Mary Skelter 2 is the follow-up to a game that many people simply won’t have heard of. That’s probably in part due to the niche genre in which it sits. As a first-person dungeon-crawling role-playing game, it contains more keywords than even the tastiest of SEO soup. The story (vaguely) is that you’re in control of a group of fighters who are Blood Maidens. Most of these have classic fairytale names like Little Mermaid or Red Riding Hood, and they all wear clothing that would be considered underdressed even at a rave in a desert.
It all kicks off with your character hanging out with Little Mermaid and Red Riding Hood in a dungeon. Your aim is to find another Blood Maiden (fairytale named anime girl) to help you fight off the constant onslaught of Marchen (monsters). To do this, you journey through the dungeon and fight your way through the Marchen that attack you. Well, you will eventually.
It starts in a dungeon that is so filled with exposition that you can’t go further than a couple of steps without triggering another cutscene and another lore/exposition/general chitchat dump. It’s not a great start, and it severely detracts from what the game is good at, which is exploring dungeons and fighting monsters. While later dungeons do tone this down a lot, it’s still a frustrating experience to be greeted with, and cutscenes and conversations later in the game still feel around 30% longer than they really need to be. This would be fine if the writing was good, but it’s all quite basic.
Wandering around dungeons is nice and easy thanks to a mini-map that fills in as you go. For the most part, you can explore at your own pace and find the treasures hidden around each one, solve the small puzzles that appear with your skills, and fight off any random monster fights that pop up. This is improved dramatically by the ability to open up your map and select a square to move to. This makes backtracking easy to do, and relatively painless.
The one time this changes is when you start getting chased by a Nightmare. These are immortal beings who only exist to make you nervous and chase you around. When they’re near you, there will be a strange white light, before the mini-map disappears when they get too close. You can outrun them, but you’ll not have much time to think when doing so. It’s a cool system that helps to keep things a bit more lively as you’re exploring.
The combat system isn’t complex as such, but there are a lot of layers. The short of it is that you hit monsters, they hit you, everyone moves based on their agility stat, and you can finish off a lot of fights by merely using your basic attacks.
The long of it is far more complex. There are heaps of skills to learn and each one will be more or less effective depending on the enemies you are facing. There is a system for a character who joins you who can go on a rampage if you use specific attacks too much. This could potentially cause a game over if you don’t manage it correctly. Then, there is the Massacre Mode, which occurs if the Blood Maidens fill up a meter by performing critical hits, attacks that exploit an enemy weakness or overkill an enemy. This mode grants them immense strength for a few turns and unlocks unique abilities as well.
You’ll eventually unlock Base HQ, which is where you can pick up side quests and do things like chat to party members and creepily rub your party members to give them a stat boost. It’s pretty gross as most of the characters appear to be quite young, and it’s indicative of one of the least appealing parts of the game: the fanservice.
Every character will at some point become scantily clad or just be in a state of undress at all times. One of the first extra party members you meet wears three belts instead of a skirt. It’s all just cringeworthy in a way that only an anime game can be. It’s a shame, because it adds a sour note to an otherwise enjoyable dungeon crawler.