I want to start by saying I don’t enjoy dunking on bad games. I enjoy playing games that many people consider not great. There’s always an enjoyment to be found with any game. However, now and again comes of title that is truly a bad game, with no enjoyment to be had. I don’t enjoy talking badly about passion projects from a smaller studio; however SENSEs: Midnight by Suzaku Games is one of those titles. SENSEs: Midnight is a follow-up to 2020’s Sense – 不祥的预感: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story and its made the jump from 2D to 3D. Much like Sense – 不祥的预感 -Cyberpunk Ghost Story, SENSEs: Midnight is an homage to retro survival horror games like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and other classic PS1 and Dreamcast horror titles. Instead of feeling like an homage to good classical titles listed above, it seems like it’s an offshoot of the rip-offs that came from those games.
You might think, “But wait, in your review you didn’t like it so why are you reviewing the follow up? Seems like you would be coming in with some biases.” That is a good point and I can understand why you would feel that way. However I love playing follow ups to a game that I didn’t like because I love to see studios grow as developers. Something that could have been a mistake in a previous title could be fixed and made into a strength. I don’t believe anything is truly a mistake unless you don’t learn from it. in this aspect, it doesn’t appear that they learned from their previous title and took a step backward. I may not have liked Sense – 不祥的预感 -Cyberpunk Ghost Story, but comparing it to their latest release makes that looks like the game of the year. Let’s break it down.
SENSEs: Midnight opens up with Uesugi Kaho, a college student and member of the Occult Research Club, sneaking into Ikebukuro Walking Park to investigate the urban legend of the midnight door. Kaho eventually finds the fabled midnight door and is egged on by other club members chatting via a messaging service like Line to open the door. A random person adds themselves to the chat to advise them not to open the door or else they will be haunted by the ghost and despair will fall onto them. Ignoring this warning they knock and try to open the door but are unable to. It turns out that a ghost opens the door so now Kaho has to get out of the park alive. That’s pretty much it for the story. There are other bits and pieces sprinkled throughout and told through environmental storytelling, but honestly, it’s nothing too interesting and it’s easy to miss altogether. I do think it was a nice touch to have the other club members in the chat. However, it was a little confusing how they could know what is going on. It wasn’t described by Kaho in chat nor was she live streaming or anything like that. One or two lines stating that she has her camera on would have been nice.
Unlike Cyberpunk Ghost Story, SENSE Midnight has only about a 2-4 hour playtime, so it doesn’t truly overstay its welcome. The moment-to-moment gameplay is frustrating. I love classic horror games and I love Inventory management; however, the player is only given 4 inventory slots. With such a limited number of inventory slots, I had to backtrack so much in this game where it felt like like work playing it. I would be able to excuse the backtracking if the game was scary but it doesn’t feel like a horror game. The enemy AI seems to have two modes: either they’re just kind of there and don’t bother you OR they’re always on you forever chasing. With a little bit of zigzagging or just walking straight down they never catch you. Other times when being chased by a ghost I’d just stop and go somewhere else.
There are a lot of other questionable choices I found throughout my playtime. It states that there’s only one save point in this game. However, if you open the menu you’re able to save wherever and whenever you want. I’m not sure if this was an oversight or changed without notice. There are other numerous bugs and glitches that I have found in my playthrough. When I use a magatama the circle effect that it causes to ward off a ghost doesn’t go away, causing a glowing circle to forever be around Kaho. I did encounter a glitch that caused me to have to restart my playthrough. One of the puzzles requires you to insert coins to get a beer that is used for another puzzle. The sixth and final coin never spawned for me. I looked up other people’s playthroughs to see where it was; I went there and it just wasn’t there.
Another problem I have is with Kaho’s model. There are some pretty weird decisions that bug me. It’s not the way Kaho’s designed, but how she seems unfinished. Her character model does not express any emotions which kills the experience. The developers have stated that they’re looking into making her more expressive but they also stated that “they don’t understand it would be a big deal,” and I find that confusing. Typically half the enjoyment of a horror game is seeing if the character would react the same way that you would. Since she doesn’t react to her environment it doesn’t make the game seem scary. It’s as if Kaho’s there and the environment is completely separate. It seems like more care went into the jiggle physics for Kaho than other aspects. Please let her hair move more naturally.
In its current state SENSEs: Midnight feels unfinished and rushed to be released. I cannot recommend this title for multiple reasons but, it seems like Suzaku Games Is listening to the community’s feedback and will make changes. Hopefully, at some point, this title will be enjoyable but that’s not right now. I hope that Suzaku Games learns from this experience and that their next game will be a great one.