Gothic masterpiece with a lot of strings attached
The House in Fata Morgana is a gothic Visual Novel by the relatively unknown developer, Novect. The game does not look like a typical VN. The art is Western-looking with muted colors instead of an overly saturated Anime style. The setting spans centuries across different countries instead of a year at a typical Japanese high school. The choices the player makes are solely used to move the plot forward, rather than influencing which “waifu” to end up with. To say the least, The House in Fata Morgana stands out in a crowd of samey looking VNs however the lackluster production values and pacing problems ruin the experience.
In The House in Fata Morgana, you play as a person suffering from amnesia who ends up at an abandoned mansion. To your surprise there is a woman called The Maid who happily greets you and calls you her Master. To help recover the player’s memories, The Maid has the ability to bring you to the past and observe the lives of the mansion’s previous occupants. The Maid guides the player to visit four distinct doors. The protagonist starts to notice some common elements in each story: The seemingly ageless Maid always makes an appearance. A beautiful white haired girl woos the male lead. And all the stories end in tragedy. The rest of the game is figuring out the mystery of the mansion, who the protagonist is and what are the true intentions of The Maid.
For as beautifully well thought out the story is, I found it horribly paced. It does not help that I found the first door agonizingly boring. Despite my remark about how the game does not look like a typical VN, the dialog sure resembles one. The banter between characters is long winded. Conversations can easily last over a dozen minutes with only a sliver of pertinent information. The Beast’s story is especially atrocious, since players will have to click through the same gibberish dialogue over and over. The game’s script could have easily been halved and tell the same tale.
Fortunately, the music and art help elevate the repetitive script. The soundtrack is astonishingly varied. The music ranges from religious hymns, songs with vocals in Portuguese and light hearted background music. It fits the game to a tee, but I did find the vocal soundtracks a bit distracting. The hand drawn art is impressive. Character portraits are highly detailed and emotive. The few full screen drawings in the game are surprisingly well executed and conveys the characters’ mood and actions without words.
The House in Fata Morgana from a gameplay perspective is fairly pedestrian. Players click through dialogue until they encounter a choice. Most choices are inconsequential while other choices lead to Bad Endings. The game auto-saves at these critical junctures, so it is easy to reload and pick the right choice should you happen to stumble upon a Bad Ending. There are two choices in the game that are time restricted. The game will end whether you choose to pick an option or let it lapse, however the game never clearly communicates this so it is recommended to review a walkthrough so you know when to expect them. The game does a cool third-wall breaking moment in the fourth door’s story and I highly recommend perusing the message logs while experiencing it.
The production quality of The House in Fata Morgana is very basic. There is no voice-over, there are very few character portraits and the generic blurry backgrounds aren’t interesting to look at. It is especially egregious in the latter chapters, where they dump walls and walls of text. At those moments, I wondered why this is even a VN, when it could have been better served as a novella. Yes the game does have beautiful artwork, but for the majority of the game you will be staring at a generic low quality wallpaper background while reading repetitive text.
The House in Fata Morgana is wildly inconsistent. The game has its brilliant moments especially once you start connecting the dots and seeing how each story is subtly related to one another. It reminds me of the saying, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes”. The game also has numerous lows. The story’s pacing is horrible and is worsened by the repetitive script. The poor production values simply cannot justify the retail price of the game compared to more well known VNs like Steins;Gate, they retail on Steam for $24.99 and $29.99 respectively. The House in Fata Morgana is an okay recommendation if you can get it at a deep discount and are looking for a unique story that is different from a typical VN.