PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo review
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PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on March 30th, 2023
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: COMPLEX CURSE
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This horror game is an enjoyably twisted and complicated web of narrative, but it feels perhaps a little too laser-focused on its core mystery.

Developer: SQUARE ENIX

Price: $18.99
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

All through playing PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, I was holding multiple, conflicting thoughts in my head. This horror mystery game is novel and inventive, but also spends a lot of time being pretty flat with its characters and story. Throughout the journey, there are also some genuinely surprising twists, but the way in which they are deployed makes you feel less like a detective and more like someone who is just ushered along from surprise to surprise that you can't see coming until it's too late. In any case, I did enjoy the game, but more than that it gave me some perspective on why other mystery adventures don't operate the way PARANORMASIGHT does.

Cursed crime-solving

PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is a little diffilcult to explain because of its dense setup. It takes place in the Sumida ward of Tokyo some time in the 80s, and it revolves around a set of characters interested in investigating an ancient ghost story about seven different curses that people can inherit and use to perform a seductive form of forbidden magic.

This investigation starts out innocently enough, but descends into a dark and complicated web of unearthing each curse-bearer's past and current motivations for using their curses for their own gain. As you weave between these stories, you'll do some light puzzle solving, but way more often than that you'll simply be tapping on people or your surrounding environment to prompt the next wave of text that pushes you further along a path of the story.

Choose a path

Some of the most interesting points of PARANORMASIGHT are when the game asks you to critically think and reflect on what you've already discovered about these curses to figure out how to pivot the story in a direction you want it to go in. The only problem with this though is this trick isn't deployed very often, and the few other more "mechanical" puzzle-solving moments of the game are so poorly implemented that they can feel like the game isn't behaving correctly.

This issue is compounded by the controls of this iOS version of PARANORMASIGHT, which are mostly fine for tapping to talk or swiping to look around environments, but way less so when asked to do anything remotely more complicated. In some ways, it feels like PARANORMASIGHT couldn't bring itself to commit to more puzzles, but the ones it leaves with you are very inconsistent in quality and can sometimes lead you to think you're stuck or the game is broken.

Full, but missing some flavor

There's certainly a lot of story to dig into with PARANORMASIGHT, especially if you opt to pursue all of the game's endings, but even after discovering them all I felt a little disappointed by the game. Sure, I was compelled enough to keep playing, but a lot of its reveals feel like their buildup and payoff are in the exact same scene, and something about the character design and dialog reads as a little flat. I think the game looks great and the characters are cool, but without any voice-acting and additional incidental dialog revealing much about each character I felt like I only got a taste of who they are instead of an actual understanding.

In a lot of ways, PARANORMASIGHT justifies why other visual novel games that I have enjoyed seem to go out of their way to tell unrelated side stories, use caricature, and drop a ton of hints about what may come later. It's because that stuff works. As goofy as a lot of those games end up being, they end up feeling like mysteries you can solve on your own before reaching the end and allow you to intuit things about characters that you wouldn't be able to do if they just stuck to the main story script. I'm not saying PARANORMASIGHT does none of this, but it definitely doesn't do nearly enough of it.

The bottom line

PARANORMASIGHT: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo is an enjoyable ride with mystery trappings, but it doesn't actually feel like something you can puzzle out on your own. This is fine, but it can also feel like a shortcoming when comparing it to other titles that seem to have an easier time making their stories come alive.

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