Adventure Corner ~ Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
In this edition of the column we take a look at Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, a horror mystery adventure from Square Enix available this week on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo
(03.09.2023 on some platforms)
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo takes players to a nebulous point during the Japanese Showa era (1926-1983) in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. It utilises the misnumbered real-world Seven Mysteries of Honjo that date back to the 17th-19th century Edo period, back when the area was mostly a rural collection of fields, and their associated locations in the ward. Making fine use of its mysteries, supernatural elements, and medium, Paranormasight provides an enthralling experience that keep players wanting to push to the end.
The game begins with the storyteller introducing himself, giving its first hint that the fourth wall is an important part in how its events play out. That hint is made fully explicit as the game dives into its prologue, where its protagonist Shogo Okiie finds himself in the middle of night investigating the Seven Mysteries of Honjo, and in particular the Rite of Resurrection associated with them, alongside companion Yoko. However, the supernatural horror soon reveals itself with tragedy striking. Shogo then discovers a mysterious Curse Stone, which gives him to power to curse — kill — others who meet its conditions and tasks him with finding and killing the other curse bearers to charge it up for the Rite of Resurrection.
Paranormasight’s prologue is largely devoted to showcasing the dangers of the curses and the variety of activation conditions as Shogo goes out into the night searching for other curse bearers. Here is where the game is happiest to work up the horror elements, including some minor jump scares and plenty of opportunities for Shogo to fall afoul of other curse bearers. Doing so effectively acts as the game’s tutorial, with every death dropping players in front of the storyteller and giving them an opportunity to repeat the conversation or event and do something different so that Shogo remains alive.
After the prologue, the game moves into its true multiple-protagonist format, complete with a story chart, and focuses more on its characters, their connections, and the mysteries both past and present. Players look to advance the story as they can, with the game showing when a chapter is available or has been partially or fully completed. At certain points, the story chart can split, though the splits basically point towards different endings rather than being full route splits. These alternate endings are all bad ones, but provide an interesting bit of extra detail on the associated characters and, like more general deaths, a bit of a hint as to what to do to avoid them.
Individual chapters feature light point-and-click elements and conversations largely devoted to finding all of the relevant bits of information before the story advances through choices or other potential actions on the player’s part. In addition to its storytelling mechanism and use of player knowledge to progress the narrative, the fourth-wall comes into play occasionally on certain chapters. It is made fairly obvious when it happens, effectively demonstrated early on by a certain puzzle during the prologue that involves use of the game’s options. The game is mixed when it comes to giving hints; where there are hard failure points, the game will readily drop clues, but certain elements are on players to figure out and can necessitate spotting something that isn’t obvious.
The game wouldn’t work if its storytelling wasn’t effective, and it’s pleasing to say that Paranormasight does an excellent job of providing a fascinating tale that keeps players eager to pull at all of the threads running through it. The three main protagonists, and their supporting companions, make for an interesting mixture of people, each with different personalities, histories, and life experience that contribute to the solving of the mysteries. The game drip feeds hints and clues throughout, giving players enough to point themselves towards solutions but still finding space to drop in additional surprise reveals and twists. Its theme of how far one might go to bring someone back from the dead, and the possible consequences of doing so, runs as a primary motivator and method of examination for the characters throughout.
Paranormasight’s art style works very nicely with its subject matter and setting. Gen Kobayashi (The World Ends with You, Kingdom Hearts) provides distinct, easily recognisable characters who fit in well, with a nice stylised interface going further to put players back in the period by evoking an old colour TV. Produced with the support of Sumida Ward’s tourism office, it makes great use of the real-world locations for its backgrounds, as well as use real ukiyo-e paintings of the Honjo mysteries. Atmospheric music helps serve to both heighten up the tension, while more upbeat tracks help relax things in the its lighter moments.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a game that might go under peoples’ radars, but it a fine supernatural mystery adventure that is certainly worth checking out. The way the mysteries work with each other, the cast, and the atmospheric direction and presentation creates an enthralling tale that keeps players ready to unravel the next twist.
Disclosure: This article is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.