What spooky use do you have for £3.13 this Halloween night? A bag of Haribo Fangtastics, a Screme Egg, and a can of Stella? Oh you could buy that, you could. You might also quite like Marginalia. It's a spooky trip into some spooky woods with a spooky tale narrated by a spooky/quite pleasant man and spooky music. It's got a few problems, but if let yourself drift along with the story, carried by the wailing '70s horror soundtrack, it's pleasantly unsettling.
Marginalia's a collaboration between Connor Sherlock and Cameron Kunzelman, whose work has shaken us before. Sherlock's The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home left Alec disquieted, while Adam whimpered at at Kunzelman's Catachresis.
It's the story of a brother venturing into old woods and dark valleys to find his lost brother, and what happened there. To be horribly reductive: it's a campfire spooky story where you walk around looking at things while someone narrates and music plays, but it's a nice spooky story, and it's a pleasingly unpleasant place to wander, and the narration is good, and the music is lovely. You wander between big glowing lanterns that trigger the next line of narration, but can also wander off the beaten track to find black candles that tell another, more fantastic branch of the story.
The valley is wide, the trees tall, and the sky oppressive, and the wonderful soundtrack does so much to sell this mood. I felt watched from afar even before the narrated suggested that. Then I was sure I was being watched, eyes darting from shadows of branches to distant hills to find whatever must be out there. The problem is that you need to keep moving and progressing or the chills warm up.
The second, hidden story encourages exploration, but so much of the big world is 'empty' and penned by stone outcrops. If you wander somewhere and don't find anything, the tension dies as you backtrack, ruining the pacing of the narration. If you stop to catch your bearings, the exaggerated shaking of the trees that was eerie just a second ago becomes silly. You need to keep moving. The main plot points are clearly visible while the secondary ones usually show a flicker of purple flame in the distance, so do meander as you walk and investigate curious things, but turn back if you don't see anything soon. Keep moving, keep walking, keep catching glimpses out the corner of your eye, and it's jolly nice.
Not that this is a Wot I Think, right. I don't write reviews. This is a news post with a few thoughts about a thing wot I played. Yup. If I saw someone dressed as a Sexy Video Game Review at a Halloween party I would never stop screaming.
Marginalia's $5 over on Itch.io.