Dark forces, a mysterious cast of characters and a pair of unlikely investigators are caught in an otherworldly mystery in Herimatage: Strange Case Files.
When supernatural events occur without explanation, the mind of an intelligent skeptic will usually deduce a more logical explanation. It’s easier to rationalize things we can’t explain in ways that make more sense. But when otherworldly evil finds its way into your neighborhood, you might want to visit your local occult library to shed some light on such a strange situation.
Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a visual novel by developer Arrowiz that surrounds the manager and customers of the Hermitage bookstore. While he doesn’t own the shop, the cigarette smoking store manager lives in the apartment above the bookstore. He plays caretaker to the unique collection of books on the shelves. Cecile is a transfer student to the prestigious Phoenix High School who’s got a bit of baggage. As the newest member of their highly acclaimed art club, she struggles to keep up with her classmates and maintain her reputation at the new school.
Some disturbing visions bring her to visit the Hermitage bookstore, seeking answers as to why her dreams seem to recreate nearby events. When she shows interest in some controversial reading material, a barely legible ancient text that details ancient religious practices, the store manager decides to help her learn more about what’s going on. You’re then taken through a story that slowly boils into otherworldly thrills and suspense. With his educated background in psychology, folklore, and superior deductive reasoning, the store manager will rely on knowledge hidden in conversations and within the pages of his books to confirm his suspicions about these strange happenings.
The games’ mystery plays out by reading through the story and paying close attention to conversation and reactions to dialogue. You take the role of the Hermitage store manager as he notes important details in his case files and uses them to confirm suspicions at certain intervals in the story. Successfully confirming suspicions will helps him make decisions to protect the students from being led into danger by a mysterious evil force. The store manager quickly becomes involved with Cecile’s closest friend Eloise, a previously acquainted female lawyer by the name of Scarlet, and a strange European man who delivers eerily relevant books to Hermitage.
Each new cast member also brings motives with them that are more questionable than the last. Suspense grows with every new piece of information, and it’s not long before a nefarious plot unfurls around the art club students at Phoenix High School. Scarlet and the store manager will then work as a team of investigators, confirming their suspicions with evidence in order to determine the truth.
Days play out in sequences of events that include conversations at the bookstore. These are scenes that play out with characters in other locations and sometimes in visions that appear to breach reality. Pieces of information are committed to your case files by combing through the books brought by the Deliverer, and making the right dialogue choices during conversations. The store manager can also find some clues in his room at night by keeping up with what’s on TV and checking forums on the internet.
Three pieces of information must be tied together from different sources to deduce conclusions during phases of suspicion. You get three attempts at piecing together information, with botched attempts having grave repercussions. Characters lives and story outcome will be put at greater risk of an otherworldly ending at the hands of a paranormal experience should you fail to correctly piece relevant information together. While the horror doesn’t always shock with scenes of blood and gore, the story boils over into a paranormal theme similar to Call of Cthulhu.
The tension is supported not only by what’s in the story, but also through the music and sound effects. The background music features a jazz ensemble with infectious grooves that stimulate your inquisition into the mystery. Subtle audio cues will point out key facts and other noteworthy statements to add tension as the characters’ relationships deepen and the story details slowly become more sinister and otherworldly.
The enveloping paranormal story hook is what drives the gameplay. The reading evokes some tense emotions but the content is fairly novel. More time is spent reading than decision making but, certain dialogue choices can be useful in providing insight while observing different characters in scenes. Successfully confirming suspicions can be tricky if you’re not attentive during conversations or if you don’t gain any insights from the literature that arrives in the store. The stages of suspicion are the story’s real determining factors as missing important details in the store manager’s case file notes will keep the truth out of reach and lead Cecile and Eloise into peril.
Die-hard horror or gorey action gamers may find the story surrounding school children fairly juvenile, and the cerebral dangers the characters face may not seem as threatening since the threat remains almost invisible through much of the story. Some of the instructions and facts may be difficult to understand at first as the translation from Chinese lays the foundation for the games mechanics. Once you’re acclimated to the rather detailed writing style, confirming suspicions becomes more familiar as case file notes can be grouped together by their relevant investigation topics.
Using the Store Manager’s notes to confirm his suspicions is a unique and entertaining way to present the experience. The suspicious events that unfold are sure to peak any would-be detective interest with enough thrilling suspense and drama to keep psychological horror fans immersed in the strangely evolving situation. While the decisions are few, the ones you make are valuable and will affect the story’s outcome. There are some satisfying reveals and memorable moments as you slowly get to know more about store managers’ mysterious background and the strange incidents surrounding the bookstore’s customers. Fans of paranormal pulp fiction stories are sure to be entertained reading into the strange case files of the Hermitage bookstore.
-Confirming suspicions to solve the mystery is unique and satisfying
-Intriguing smooth jazz soundtrack
-Not a many decisions to make or options for gameplay variety
-Fiction surrounding high school drama feels juvenile
3 out of 5
Review code given by PR. Hermitage: Strange Case Files is out now!