Much like the urban legends at the center of its story, Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo has largely flown under the radar. Though Square Enix has marketed the horror-adjacent visual novel only mildly, the title has spread through word of mouth. Stumbling upon the game this way myself, Paranormasight didn’t entirely turn out to be what I expected. But for those into Japanese folklore and visual novels with light gameplay, Paranormasight has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Game Name: Paranormasight Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC, Android, iOS Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release Date: March 8th, 2023 Price: $19.99
Much like with walking sims, some players lament the lack of agency in visual novels. Meanwhile, others enjoy taking in the stories they offer. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the genre as a whole. However, I count some of its more interactive titles among my absolute favorite games. Paranormasight drew me in not with its drawings (though the art is suitably macabre) but with its flashes of interactivity. Yes, the game mainly involves reading. But it’s still a game with choices offered and some puzzle mechanics bolstering its story, for better and for worse.
The Sites of Paranormasight
Paranormasight sets its stage in the Sumida Ward of Tokyo, Japan. Local urban legends portend a ghastly demise for anyone who comes across the sites of their occurrences under the right circumstances. One night, at midnight, several trinkets appear in the hands of various people, granting them the power to take a life in the manner of their corresponding legend—so long as they meet the conditions. If any of them successfully wipes out the other curse-bearers, that individual receives the power to bring someone back from the dead.
While the lore of this premise fascinates, its success largely hinges on the strength of these characters and their companions. On this front, Paranormasight delivers. The delightful cast comprises eccentric detectives, precocious students, and other memorable paranormal fanatics. Think Twin Peaks meets Death Note, and you have a good idea of the tone of this experience. That’s also to say that while Paranormasight offers up a suitably spooky soundtrack and some visuals, the game doesn’t appear all that scary.
In fact, Paranormasight proves more humorous than anything. This approach makes each character endearing, which helps players stay invested. With branching story paths linking to a specific character, players can jump from one to the other between chapters to get the story from various perspectives.
Okay Gang, Let’s Join Forces
As such, many of the puzzles rely on this story jump. The best ones involve finding ways to get certain characters together in the same place at the same time. Have you ever watched a mystery movie and hoped that multiple characters who each have a piece of the puzzle could just meet up? Well, Paranormasight offers the joy of that experience. And with each character having such a distinct personality, pulling these strings rewards players with crossovers rivaling a Marvel movie.
That said, many of the puzzles prove more obtuse. The worst of these involve trawling through various chapters, clicking on everything until the game decides you can progress. One multi-step puzzle involving escaping a room had me engaged, until the solution lay in another character’s chapter with optional dialogue that only proved relevant if one clicked on it enough. When puzzles involve piecing together lore to figure out solutions, they make one feel like a detective. When they involve random clicking, they feel like busywork.
This mystery-adventure game provides the player with many questions. How did this ritual come about? Who is trying to take advantage of it? And as the bodies start piling up, who is behind each murder? The many threads of this narrative tapestry ensure that players don’t just solve one mystery but many smaller related ones. This ingenious premise helps sustain the Paranormasight’s roughly 15-hour runtime. That said, since every mystery intertwines, I sometimes found it tough to keep track of them all, even with the helpful lore book in the game’s menu that constantly updates.
It’s this kind of grandiosity that causes Paranormasight’s narrative to buckle towards the end. Typically, the branching nature of the story clips any failed paths before they grow too far, with a meta-storyteller character telling the player where to retry to get the desired outcome. Late in the game, the branching storylines continue into five different endings, plus a “true” sixth one to find after reaching the whole story’s conclusion. Unfortunately, each of the six endings proves a dud since the story gets spread too thin by this point.
However, before this branching, Paranormasight offers an otherwise strong final act. The resolution of the primary mystery offers a surprisingly heartfelt conclusion for a few of the characters. By this point, the length of the narrative succeeds in fleshing out each figure, and this section may bring tears to the eyes of those most invested. Like many urban legends, the details often prove shaky, but the core themes of Paranormasight make it a mostly worthwhile tale to pass along.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo
With an engaging story about urban legends bolstered by a branching storyline, Paranormasight hovers over other visual novels with its many interactive elements. It suffers from the curses of certain puzzles that prove arbitrary and a story that gets spread too thin. But the captivating characters and central mystery keep the tale of this mystery-adventure title as one legend worth spreading.
A cast of captivating characters.
Genuinely funny and heartfelt moments.
Deep lore that supports the central mystery.
Creepy music and visuals.
A few too many puzzles that don’t rely on clues, only clicking.
Disappointing story resolutions.
Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo Review