I’ve played a couple of short games recently, not long enough to make a decent-sized article, given how I approach reviews. I still want to talk about them and share how cool they are, so here you go Mini review!
Peret em Heru is a short horror JRPG, that I stumbled upon, as the Ô Algorithm recommended me a video.
It’s a free game, released on PC-98. PC-98 is a personal computer manufactured in Japan in the ’80s. It allowed people to program their own games birthing a lot of doujin games, including ones with more adult themes. It came with a certain aesthetic and most of those games never reached EU and US shores.
The game was also developed using Dante 98 RPG Maker II. I was not aware that the roots of RPG Maker were that ancient! The game was translated by a circle known as “Memories of Fear”. The link to their translated version is here.
Peret em Heru is set in the Pyramid of Giza, where he’s determined to find a hidden temple below the pyramid. Illegally digging the pyramid, he and his assistant finally find the entry. Very fast a worker loses his life in a gruesome manner. Running out of time, authorities in his tracks, he gathers a team of tourists and forces them to explore the ruins for him, intending that they fall into the traps for him. Only a couple hours long, you can replay the game to get different events or endings.
You control Ayuto Asaki, a young brave man that came with his classmates during a school trip. The focus of the game is narration and puzzles, as you unravel the insides of the pyramid, but also the tortuous past of your group around you. You can fail the puzzles, and it can cost you your life, but more interestingly the life of people in that team. You have very basic RPG combat, with few abilities you unlock gaining levels but that’s not the focus of the game despite amazing sprite work.
The game is really pretty and the sprite work is what drew me to this game. Enemies are horrific, straight from a slasher. The map is detailed and grounded, leaving very few “dead zones” where nothing happened and you just encounter monsters. They are very charming and will definitely please people loving Egyptian mythos or stories about Pharao’s curses. The soundtrack is also doing its job and can be very oppressive at a time (in a good way).
The narration of the game goes hand in hand with the puzzles. People chat together and reveal themselves, followed by a sequence where Ayuto interacts with the world and kills baddies. Failing the puzzles (or choosing to), results in the elimination of people from your team, in a gruesome manner. At first, you think they are simple traps for intruders, but as you progress through the story and the pyramid, you realize that each trap or encounter is a punishment for someone in your group, who has committed big or little sins in their life. The game touch on a very dark theme in a surprising manner. From simply lying or stealing in a store, to being a drug mule or not helping someone dying. One of the characters even tries to have his way with a woman by blackmailing her. It might sound tame to you, but you don’t have this kind of characterization often.
What I was even more surprised about is that the drug mule character treatment is not harsh. Near the end, it is revealed that two of the characters were in the Luxor shooting a real-world event, taking place only some months before the game was released, where Japanese citizens were killed. As a French citizen witnessing the attacks in Paris and their media treatment in the months and years that followed, I find this choice very bold and surprising.
Even though you have those choices, the game is linear, you only go deeper in the pyramid, but who gets to escape depends on you. The ending surprised me as well, your buddy is actually the one chosen to be the next Pharaoh. I liked that it’s not centered all around Ayuto (the player character). After this, you go on escaping the pyramid with the survivors and fight all your fallen teammates, now cadavers hungry for your flesh. You then get the same ending, but with slight variation depending on who you saved.
A short game, but a game that never disappoints you or overstays its welcome. If you are hungry for dark ruins, esoteric stories, and gruesome deaths, go check it out. Even if you are not, the dialogue, stories and sprites make it worth playing.