It’s the night of the Leonid Meteor Shower in 1966. Lee, a historian, wants to take his girlfriend Victoria on a perfect picnic date. Lou, a writer, is investigating rumored sightings of winged creatures in the area. Holt, a gas station owner, is worried about his ailing grandmother and the strange nightmares haunting his sleep. And in the sky, something terrifying gathers on dark wings. Trapped in a gas station with more and more cryptids emerging from the surrounding forest, can these four unlikely allies survive – or will the night belong to the Mothmen?

Mothmen 1966 is a “Pixel Pulp” – a horror visual novel combining the best of pulp horror, vintage pixel graphics, and the interactive fiction genre. Players alternate between stepping into the shoes of Lee, Victoria, and Holt as they gradually uncover the frightening truth about the Leonid shower and the unspeakable horror it brings to life. Nico Saraintaris and Fernando Martinez Ruppel, who co-founded indie developer LCB Studio, both have a passion for the terrifying – and it absolutely shows in this fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat visual novel experience.

Gameplay alternates between sections inspired by the classic “choose your own adventure” formula, where one wrong choice could leave you dangling helplessly from the claws of a Mothman, and a variety of puzzles ranging from classic brain teasers to the very aptly named “Impossible Solitaire.” Even the game’s action sequences are puzzle-based, a fact I absolutely loved. When Holt decides to fight the Mothmen and their allies with a replica machine gun, the resulting fight scene is not the fairly bland, straightforward shootout I had been expecting, but rather a tricky grid-based combat puzzle that required knowing each enemy’s strengths, weaknesses, and behavior patterns.

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Some puzzles are optional, like Holt organizing his shelves – but they’re all worth doing!

Mothmen 1966‘s vintage pixel art style is another of its strengths. The game takes place entirely at night, with a moody green-blue-black color palette that perfectly emphasizes the growing horror as the cast realizes exactly what is lurking out there in the woods. The characters are expressive and emotive in a way that definitely honors Mothmen 1966‘s pulp horror roots, and the game’s minimalist art style does not make it any less effective at delivering moments of pure terror. Mothman (or rather Mothmen – as the title suggests, there’s a whole flock of ’em menacing our poor protagonists) was the perfect cryptid to choose to star in a game of this style, as it is traditionally depicted as a sinister silhouette with red eyes, leaving much of its true appearance to the player’s imagination. Those eyes in particular are used to great effectiveness throughout the game – every time I saw a glimmer of red among the largely blue and green landscape, I knew I was in danger and things were about to get spooky.

True to its classic horror roots, Mothman 1966 is a fast-paced game that you can easily complete in one sitting. Each chapter is bite-sized, allowing you to either binge through the entire game at once (as I did – I was hooked!) or experience it bit by bit just like a story told in an old serial magazine or on the radio. It does have multiple endings, as well as achievements based around completing puzzles or responding a certain way to dialogue prompts, so there is definitely some replayability there. Each unlocked achievement gives you a cool new pixel art image in the Gallery, so I highly recommend unlocking them all.

 

Any complaints I had with Mothmen 1966 were fairly minor. I would have to say that my biggest issue was the lack of a “chapter select” screen even after playing through the game once. While you can save the game at any point, and there are plenty of save slots, I would have liked the ability to restart from specific chapters so I could more easily access puzzles and conversations I wished to replay. This is especially notable as the “Impossible Solitaire” (which lives up to its name – I still have not completed it successfully) can be accessed directly from the menu, while none of the other game’s puzzles can despite several others having replay value.

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Drawing a Mothman for Lou’s records

Additionally, I was not the biggest fan of Mothmen 1966‘s sound design choices. The default sound when the text appears on screen is fairly high pitched – I believe it is meant to imitate radio beeps – and gets annoying to listen to fairly quickly. I ended up having to mute the sound fairly early on, and would have preferred a more traditional typing noise if there was going to be sound every time text appeared – although, for such a text-heavy game, I think any sound chosen might have become annoying eventually. Again, however, these are strictly minor flaws in a thoroughly fun and engaging (and downright spooky) game.

Mothmen 1966 is a tense, snappy, fast-paced adventure with several moments of genuine terror. I would recommend it to horror fans, fans of visual novels, fans of choose your own adventure, fans of retro / vintage games, and, of course, fans of Mothman! Developer LCB Studio has already announced at least two more “Pixel Pulps” are forthcoming, and I eagerly look forward to playing (and hopefully reviewing) them all!

 

Kate played Mothmen 1966 on Steam with a code provided by the publisher.

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I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this review that almost every screenshot I took was of the Mothmen. They just look so cool!

 

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