The survival horror genre in video games has certainly been an interesting point of discussion for many years. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of Capcom’s legendary Resident Evil series, Konami’s famous Silent Hill series, or smaller gems like Silicon Knights’s Eternal Darkness or Warp Games’s D2, there’s something in the genre for every nuanced taste out there. That being said, survival horror isn’t something that’s represented as often in the H-game scene. Sure, there are games like Parasite in City, but the genre isn’t something you see represented every month or so. A lone developer seemed to share this sentiment, undertaking a new survival horror project in the hopes that it would revolutionize the genre in H-games in the same way Capcom and Konami did back in the 5th generation of consoles.
Unfortunately, we were left with Mansion instead.
Not pictured; Sara’s amazing hat
Mansion is a 2D survival horror adventure brought to us by an independent Japanese developer known as Alibi, who has a fair amount of titles under their belt already, such as Welcome to Our Western Hotel! andAdventure World -Alisa the Swordsman-. To refer to the events in Mansion as a “story” would be rather generous; sure, the game begins with Sara, the protagonist, being forced to stay inside a mansion overnight with her partner Bruno, but everything after the initial introduction is a random series of events with very little rhyme or reason. It’s almost as though someone read the premise of your average teen horror movie and made that the entire plot for the game. With Bruno presumably left for dead after a sudden monster attack, Sara sees no other option but to explore the mansion regardless. If it wasn’t for the game’s official description on DLSite, you’d never know that Sara and Bruno arrived at the house on a “job” given to them by an unknown client to “exterminate vermin”. Not that it really matters, since the game’s events are brushed aside so nonchalantly in the game’s two possible endings that I’m almost entirely convinced it’s satire.
The gameplay in Mansion is best described as the result of someone taking the classic Resident Evil formula and jamming it into a 2D plane. The game is controlled using the arrow keys, with the Z, X, C, and V keys all serving their own purposes. Z and X control menus as they usually do, V opens up an inventory menu where you can read collected notes, use healing items, or change ammo, and the C key cycles through your weapons. Using weapons is a little awkward at first; you must have the weapon selected and be using the stationary battle stance by holding X before you can use your weapon by hitting Z. Oddly enough, you can’t shoot or knife while crouching, but you can still damage the shorter enemies by attacking the air above them, somehow.
The ESC key brings up the pause screen, including the save/load features in Mansion. Rather than getting a cool safe room to hang out in, you’re given the ability to save anywhere you want, so long as there are no enemies in the room with you. Although, the game’s amazingly short length almost makes this feature more of a convenience than anything else.
Survivor’s log, day 3. I can now confirm that the ass was indeed fat.
The Z key is the true hero in Mansion, since examining items is what you’ll be doing quite a lot of in the game. Sadly, this is where Shinji Mikami’s classic survival horror formula doesn’t quite translate well into a sidescroller. Sure, there’re plenty of items to pick up, like keys, herbs, ammo, and even a goddamn crank, but all of these items can be found on autopilot while walking in one direction, waiting for the interact icon to show up. There are no rooms of varying size or scope to explore and maneuver in, making every room more or less the same exact thing with a different coat of paint. This complaint also extends to enemies, who can all be dealt with either by shooting them enough, stabbing them enough, or using an anesthesia bullet to bypass them completely. Despite their varying shapes and appearances, their behavior is the same across every single in-game enemy: saunter toward Sara slowly, flail appendages like mad, and then rape.
Even progressing in the game is far too simple in 2D form, though it’s not quite as obvious. You likely won’t be stumbling through the game, spending hours on that one puzzle or that one sequence. Nearly everything that comes into play can be interacted with beforehand, cluing you in onto its relevance. If you’re stuck and can’t figure out how to advance, there are six notes strewn throughout the game that flat-out tell you how to progress. Of course, you need to procure those notes anyway even if you know what to do, as picking up a note triggers what you need to do for progression. For example, that clock chilling out on the second floor? Even if you know what to do with it, you’re not getting anywhere until you pick up the note that tells you.
“’cause if you feed me, Seymour, I can grow up big and strong!”
The one area where Mansion truly succeeds is in its presentation, which is very well done. Everything looks a cut above Alibi’s previous games, and then some. The art direction is of a relatively high quality, though it sometimes does have moments wherein it looks “off”, so to say. That said, I do think the environments could have been handled a bit better, detailing more wear and tear or doing a better job at giving each room its own weathered characteristics. Unfortunately, the higher-quality artwork may have come at the price of proper animations, which is most noticeable when taking a combat stance or crouching, as Sara will immediately snap into either position. If that sounds like a nitpick, it might interest you more to know that there aren’t a whole lot of in-between animations present in sex sequences, either. Hell, there’s barely any real involvement from the enemies in some sex sequences, with one enemy clearly standing in place while Sara is the only indication there’s any actual “sex” going on.
While my eyes were feasting on the art, my ears had far less to feast on. The music is painfully average, likely the result of someone who had but a single evening to hammer some foreboding music on their grand piano. I believe the idea behind the music is to set the appropriate tone, but the game over theme is so comical that it killed the mood while I was hunting for sex CGs. Music aside, the main issue I have is with the audio mixing in general, namely with Sara. She’s the only voiced character in the game and puts on a convincing performance while being fucked by zombies, zombie maids, and other such monsters, but her lines of dialogue sure don’t match how disinterested she sounds in cutscenes. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t actually know Japanese, but neither does the fact that Sara’s voice doesn’t cut off properly in cutscenes when someone else is talking. It certainly isn’t a major point of contention, but it is noticeable.
In my Mansion headcanon, the black censors are parasites that feed off sex.
I’ve already alluded to some aspects of the sex featured in Mansion, such as how it’s of the “you need to take damage” variety, but it’s thankfully the one area where the game shines. By being attacked enough times by an enemy, you will receive a status ailment that slowly depletes your health, presumably because Mansion doesn’t want you to be happy. If you’re lucky, though, you’ll be granted with the enemy having their way with Sara’s body in one of three or four different positions. If you actually die to a specific enemy (a difficult task to accomplish in itself), you’ll be rewarded for your failure with a corresponding sex CG that shows Sara either being raped, about to be raped, or in a post-rape state. Oddly enough, the censoring in the sex sequences uses dynamic censoring in the form of a black circle that enlarges or shrinks as needed, while the CGs use traditional mosaic censoring. There’s no official decensor for the game as far as I know, so players will be stuck with the pesky black circle no matter what.
And here I thought “Zombie Maid Lesbian” was just a silly B-movie.
In closing, Mansion is certainly a game that tries to nail the survival horror experience with some porn thrown in, but it only really nails the latter down in a serviceable fashion. The game tries bringing a formula that worked in 3D into the 2D realm, but makes almost no concessions so that the same formula actually works in 2D. With no narrow corridors to maneuver through, no actual enemy AI, no pool of different enemies with their own tricks, no puzzles that give items meaning, and no level design, the game comes off as more of a test than it does a proper conversion or homage. The controls are responsive and everything functions as it should, but the formula simply doesn’t work.
It certainly doesn’t help that Mansion has an extremely short lasting time; in the time it took me to write this review, I could have beaten the game seven more times if I wanted. For the asking price of around $13 on DLsite, there are far better ways to invest your money if you’re looking for good porn, good survival horror, or even both.
Sara’s still pretty hot, though.
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