Review – Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo
Back at the young age of twenty-nine, my mental health took a scary turn. It left me no other option but to step away from writing. As it stood, I was dangerously teetering on the edge of depression. It was only after a year or two of marinating in that couch potato lifestyle that those terrible thoughts finally subsided, and I slowly began healing. I was also starting to feel the itch again – not the sexually worrying kind, but one compelling me to share my stupid opinions. My first target was the enchanting world of Visual Novels – I find the pretty pictures enticing, while the stories are rather captivating. So far, Square Enix has had a stellar 2023, releasing certified bangers. The question is, can Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo keep the hype train going, or is it just too much of a hot mess?
A quick judgment call is what we, as human beings, make upon meeting someone. If the initial impression sucks, then we’re unlikely to maintain contact. I’ll be frank, the first hour into my session, I was miserable. The narrative made no sense, and the button prompts were executing on their own. Hell, when I was given dialogue choices, I didn’t care enough to try, meaning I’d pick badly and die. It devolved into this trial and error affair contending with my disinterest. The tedium was knocking at my door, and the proverbial towel was in my hand. The only reason I never threw it in was that this was coverage – I had a promise to fulfill. The next day, I held my breath as I reluctantly endured. My expectations were low, but I maintained an open mind. By midnight, there was a butt imprint on my bed.
The plot line is bloody brilliant. Every second I spent playing, my eyes were glued to my Nintendo Switch, totally engrossed by this head-scratcher. My desire to see how the pieces of the puzzle would come together was hard to ignore. The reason for such fascination is the concept. The idea of using a curse to murder to gain the prospect of resurrecting a loved one has me smitten. It won’t be linear either, sporting layers upon layers of dimension. Calling it convoluted describes it perfectly, in the sense of having plenty going on. The thing is, instead of being ridiculous rubbish, it makes sense. The twists and turns I’m faced with are expertly woven in, shocking me on many occasions. I sat here, curious how specific points would be justified, and once they were, a feeling of satisfaction overtook my body.
You know me, I’m going to try my best to highlight extensive, gaping holes, exposing the hell out of them, unless I can’t. That said, Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a tight package. I will note there are lots of beats that are briefly touched on, treated like an afterthought. I’m not comfortable declaring that a fault, however. If anything, it just goes to show how deeply immersed I got. I was starving for more flesh to the bones. So much intrigue is glossed over, and that’s a crying shame. Now, don’t get me wrong, the explanations remain more than sufficient. They give enough to add bulk to these characters and their motives, tying everything up nicely with a bow. Perhaps I’m just a selfish bellend. Whatever the case is, I applaud the meticulous attention put forth in the details. Still, as incredible as it is, there’s this, albeit subjective, tiny hiccup.
Many people prefer when the lore develops through conversation. That in-your-face approach allows momentum to flow freely and never necessitates a deviation into menus for further info. There’s no need for manual inputs from the player – you can sit back and savor the journey. Paranormasight won’t bend to that ideology, borrowing a cue from Bloodborne and soulslike titles in general. You see, during key points, update notifications pop up to tell you when more tidbits are available. It does so with a pair of lists – one being the self-explanatory Persons of Interest. Here, I can find additional background on those that I’ve met. Then, as our interactions progress, added facts are inserted. Sure, it pauses whatever I’m doing in that instance, but reading up on an individual and discovering their history is fun. Not to mention it makes them feel tangible, like actual breathable living humans.
Where time consumption really enters another realm is in the second list called Files. Instead of ramblings meant to aid the characters in feeling robust, it tosses out snippets that exclusively expand on the in-game occurrences, giving context that I’d otherwise not be privy to. I’ll be upfront and also state that this aspect is pivotal. It’s essential that a player puts in the effort to read through it. By doing so, you might realize the cause of someone’s death or the motivation behind heinous acts. Sure, not delving too deeply still garners a rudimentary understanding, but it ultimately robs you of some of the magic – the storytelling is damn intriguing. Paranormasight thrives when every nook and cranny, or in this case, every term, is seen. Some discoveries get disturbing, as well, nailing the creepy factor. I can confidently say my experience was better for it.
What I particularly adore is how every move has a purpose. There’s substance, and nothing simply happens for the sake of it. Even exploits that seem merely reactive have genuine reasons – ones that are surprising, too. Hell, I vividly remember a harsh response to a man that, considering who was there, left me thinking about the darkest of scenarios. It wasn’t until the climax that those same suspicions flipped. I couldn’t believe it. Paranormasight has this innate ability to subvert conclusions. It introduces decoys meant to plant faux seeds, driving you away from the truth. If you’re worried that this means a couple of these situations will feel grossly out of place, it doesn’t. You see, what’s doubly crazy is that my prior theories aren’t contested – both seem to have a smidge of validity, creating an odd double-entendre effect. No matter how it swings, it remains entirely logical.
Personality is critical to the Visual Novel genre. If it’s nonexistent, it causes a superb premise to swirl down the toilet. Without that relatability, there will be zero investment, thus eliminating those moments meant to stir up drama. Paranormasight is quite the anomaly in this respect. Yes, everyone’s quite distinguishable and distinct – sassiness, innocence, and a pinch of naivety are but a few traits that make up the tip of the iceberg. The main cast are beacons in a world hammered by a grim status quo. I especially find the police chief a solid blend of seriousness and telling the odd dad joke. Of course, they’re atrocious, but also endearing. I’d be lying if I claimed to have never had a cheesy smirk whenever one’s served up. He comes with a partner, too, and the buddy-cop dynamic they both share is entertaining.
Square Enix does a fabulous job translating emotions; desperation, resentment, and psychosis are crystal clear. There’s childish glee and light flirting, too, thus bringing levity. You’re likely thinking I’m pandering by this juncture, so let’s get dirty and pessimistic. The ugly truth is, while it’s bang on giving most characters life, a handful get the short end of the stick – for example, this woman who has a crucial relationship with another. You’d think she’d receive a rich narrative, but nope, she’s soaked with the stench of the game trying to push her aside. The worst part is there’s an attempt to convince you to sympathize with her, but due to there being no desire to build upon her grief, it begs me to ask why I should give a rat’s ass. It isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination – I’m just disappointed.
The following sentence out of my mouth will have y’all questioning my qualification – a central mechanic, believe it or not, is to focus. That’s right, paying close attention to the expressions and phrases, down to every single word, is necessary to advance. In my session, I got stuck twice but only needed to seek aid once. Now, the first incident wasn’t due to vagueness but more that it was trying to break the fourth wall in a way it hadn’t up to that point. I do admit that I was itching ever closer to giving in, but then, by complete accident, I managed to scale the obstacle. In that way, I reckon others will clumsily fall on it, too. If not, well, in hindsight, the subliminal hint is evident if one is alert. What proves to be quite formidable is the second exemplification of hitting the metaphorical wall.
Paranormasight will spit in the face of the traditional conventions we grew up on. In fact, when I was told the solution to the finale – that’s right, I was trapped right at the end – I was speechless. Okay, no, I wasn’t because vulgarities were flying at a rapid pace. I was in awe and couldn’t help but be impressed. The huge reveal that opens Pandora’s box of clarification is just astonishing. Even now, I’m floored and can’t fathom how a horror game so nonchalantly broke my brain. I rarely say it, but the methodology used here is unlike anything I’ve seen before in my nearly three decades of indulging in this median. The finish is deliciously scrumptious, and I’ll be reminiscing over it for a hot minute. I refuse to spoil it, but I’ll reiterate that it’s imperative to be observant and always engaged in the script.
If you’re versed in Ace Attorney, the gameplay loop will feel familiar. In other words, when the text isn’t dogpiling you, you’re rummaging through rooms. It’s to locate further details on your surroundings and investigate for clues leading to answers. If you’re thorough, collectible mockingbird stickers are also hidden sporadically. There are twenty of these to find, and doing so nets you a, uhm, I suppose you’ll have to wait and see. It supplies a neat side activity if taking a break from the hustle and bustle of death is to your fancy. If you so desire, there are hints as to their whereabouts recorded in the pause menu, though their ambiguity leads to a healthy dose of meandering. An ever-so-slight tweak to the conveyance would help to narrow the search, minutely negating the monotony of it.
Sadly, even with a change, this facet eventually falls into redundancy, whether minor or not. See, a quality of life improvement that’s become commonplace in not only Visual Novels, but also other genres is the ability to fast-forward dialogue. It’s convenient, especially in titles that encourage subsequent retries of chapters, to find collectibles. Well, Paranormasight dares not to be like other girls. The rationale behind excluding this feature is inexplicable nonsense, though. I don’t have a choice other than to mindlessly smash the A button regularly just to get to a spot I can freely explore. The irritating aspect is there’s no guarantee I’ll manage to find what I’m after. Thankfully, this mishap is fixable with a patch. Rather than speeding up text, however, allow us to instantly hop into roaming – respect our time commitment and inspire us to want to seek out extras.
The art style in Paranormasight overjoys me. It has this vintage painted look to it that’s beautiful and pleases the naked eye. In fact, and maybe this ages me, but it reminds me of those older anime shows that I sneakily watched in my youth behind my mother’s back. Even the grimaces, scowls, smiles, and several other expressions teleported me straight to the 90s. I suppose you could say there’s visual nostalgia if that makes sense. The designs are unique. The gruff older police officer looked seasoned, as if he’s seen his fair share of turmoil, while the younger one had a vibrant and healthy look, not yet influenced by the stress of the job. If I had to decide on a qualm, it’s the limited environments. Then again, that’s not a grievance due to what we do have being unique and easy enough to distinguish.
It’s no secret that Paranormasight is a budget game. It won’t break the bank, which can signal to a handful of folks that, musically, it might not measure up to a fully priced romp. Well, banish those goofy thoughts now. I thought the sound effects were effectively used. I’d go so far as to say that the score is very well done. When a cutscene has a sad, mellow tinge, the track is a flawless reflection. It helps elevate the emotion, driving home the intended response – even the jumpscares are accompanied by snappy screams. It never lingers or overstays its welcome. The OST is obviously going to be minimal due to cost. Because of that, repetitiveness is going to be a factor. For my money, though, it never reaches a point of annoying. If you happen to dislike this genre, listen to the theme, at least.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is an absorbing romp that leaves you dumbfounded. You could say there’s not nearly enough banter, and indeed a character or two that are forgettable, but those that get attention surely shine. If you’re someone that thinks reading in video games is lame, the Visual Novel genre isn’t for you. I won’t sugarcoat it; that’s the bread of butter and why these titles enamour me and so many.
The gameplay is minute, but the story will have you eagerly returning. The ending here is satisfying, and again, I swore up a storm because of how clever it is. Square Enix is killing it this year. Sure, there are parts of frustration. I was annoyed when I got stuck, but luckily, the internet exists – just be cautious not to spoil anything and have a blast unraveling the secrets.
I love the vintage aesthetic going on here. The colors and the details are great. It’s odd that during conversation, the sprites randomly sport a puckered up mouth. It kind of detracts from the tension because of how silly it looks.
It here won’t be many actual manual inputs. The bulk is reading, but because focusing is a mechanic, I have to dock points. I like what it does but it’s very obtuse, meaning that, like me, you get stuck.
Listen to the main theme, it’s wonderful. Even as I sit writing, it’s playing in my head. Really, it’s superb usage throughout.
The fun is in learning the story. When it comes to that, I was onboard. I legitimately felt bummed whenever I hit a wall and couldn’t advance. The portions that have actual input from me, like investigating, are nothing groundbreaking.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo was provided by the publisher.