It feels like we have been getting a whole slew of simulation style games and job-sims in the industry, and now we get to add one more with The Mortuary Assistant. The latest title to hit the PC from DarkStone Digital and DreadXP, only that this one also goes a bit further than just being a job simulation game. In fact, The Mortuary Assistant aims to give us all of those basic motions while adding even more horror to the job at hand. It is a thankless job, but someone has to do it while trying to make sure they are not possessed by demons. That would be the other part of the game that we have to worry about. For now, though, take a load off and get ready to see just how well the game runs and if it will be worth the time and effort to go through it all. Here is our review.
Rebecca has just wrapped up schooling in the mortuary sciences and is ready to take on an apprenticeship getting down and dirty in the field. This is when Rebecca lands the job at the River Field Mortuary to start their long career at embalming the dead and getting them prepped for the funerals that will come. The only issue is, that Rebecca now finds a few new demonic entities attached to the mortuary and being in the mix. Demons that will make life a living Hell and possibly bring Rebecca down with them. That is unless they can be exorcised out while still performing all of the jobs and duties that also come along.
For the most part, the controls in The Mortuary Assistant were as straightforward and basic when it comes to the first-person style of games. Something that is usually paired perfectly with a mouse and keyboard. There is no mistaking that translates well over here, but that is only in most cases. One of the glaring issues I kept coming across in my time with The Mortuary Assistant came down to just basic locomotion. Something that was only made worse when you have to move the gurney around in the game to load up your next body. Given that time is not on our side when it comes to finding the correct corpse to incinerate, it can be a huge pain to have to move things around. It is something that a lot of practice can help with, but not something that helps sell you on the game from the start of it all.
On top of that, there are a lot of things to have to keep track of in The Mortuary Assistant when it comes to clues and various other elements in the game. Safe codes, passwords, and then all of the demon symbols that crop up to help us name the demon we are hunting down. It can be a lot, which is why it is weird that there is no in-game way to save all of that data for easy use when we need it. During the game, we have to find four different symbols that spell out the demon's name, place them on a tablet and cross-reference it all on a computer that we have to keep logging into. Sure, it adds to the realism if we have to take notes, but it can get quite cumbersome in The Mortuary Assistant. More so when there is a system in play to help us go through the basic motions of the non-demon hunting parts of the game. Get ready to have some scratch paper on hand since the game only helps in certain ways and not the ways you will need to reference more often than one.
Speaking of the finding and naming of the demon in The Mortuary Assistant, there seems to be no good way to fully know if you have done the job correctly until it is too late in the game. That is, from my experience, you can find all of the symbols, figure out which demon it is, keep a close eye on the cadavers acting off, and yet still burn the wrong body and get the "bad ending." The game tells you that the body that needs to have the demon bound to it will have weird things happen (subtle or grand) to let you know. Yet there were a few times in The Mortuary Assistant where a demon brand burst into flame on the body and yet resulted in me finding out that it was the wrong body to select. Had it happened only once, it would have felt like a glitch in the game, but it happened quite often when it felt like the game was highlighting the correct choice with no other clues to anything else, yet it was still the wrong way to go.
While The Mortuary Assistant does look like it is more of a simulation game instead of a traditional horror title, the fact that DarkStone Digital placed a solid narrative in the background that most did not know was coming, we a true highlight. All of which come about as the demon starts to mess with Rebecca more and more while we are starting to piece things all together. It was something truly unexpected, like the frights, and was pulled off extremely well. Especially as some of it does not come to light until you go through the motions for The Mortuary Assistant over multiple playthroughs. It gives you something to strive for beyond just trying to get a perfect night and demon hunt under your belt but shows why and how the demons are able to affect Rebecca as they do. I am always a sucker for a good story and before playing the game, I did not think it was going to be there at all. The best of surprises while moving about the mortuary indeed.
Building from that, some of the tension and scenes that come to life in The Mortuary Assistant actually build more on the player paranoia more than cheap jumpscares during the night. Sure, there are a few of the classic horror tropes in the game, but it felts like the team took time to make many of them personal to the story, which adds a whole lot to the horror beyond working at a mortuary at night. Even the little things like whispered voices or images of characters we still believe are alive (looking at you grandma) make the game the right mix of creepy while going through some mundane tasks. It is a game that can scare you with the lights on or off for sure and it is something that many horror games do not get fully working at launch. The Mortuary Assistant did it well and it made things that much more enjoyable of an experience than needing the perfect setting to truly get into the mood.
Lastly, for a game that is based on such a dark theme and industry to go into, I was surprised to see how far The Mortuary Assistant went into the actual science and practices that go into it all. All while adding in mini-games of sorts to help immerse you further into it all. Sure, wiring a jaw shut or securing eyelids are not going to be as easy as the game had it be, but it helped mix the grosser and more morbid side of it all with the motions and actions we had to help play out. If you do not cringe each time the injector goes down into the jaw, then there might be something wrong with you. Even if none of them were crazy or over-the-top in complexity, it helped add to the immersion of the situation and further drive home some of the more horrible aspects of the game along the way. You can see some of it in motion in the tutorial video we have just below for The Mortuary Assistant and see just how even these mouse clicks and button presses can give one the heebie-jeebies too.
At the end of it all, The Mortuary Assistant is not a long or difficult game to get into and kill a few hours in the process. Pun only kind of intended. It does a good job of immersing the player into the world, giving a bit of a grim story, while making sure that they will have a few bad dreams later on. There are some basic issues with the mechanics and gameplay elements, as I mentioned above, but none of them ever made it so I could not progress through. Hells, even getting things wrong along the way only made it easier to understand how to not do things in the future shifts I put Rebecca through in the game. It is a solid little horror title that can even get viewers of the gameplay to cringe a little bit while getting spooked too. I had a blast with it and I think that many others will find it right in line with their tastes too. If the following gameplay does not get you interested in it, then you might want to give a pass on The Mortuary Assistant for now.
I give The Mortuary Assistant 13 Lettering Strips on the Lettering Strip scale.
The Mortuary Assistant — Opening Tutorial
The Mortuary Assistant — The First Night Gameplay