“I am Otsuu. Blood maiden associated from Dawn. I once made a pact when I was younger, to marry Little Mermaid. My partner and my true Prince.
We were befriended one day and were drawn into immediate danger when we learned our fellow blood maidens were missing and captured somewhere in this unknown place…
An unhinged fairground ride through corridors of psychotic imagery, poltergeist infused objects sunken into walls, splashed with large doses of fluorescence, maniacal imagination and utter madness!
We eventually found prisoners, and in the group, we found 2 special people. Jack and Alice.
They were bound someway. Similar to my bonds with my true prince, but quickly something terrible happened. Alice went mad and knocked all 3 of us down a chasm. We survived but Jack was close to death and then…
Jack transformed into a terrible monster! A nightmare creature so dangerous, unpredictable and uncontrollable and yet strangely, something clicked. . Our minds connected and I was able to read his thoughts, his feelings, and hear his true voice.
We soon joined together in battle, but there were other feelings.
The feeling of puppets playing some sort of twisted game of life or death, with no escape from an overbearing and diabolical evil force.
The world we once lived in was almost destroyed. The evil force summoned large monsters too powerful for us to take on alone. We had to escape!
Escape from a world from what we now discover is a living breathing prison!. A prison where each location has feelings. Feelings that can help us and strengthen our blood powers or feelings that can turn, weaken and destroy us. We have only one choice left in order to survive.
Find the remaining missing Blood Maidens!
Only then can we unite and yield a power strong enough to challenge and defeat this despicable evil!
Now I hear it again and feel it.. the next area calls… It is getting angry.
I must leave this dorm, and return outside again. My blood sisters weaken with every passing hour under the dark malevolence of their captor, and yet… My true prince and I, slowly get stronger, more powerful. There is a chance… There is hope… I must find them… Come, Jack, come, true prince..we have to go! “
Welcome to Mary Skelter 2. A first-person dungeon crawler sequel, set in a maniacal world that’s dark, foreboding and often claustrophobic and released quite nicely, just before Halloween on Nintendo Switch.
Players take on the role of Otsuu, a blood maiden instructed through the story’s unfolding and grim events, to assemble a team strong enough to carefully navigate its dangerous array of dungeon/prison areas, whilst defeating random enemies along the way.
Dungeons are all unique in some form, and carry their own specific challenges, and interlocked together in one giant jail setting.
The underground caverns are revealed in the second area, and really is the first player’s venture and taste of what to expect further on. There are switches to press to unlock closed gates in some random area of the dungeon. Rope swings that can be held to cross chasms onto locked off areas and a tightrope that can be carefully crossed, should you successfully control a balance gauge with the R stick.
On top of that, each dungeon has 3 desires. Satisfying its desires will increase its mood significantly and in a good state, will unlock a roulette wheel granting buffs. Should you fulfil desires further you can even customise the wheel fully in your favour. Upset the dungeon though and you activate “Murder Hunt” mode.
Here, the area will go milky white and a huge creature will appear giving chase. (who said it was going to be quiet?) Players can stay and fight if they wish, but the creature is hugely powerful and even defeated, can reappear at any time. Running away successfully in real-time and from a specific distance away will stop the chase, but bear in mind that these creatures will always be here somewhere. Following and fulfilling desires here really is the key, and careful navigation and quick wits may just keep you alive!
Combat is a long and deeply complex affair early on.
Each of your maidens has a list such as Attack, Skill, Defend (to name a few) in a turn-based battle that sees each member performing an action, before the enemies turn.
Otsuu is accompanied by Jack, (which is literally a 2 turn in one) and there’s also the spaces to recruit a total of up to 5 more maidens.
Players will also need to learn each enemies critical point. Standard earth/fire/air/water elemental systems are used, with a successful critical hit spilling enemy blood!
Blood splatter here is the main activation point for each blood maiden. Filling up their respective blood splatter gauge will activate Blood Massacre mode, where they transform into a raged(but quite cute) blood demon with increased powers and abilities. Take sustained damage in this form though, activates Blood Skelter mode. Maidens in this state may turn on anyone or anything, even you!
The same applies to your partner, monster Jack! .Although he has the ability to “purge” the Skelter condition of each maiden. Various conditions can activate jack to the state of Ripper Jack mode, where he too, becomes overpowering, uncontrollable and mightily destructive. The game requiring players to learn how to plan and how to react in order to turn the tides of battle their way, and carefully manage each team member in doing so.
It doesn’t really matter if you don’t grasp all this early on. It’s never really needed. The game acts like a tutorial for the initial 3+ hours of gameplay and gradually eases you in.
Enemies you encounter are very weak, and with 2 hits more than enough to dispatch them, there is no need to burden yourself with the many modes for example, as your team will not engage long enough to activate them!
Enemies come in a variety of forms in this game, usually distinctly relevant to the environment of that area. From the streets, crazed mad hatters or cyclops eyed large dice. Underground caverns full of devilish imps and mini guillotines, and the aquarium ruins full of carnivorous sea coral, stinging jellyfish and sea cucumbers, are just a few from the massive array of adversaries on offer. Nobody can argue it’s not varied or crazy, yet anyone having dabbled in the realms of Persona, may know what to expect.
The game really opens up by the time you reach HQ. The central hub of the game, and the turning point that ramps up the choices on offer and also the enemy difficulty!
From here, there is a dormitory section where you can buy gifts to decorate each maidens room, gaining affection and strengthening each bond. A blood laboratory, where you can analyse blood bags and for a small fee, gain extra unique abilities for your maidens. Blood weapon factory where you can use blood to strengthen weapons, armour and accessories. A Job screen where you can learn a whole new set of skills, and in between all this, a General Store where you can spend currency earned in the dungeons on new items and potions.
You can then choose how you want to play and where to go, at your leisure. Travelling back and forth from each area if you wish, or venturing further and deeper into each dungeon as the story objective might state.
There are farming opportunities aplenty. Each random item you find in each dungeon area resets on returning back to HQ, allowing you to harvest many items or sell them on at the store.
Blood farming is also available. Exploring areas in the dungeon exposes pink floor tiles known as farming tiles. Through exploration and battles, players can amass blood crystals and plant them on the floor. Each crystal has a specific form such as weapon, armour or accessory and players can farm and harvest at their leisure, with the chance of growing special and uniquely rare items.
Visually, everything looks absolutely gorgeous on the Switch. The environments are colourful, vibrant and packed with detail. The eye looking left and right on the large dice and the static wall trumpets vibrating to the sound they are making are fine touches.
Soundwise, there’s a catchy synth tune playing, but I knew first hand that at some point it would annoy me; so for me anyway, I turned it down.
The sound effects are just great though. I particularly like the high pitched scream when an enemy receives a death blow, and the triumphant victory cries from each maiden.
When it comes to the gameplay, it’s true that its slow to get going for some 4 hours or so. The gameplay and the many modes within modes, sub-skills from skills, abilities within abilities and the very length that developers had to add the tutorials in, is probably the main reason it takes so long.
Yet, with so much to trawl through and when you get used to it. There is nothing in the way to drag you down with overly complex menus to filter through with everything allocated to buttons on the main screen or character screen through the X button. It feels natural, quick and not cumbersome at all.
It’s grindy of course. Revisiting each dungeon to gain experience and level up should get repetitive. Yet retracing old footsteps still feels fresh with new things to find each time. The design of each layout is so good that I missed one room on a floor I’d explored countless times, and found access to a totally new floor!
The only drawback to the flow of the game is the story cutscenes and the dialogue. Masses and masses of dialogue! JRPG type conversations that even occur whilst characters stand in front of imminent danger!
Still, developers give us the option of skipping with the Y button, or you can take time out and read the narrative.
To summarise, there are masses to digest. The game constantly refusing to allow any form of tedium to set in, by keeping players engaged and continuously planning and thinking. Areas to explore with ample customisation options to build your team of blood maidens from the feet up. Hours and hours of gameplay, with plenty more secrets to uncover, monsters to slaughter and blood to spill.. and regards the content?
It’s never the case that Mary Skelter 2, exhibits scenes of gratuitous violence or sexual imagery in any offensive way. Much is left to the player’s imagination which is for the developer, and in my opinion, certainly commendable. ( review published 2019)
Mary Skelter: Nightmares (Unlockable)
Also included here, is the original game in all its full glory and specifically remastered for this particular package.
Start at the very beginning and from the roots of this journey of utter madness. Escape the jail that held you and as Jack and Alice, forge a party of blood maidens capable and strong enough to beat the many dungeon monsters, areas, pits and traps and eventually enter the tower in order to escape the pits of insanity forever.
After playing Mary Skelter 2, the look and gameplay are very similar but not surprisingly feels a little bit more linear. New starters would feel more at home as exploration is contained with a system of tools and abilities that are not as large in scale and thus not as complex. (It is after all the base game that was improved upon and expanded for the second game)
On the positives, you get to play the story of Jack and Alice and experience how it all began and the negatives are that the story and dialogue can also come across as long-winded and a little uninteresting. It’s not helped by Jack as the main character seemingly too well mannered, overly apologetic and as a guardian to the blood maidens, a lot weaker than you would want and expect.
Above that though, Mary Skelter: Nightmares still stands its ground with its new remastered buff and polish and revamped and rebalanced system from the 2016 original release. There’s a staggering amount of content and blood splatters, blood maidens, items and abilities to obtain in its many dungeon levels that will give you many hours of gameplay. Just don’t expect both titles to be massively different from one another though.
Mary Skelter 2 / Mary Skelter: Nightmares establish themselves as two of the finest examples of the first-person dungeon crawler and very quickly demonstrate on how to keep players engaged and addicted, by adding plenty of gameplay elements, content into it’s unhinged and manic environments.
With at least 100+ hours in each title, there’s a massive amount of value and enjoyment for just one price, so make sure there’s at least one place in your library for this double gem.
Dance a Mary Dance…..Bloody Brilliant!
Games reviewed on default “Normal” difficulty.
Thanks to Robbie Agustin/Idea Factory for the code.