Blood, Blood, Blood: Space Funeral

I know I have not had enough time to process freeware indie RPG Space Funeral.  I’m not sure I could ever have had enough time to process Space Funeral.

It’s a brief (took me maybe an hour and a half to play) turn-based RPG made in RPGMaker, with a bizarre cast of characters, a macabre setting and sense of humor, and some of the most hideous MS Paint art ever. It wears its influences proudly, juxtaposing Charles Baudelaire with Charles Schultz. And to say much more would be to spoil it.

You play as Philip, a perpetually crying boy in his pajamas, who may or may not be dead. When you rest to recover some (but not all) of your health, you sleep in a coffin. The message you receive after resting reads, “You feel better, but not much.” And like that message, and like that character, the world around you is miserable, and turned on its head.

Your lone companion on your travels is Leghorse, a headless horse who is on a mission of his own. Like so many of the enemies you battle, Leghorse is a grotesque, a hideous perversion of something… else. When you sell something to the shopkeepers they reply with, “I hope you die.” You reach a town called Malice and are greeted with “Welcome to MALICE! We have MANY GOODS and CRIMINALS!”

At its best, it’s inspired absurdism. Black, yes, but genuinely hilarious in its morbidity, turning cheerful JRPG tropes into twisted versions of themselves.

Unfortunately, like Breath of Death VII, it’s terribly easy. I did not use the vast majority of skills when playing, or need to, although health and mana both remained depleted at the end of battles. The one saving grace of Space Funeral‘s battle system (which otherwise works on an Active-Time system like early Final Fantasy games) was its “Mystery” feature. You can choose “Mystery” from your list of options once per fight, and what it does is entirely random. Early on, I frequently won whole fights by choosing “Mystery.” Later “Mystery” provided mixed results, sometimes buffing the enemy, and sometimes buffing me. It’s disappointing that the battles weren’t tougher, as that would have raised the stakes on choosing this wondrously random option. On the other hand, choosing it was always entertaining, no matter the outcome.

I have to recommend you play Space Funeral, if you can stomach the grotesque. I’m not entirely sure it works. Certainly as a set of mechanics it has its shortcomings. As a story, it tackles some very difficult themes, supported by an excellent soundtrack. Like I said, I’m not sure if it succeeds entirely. At very least, it seems like the story could have used more time to develop. But the world is certainly vibrant and unique, and Space Funeral made me laugh out loud more than any game I’ve played this year. Oh, and the hideous art? I have to admit, as off-putting as it was when I started, it became part of the appeal by the end.

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