Deemed Worthy by the Goddess
A lot can happen in one night. That’s the basic premise of Zelle: Occult Adventure, the latest installment from Japanese Game developer Daigo of Odencat. Zelle: Occult Adventure is a horror-survival adventure game for android with a focus on supernatural elements and the afterlife. At the heart of the story is a young boy named Emerada, who is trying to escape from Nocturne Castle and the mysterious reaper in order to go home and see his mother again. Not just a fright fest, Zelle: Occult Adventure takes the player on a journey replete with excitement, despair, happiness and some terrific gameplay to boot.
You control Emerada from a first-person perspective, tapping your finger on doors and hallways to move between areas or on objects to interact with them. In some sections, the game switches to a top-down view, but the tapping controls don’t feel different. To advance from room to room, you will have to solve puzzles and find keys. As you tap about the castle, demons will approach you. Exorcise them using multi-colored rosary beads. When a demon appears, three different colored icons appear on your screen, red, yellow, or blue. Tap the one that matches the color of the demon’s glowing eyes before the time limit runs out.
A Bad Dream
At first, the three colored icons will rest statically at the bottom of the screen. But after the introductory battles, they will be hidden within a fun and clever puzzle. This means they will be rearranging, disappearing and flying across the screen. One exorcism will force you to track an icon that rapidly switches places with the other two while all three are hidden, reminiscent of a magician hiding a ball in a cup and shuffling the cups around. Another demon’s icons are hidden behind a barrage of balloons which you have to pop rapid-fire to reveal the correct one.
Each demon encounter is different, presenting a unique challenge. But all of them will quicken your pulse and force you to sit up in your chair, zoom your eyes across the screen, and frantically jab your finger at the correct icon before time runs out. These battles evoke a tense atmosphere that feels right at home in the survival horror genre.
Artistically, Zelle: Occult Adventure succeeds enormously. Each creepy corner of the castle pleases the eyes, without sacrificing a bleak and macabre tone. The nooks and crannies of the game world overflow with creepy paraphernalia, ominous runes and hidden symbols. The game’s great cast of characters run the gamut from nightmare-inducing to endearingly cute, and everywhere in between. Even in sprite form, their designs command attention. Although sparse, the soundtrack composed by Xion is vibrant. Large chunks of the game are disappointingly silent, but when the music does appear it goes right to work on your adrenaline glands and tear ducts.
One Night in the Story of Your Life
The plot deviates from the basic premise of a boy trying to escape a castle. But without giving anything away, all of the twists and turns create an emotional experience that is powerful despite Zelle: Occult Adventure’s short run-time, which is a little over three hours. Each moment in this game is carefully curated with love and attention. The game meditates on topics such as death, religion, the afterlife, loss, friendship, and personal growth. Despite going to dark places, it still manages to be life-affirming. Sometimes the story dominates the gameplay, and it feels as though you are doing more watching than playing. I would have loved more frantic battles with demons in the last third of the game. However, it’s hard to complain when the story is as good as it is.
Overall, Zelle: Occult Adventure is an incredible experience. From the excellent gameplay to the beautifully-written narrative, this is a surefire hit for anyone who loves to play through a great story. It’s on the short side and lacking in a few areas, but it delivers with emotion and enjoyment.
Is it Hardcore?
Zelle: Occult Adventure is a dazzling mix of horror and heartbreak that will steal you away, lock you up and then throw away the key.