Visual Novels can be…interesting. Some are utterly bonkers, with the likes of Zero Escape requiring multiple playthroughs that include multiple timelines and complex, escape room-esque puzzles. Others utterly mess with the player, such as Doki Doki Literature Club‘s insane, fourth-wall breaking plot. Some are content to tell a story with no interaction at all (sometimes called Kinetic Novels). The House In Fata Morgana feels like the latter for the most part, but then starts introducing choices late on that can lead to multiple endings, only one of which really gives a satisfactory conclusion.
I’m going to avoid spoilers for the most part, so read on knowing that your plot safety has been considered!
You awake in front of a roaring fire in a seemingly abandoned mansion with no knowledge of who you are, and are met by someone name The Maid. The Maid insists on calling you Master and appears to have some idea of who you are. Promising to enlighten you as to your identity, they lead you around the mansion, through four doors that each contains a tale of the mansion’s owners over the past centuries. The stories are all connected, but you’ll likely notice inconsistencies that lead to more questions, and a greater mystery surrounding the history of the mansion. The tale beyond the fourth door is absolutely not the end of the story.
Each story that you experience is, for the most part, very well told and could be a visual novel in its own right, albeit a short one (each door clocks in at two to three hours). There are twists aplenty in each one and they’re telegraphed just enough for you to have an idea of what may happen, without giving everything away. I really enjoyed these stories, even if the narrative can get a little bogged down in too many details at times, slowing the pace to a crawl. A slow pace is fine at times, but there were a number of cases of characters repeating the same information multiple times, which just got a little irritating.
These stories are very good though and involve romance, thriller, and horror elements at various points. The horror in one of the stories is particularly enjoyable. But the narrative behind each door only tells half the story. Quite literally in fact, as at the halfway point, you are given a number of choices that can lead to some unsatisfying conclusions or the continuation into the tale. By this point, it may appear that you know enough of the facts, but much of your knowledge may not be as accurate as you think. The real story behind The House in Fata Morgana is only just beginning.
Handling themes such as gender identity, self-acceptance, family, and redemption, this story is not always easy reading. There are hard-hitting moments that look at the emotional and mental turmoil that some people likely experience on a day-to-day basis. There’s a satisfactory ending that reveals the true identities and motivations of the characters should you make the right choices along the way (good use of the save feature is recommended), but it’s really the journey that makes this story worthwhile, stereotypical though that may be. Decisions are few and far between, and the vast majority of The House in Fata Morgana is simply reading the story. You’ll need to pay enough attention though, as the choices later on will be based on your knowledge of what has come before.
A lot of the artwork is reused multiple times, particularly the backgrounds and many of the character models as is the case in many visual novels. When major events occur though, there are specific images that have increased impact. Some of these can be brutal or unsettling, but all are excellently done with the right level of detail to highlight events without giving away too much of what’s happening. The music is absolutely fantastic and is all original work for the game. You’ll hear the same pieces plenty of time, but they’re excellently done and don’t become tiresome at all. I was a particular fan of the soundtrack behind door three which has an almost 1920’s America feel to it. It’s not set exactly in that era, but it sounded great and worked well. The slight era inconsistencies are noticeable in a few ways, especially the dialogue, which seems much more modern than people from the time periods should. It’s a small gripe, but something I noticed.
The game is mouse driven, with left clicks progressing the story and selecting choices. You can use the keyboard if you really want but it makes no difference. There’s a menu on the bottom right if you move your pointer to it that allows saving, loading, and reading the backlog of text amongst other things. It works well enough but I was surprised that hitting esc didn’t pull up the menu. What was also surprising was the resolution and aspect ratio. It appears to be in 800×600 resolution, and the game displays in 4:3 rather than widescreen for some reason. This isn’t an especially old game so I’m quite surprised by this, and the black bars at the side of my display were a little offputting at first.
Beyond that though, I’ve really enjoyed the story here, difficult as it was at times. There’s around a 25-hour tale to enjoy here, and it’s unlike stories I’ve read in other VN games. I’d encourage you to check it out. Have you played it? How did you find the story on offer?