When I first saw the trailer for Evil Nun: The Broken Mask, I was instantly reminded of Puppet Combo’s excellent Nun Massacre. Both games feature a psychopathic nun after your blood, leaving you to run and hide in the hope of finding a way out. Considering I had a lot of fun with that game, I was very eager to see if I could beat the habit (sorry) once more.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
NUNS! REVERSE, REVERSE!
Evil Nun: The Broken Mask doesn’t hesitate to throw you into the heat of the action. After signing up for a luxury summer camp, your child protagonist (who can be named after your favourite streamer, as the game rather cringe-inducingly suggests) instead gets dumped into a hellish half-dilapidated boarding school run by a psychopathic nun. There’s very little backstory to the initial premise, nor as to how or why the protagonist starts the game writing lines on the blackboard, but it is what it is.
The lack of additional backstory to the school or its history is a little disappointing, even if there are occasional moments that perhaps hint at something more. Regardless, your sole directive is to get the hell out of there before Sister Madeline smacks you with her massive hammer.
Visually, the game has made a reasonable transition to the Switch. The bright and colourful visuals work in the game’s favour, as it often helps to mask the lowered resolution for the most part. There are times when the textures can look blurry, but it’s not as frequent as I expected; thankfully, the game’s framerate runs buttery smooth and that definitely more than makes up for those moments where the visuals are less than impressive.
As for the game itself, you find yourself inside a cramped bedroom with the crazed Sister Madeline muttering to herself in the corridors outside. Your first instinct is to get out of there, and there’s a huge conveniently placed vent you can use to get out. Or the door. That’s unlocked. And leads to the same place.
Regardless of your exit method, the first thing you’ll notice is how counter-intuitive the controls are. As you press A to interact with the environment, you’ll instead find yourself opening the pause screen. That’s because A acts as the pause function and you use the right bumper to pick up or use things. It’s a baffling choice for a game that only uses three buttons, and there’s no way to alter the mapping either to something more comfortable. You do get a little used to it over the course of the game, but it never really stops feeling weird.
Once you make your way out of your room, your first goal is to find the fuse-box and fit the necessary number of missing fuses in order to reach the main school. This initial area is tiny, but serves as a tutorial area to get you used to the game’s mechanics. Despite being quite small, the twisty and confusing nature or the corridors will still find you getting lost more often than not, as the visual design and needless amount of claustrophobic passageways make it more like a maze than anything.
To make matters worse, as you’re trying to find your way around, you’ll be hunted by the titular evil nun, who will hunt you down mercilessly. She has the hearing of an eagle and will be able to hear you from a mile away, but she’s also pretty slow and dumb, meaning that shaking her off is a doddle on the standard difficulty. Taking shortcuts through the vents are an easy way to get rid of her, but I honestly found it just as simple to just run around a few corners until she essentially gives up.
Even though getting away from Sister Madeline is rarely a problem, she does have the annoying tendency to lurk around corners or behind doors when you least expect it – thus resulting in an instant fail due to it triggering a cutscene and forcing you to the next day. These moments feel cheap due to how blind the corners are, and I honestly felt like these were just cheap ways of increasing tension to make up for her dumb AI.
That’s not to say that tension doesn’t exist within the game, as Evil Nun does do a surprisingly good job at creating an unsettling atmosphere in spite of the more cartoonish visuals. Even Sister Madeline with her massive hammer and glowing red eyes does feel relatively threatening, even if she’s not all that smart.
Speaking of smarts, in order to escape you’ll need to figure out some basic puzzles. You’re given some clues in your quest-log as to what you should be trying to do, but you probably won’t have too hard of a time finding your way out. The main issue really is that there just aren’t many puzzles at all, making the game a little bit too simple. Outside of the aforementioned cheap deaths, I found the rest of the game to be a relative breeze.
However, this first escape is only the first step in your journey. After triggering the door’s alarm (a hint that such a thing can be avoided), the school then expands slightly and shows that there are now new ways to get out. As such, the real charm in the game lies in the replay value as you find out what else lies in store for you. With a load of other achievements too, this game is more about repeated playthroughs than the initial one.
But whether or not you’ll want to do so really depends on how much you click with the central gameplay loop. As mentioned at the start of the review, there’s more than a passing resemblance to Nun Massacre with this title, except neither the puzzles nor the killer are quite as engaging. It feels like everything is kept simple enough to encourage streamers to play it without ever really trying to be that much more. That’s not to say that it’s necessarily a bad game, but it does feel like a shallow one.
I rather enjoyed most of my time with Evil Nun: The Broken Mask despite its shallow gameplay loop. There’s little depth to the game, but there’s still something there that makes it fun for a quick gameplay session at the very least.