I’m all for a bit of horror now and then.
In fact, as something of a safety-crouching coward and self-confessed survival-horror-phobe, it came as a bit of shock when I realised how many of my favourite games were in fact horror. I’m no stranger to the jump-scare, I’m remarkably adept at attaché case Tetris, and I only completely ignore the brightness settings 90% of the time.
I’m not exactly sure what the lure is, maybe I find the promise of fear titillating!
Speaking of titillating, let me introduce you to Vera Blanc…
Now, not unlike the strangely dissolving clothing that Vera wears, there are a couple of things I’d like to get off my chest. For a game which describes itself as a “riveting mystery detective game” you would do well to set your expectations pretty low. No, even lower than that, and brace yourself for an eye-rollingly tawdry bit of entertainment. That’s not to say I didn’t like this game, and in all fairness Full Moon lays out its silliness cards early on.
We begin the story with our leading lady at death’s door.
Suffering from a terminal brain tumour. Luckily for Vera she is the daughter of Emmanuel Blanc, one of the richest people on Earth, who demonstrates that money can indeed buy you anything. Including unspecified, experimental surgery which leaves Vera with psychic powers. Obviously.
Determined to use your newfound powers for good, your father enlists the help of former FBI agent turned Paranormal Detective Brandon Mackey, to take you on as his paranormal sidekick and solve crimes of a spooky nature. Your first case is to investigate the mysterious town of Wolfach (which does actually exist) deep in the Black Forest of Germany, where a series of grizzly murders might be the work of someone lycanthropic in nature.
The game itself is an interactive visual novel.
With comic book stylings that hark back to the early pulp-fiction days of lantern-jawed, hard-boiled detectives and women with bombastic boobage and internal organ crushing waistlines. In one sense you could argue that this is nostalgic, but given the progress made with other notable busty characters (Lara Croft) and even Marvel and DC heroines having their proportions normalised, it would be nice to see this sort of art style consigned to the archives.
The actual gameplay is not unlike a choose your own adventure book, as you gather clues from conversations with others and make your decision on what to do next. Correct choices mean you get to live another day, incorrect choices will send you to your demise. So far, so simple. However, Full Moon is a game that very much enjoys sending you to meet your maker. Some life-or-death decisions are signalled fairly clearly, others seem to happen randomly. It’s a good idea then to save frequently, as taking too long to solve a puzzle can be just as life-threatening as clicking through every available dialogue option.
What separates this game from being a click-and-read trashy novella are the puzzles.
Should you wish to use Vera’s mind-reading powers, you will need to solve a hangman style word puzzle where you have to guess the correct missing letters in a limited number of moves. Occasionally the insight you can glean from your brain magic might not be the most useful, but it’s often the best way of getting out of a tricky situation.
These puzzles also provide a small element of risk and reward, and if you mess up you will not get a second chance.
Other puzzles in Full Moon’s repertoire include some ridiculously eye-crossing spot the difference puzzles, where the differences could literally be one pixel out of place, and one of the most tedious memory puzzles sections I’ve ever played. Thankfully, this memory puzzle only appeared once as part of an overly long chase sequence, where fleeing successfully requires you to memorise a sequence of numbers and enter them correctly.
These moments of putting the “story” on hold so you can do a few back of the newspaper brainteasers could be seen as “Immersion Breaking”, but these moments are often the highlights of the game. They give you, the player, something to actually do other than click through some joyously inane pulp fiction. There is the option early on to turn the puzzles off and enjoy the story, but I’d urge against this as without these little moments of puzzle-solving, the game doesn’t really offer anything else other than a shallow, silly comic strip.
The story is fully daft and filled with werewolves, psychics, secret societies and corrupt politicians. There are a few other notable supporting characters including Eva Baum a mysterious woman in red who also screams “vampire” in a million movie tropes, and gruff, no-nonsense head of police Lucas Werner who has the obligatory bad-ass eye scar.
Despite the outrageous tropes, poorly spelled dialogue, and the game taking every opportunity it can to render our heroine Vera standing about in her undergarments, Full Moon has enough intrigue and gumshoe charm to pull you in and want to uncover the truth.
So if you like an old fashioned, bawdy, spooky mystery then you can’t go wrong with this.
Don’t expect anything too deep or revelatory and you won’t be disappointed. A second instalment which sees our heroine travelling to a small village in central Italy in “Vera Blanc: Ghost in The Castle” has also been released onto Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Hopefully, our leading lady has managed to get herself some more robust clothing.
If you’re after a quick and cheap interactive story that looks like Lichtenstein got his hands on Microsoft Paint, then you can’t go wrong here. While the plot is paper-thin, and the puzzles are repetitive, there is an oddly compelling charm to Full Moon. Like a trashy novel you read on the beach, the enjoyment comes from how rubbish it is. Yes, Vera Blanc is one of those transcendent games, the so bad it’s good. As long as you don’t expect Straw Dogs and you’re more a of Carry on Screaming fan you’ll be laughing.
Review code provided
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 13/11/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, RPG
Developer: Winter Wolves
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop