Banshee’s Last Cry Review: text based terror
When I downloaded Banshee’s Last Cry for iOS, I was expecting to be entertained. After all, nobody resurrects and translates a game released in 1995 unless it’s good, right? What I was not expecting was to be completely sucked into the story and scared out of my wits! And, I certainly was not expecting to screw up as badly as I did! Turns out I am not a candidate for Scooby Doo escapades. My eight year old self is very disappointed.
Banshee’s Last Cry is an interactive novel about a series of murders in an isolated ski lodge. You play the role of a guest and his female companion (there’s no way to switch the genders) and your choices impact what happens within the game, mainly who gets murdered and whether or not you successfully capture the killer.
Banshee’s Last Cry is as much a novel as it is a game, so the plot and the writing are as important as the choices and consequences. The writing is solid, it’s not going to set the world on fire but it is perfectly readable and the translators have done an excellent job of capturing the mood. This is even more impressive considering everything was translated from a Japanese game released in 1995, and had to be localised and updated to modern times. I noticed the inclusion of several pop culture references and technologies that simply weren’t around back then, all of which made the book even more immersive.
The descriptions of the murders were by far the novels best point, and because I am such an awful detective I got to read every last one of them. They are great, in the same way that the first Saw is great, they are violent and over the top but they serve a very specific purpose. Namely to freak you out.
Well there is very little gameplay, it’s all about choices, but there are plenty of choices to make. Every few pages you are given a new decision to make, some of which seem unimportant but no doubt have dramatic affects on the plot. Go upstairs and spend time in your room, accept or reject a job offer or ask your companion to marry you? These are some of the choices that impact the plot far more than you may initially realise.
The bigger choices, mainly about who to accuse are worded very subtly; “I know who killed person A” or “I know who killed person A and B” or “I know why person A was killed” Obviously the only way to know which is the correct choice is to know which is the correct choice. You can’t simply accuse the suspicious handyman, you need to be certain.
Needless to say I screwed up and locked up the wrong person, it didn’t end well for either of us.
Did you hear that?
For me it was the sound that made this game special. Sound is used sparsely in Banshee’s Last Cry but my god is it used effectively. Sometimes it’s just the wind howling outside the window, sometimes it’s a clump of snow falling from the room, sometimes it’s just the ominous groaning of the wooden lodge, and sometimes it’s the dying screams of one of the guests.
By far the most effective sounds effects used are the incredibly subtle, soft repetious scratching and scraping noises that permeate certain scenes. At one point I was certain that the sounds were in the next room and I muted my iPad to be sure. Now that’s good use of sound.
There’s music as well but it lacks the subtlety of the sound effects A great example is the jaunty country music that played as two new characters were about to introduced, unsurprisingly they were Texans who used phrases like “Hey Y’all” and “we done gone and got ourselves lost” with nary a trace of irony. Musical foreshadowing is appreciated but that may have been a bit much.
If you do choose to buy this game, and I strongly suggest you do, play it right. You can’t play this on a bus, or in a room with friends or during your lunch break because this is a game that demands you immerse yourself completely. If you play with other distractions, the carefully crafted sound effects, the slowly revealed images and the impact of the text will all be lost on you. Wait till you get home, get into bed and play it in the dark.
And then try and sleep with the lights off. I dare you.
[You can download Banshee’s Last Cry for iOS here, unlocking the full game costs $3.99. An Android version has been announced but the release date is unconfirmed]
[Image sources: Nah just the wind]