Furthermore, the voice actress for Little Mermaid gave a stand out performance since that character had to sell some emotionally unstable lines during the game. There is also Japanese audio for the purists out there.
Mary Skelter 2 is a dungeon-crawling RPG with many systems. Players will make their way through the living jail as they find themselves journeying to new areas. Each character has a unique dungeon ability that players will need to use a lot. From grabbing out of reach items to putting out fires, there is a lot of interaction in this game that makes dungeon crawling, not so mindless.
The maps themselves are well designed with gimmicks on every floor along and plenty of light puzzle-solving to make it through. One feature that players must use is the harvesting system, where you can plant seeds on a floor and use blood to fertilize them. After a while, they will bloom into powerful weapons and items. What’s good is that the game makes it rather easy to pretty much plant and forget about them. There’s also an option to batch-harvest them at a later time from the base.
The maps do become more significant over time, but they don’t have you roaming large rooms like in the first title. Instead, halls connect everything, and players will need to take notice of the living jail’s mood, which yields various rewards depending on the player’s actions. It sounds overbearing, but a lot of what Mary Skelter 2 has going on runs in the background, and you don’t have to go out of your way to manage it.
The battle system is turn-based but has some unique features. During fights, characters will get blood splattered on them, and enough blood will have them enter Massacre or Blood Skelter Mode. Massacre mode gives them a stat increase while Blood Skelter mode will have them go crazy and hit everything around them. To limit this, players can take a turn to “Lick” the blood off of another character, which usually has a positive effect overall. Additionally, Jack will need to be used to get the character out of Blood Skelter Mode.
Weapons in the game can be customized and upgraded. Some weapons have added abilities and effects that make battles a breeze. Spending time harvesting blood pays off because the later encounters can be incredibly difficult. Characters can also change job classes, which give them added abilities and stats as well as new illustrations. Changing job classes is extremely useful when trying to create a balanced party or one that fits your playstyle.
After running around the dungeon, the girls will acquire corruption, which influences Blood Skelter Mode. To combat this, players will need to purge them. By heading to the base, players can rub their Switch screen to cleanse these girls of their sins…It’s honestly just a rubbing mini-game, but it is fun for a while and does yield some stat boosts.
Throughout the game, players will face off against indestructible Nightmares who can’t be hurt until after the core of the dungeon is defeated. While exploring these Nightmares can appear at any moment, and the player must escape. These chase scenes can be horrifying, especially if you aren’t equipped to deal with a Nightmare. The game isn’t a cakewalk on high difficulties, so if you’re having trouble with this, you can switch to an easier difficulty at any time.
Where I think Mary Skelter 2 fails is giving a general direction. There are times where I became lost and unaware of how to progress the game’s narrative. There’s also a lot of back backtracking depending on how many times you leave a dungeon, and while the game explains its systems, it has the player figure out some a lot for themselves, which caused confusion early in the game.
Mary Skelter 2 is a great dungeon crawler RPG that does a lot for the genre in terms of adding new features and ways to interact with the characters. The focus on story and making the player feel a part of this fantasy world was a huge accomplishment here and pays off as the primary motivation for wanting to see this game through until the end. A bonus is that the original Mary Skelter is also available with updated systems and dungeons.
What’s best about many of Mary Skelter 2’s features is that they run in the background as players experience the game and only add to its level of enjoyment. Changing job classes and upgrading items offers multiple ways to fight through the dungeons, which makes exploration never feel repetitive. As a dungeon-crawling RPG, Marky Skelter 2 is accessible to first-time players and offers enough depth to be a must-play for fans of the genre.
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