Pinku Kult is an emerging, independently owned-and-operated, UK-based fashion brand characterized by a boldly colored, delightfully off-kilter, creepy-cute, anime-esque aesthetic that speaks to a subcultural populace. Not satisfied with merely being a fashion brand, Pinku Kult and Valorware have created a Japanese-style RPG that gives personality to the various characters and creatures seen on their merchandise. I love the idea that if I buy a Pinku Kult shirt with, say, the girl in the fox mask, I’m not just buying a shirt with striking artwork — I’m also buying a shirt with a badass character I connected with via the Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis video game. And I’m happy to say that Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis is a game with both style and substance.
Much like the comic book-inspired alternate universe of Cyco City where the band Sumo Cyco‘s music videos take place, Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis‘s characters live in a realized and vibrant world called Razore City. You play a down-on-their-luck denizen whom you make using a character creation module. During a sleepless night of web browsing, you come across a suspicious help wanted ad from the Shokan Corporation. You apply on a whim and, unexpectedly, they immediately call you in for an interview. It turns out you are precisely the kind of person they need: not only are you an expendable nobody, but you haven’t been in Razore City long enough to form any connections or biases that could prevent you from objectively completing your tasks. These tasks include running investigations on missing people and discreetly — and permanently — eliminating any threats (like the suspected girl in the fox mask).
Before you can ask any questions or even wrap your head around the gravity of what you just signed up for, you’re given one of three mandatory animal masks to wear and thrown to the wolves. Shokan seems to know everything about you and could probably snuff you out easily, so there’s no backing out of this high-risk proposition. With high risks come high rewards, though, and since you’re behind on the rent, the promise of massive money holds some appeal.
Despite you being a blank slate protagonist, you are most certainly not a silent one. The script makes no reference to your character’s gender, so they feel like an extension of yourself no matter how you style them. Being able to change their clothing and appearance throughout the game allows a good level of self-insertion, too. As for the writing itself, it has personality but could have used some technical refinement. Some of the dialogue reads stiffly and there were stray technical errors such as sentences missing prepositions. It’s also worth noting that because the creative team is UK-based, North American based players might have to get used to differing terminology, like “lift” versus “elevator.”
The game’s aesthetics, like the clothing line, converge styles that our natural inclinations feel should not go together. For example, seeing imagery of an adorably awkward “moe” anime girl with the slavering mandibles of a ravenous arachnid compels because it feels wrong yet is still right there. The visuals utilize a lot of bright and vibrant colors, but the locations and inhabitants give off an unnerving vibe that unsettled me enough to exercise caution with every (smoothly animated) movement taken. The character, NPC, and enemy sprites move like paper dolls, fitting the off-kilter nature of Razore City. In a similar vein to the graphics, the music’s sinister melodies have happy instrumentation with some delightfully dissonant sonic textures in the background. I found the haunting-yet-poppy soundtrack spectacular, and I would often idle within the game simply to enjoy the music. In short, the graphics and sound make for an immersive setting.
This turn-based, Japanese-style RPG was rather enjoyable to play. Enemy encounters are visible in dungeons, and I recommend eliminating each one so you’re properly leveled for the dynamic boss battles. Enemies hit somewhat hard from the outset, so gaining even one level makes a noticeable difference. You gain levels at a decent pace, and it’s nice that levelling up restores your HP. There are no equipment upgrades, but it’s important to manage your resources since healing items aren’t cheap and opportunities to shop are limited in some chapters. Aside from restorative items, successful regular attacks also recharge some MP during battle. I found Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis‘ difficulty just right. Battles challenged me, but never felt punishing; every fight was winnable without being served up on a silver platter.
Outside of battle, I enjoyed exploring Razore City and talking to the various NPCs. Whether using a gamepad or a mouse/keyboard combo, Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis controls well. I found the interface intuitive to use, and though menus look more PC-friendly they are easy to navigate using a gamepad. The fonts used throughout are large, clear, and legible. The game exclusively uses auto-saving with no option for manual saving. Normally I would knock a game for not having a manual save option, but given that it’s not very long, the auto save is just fine.
Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis is a taut game that took me about 7 hours to complete and left me wanting more. Those 7 hours were all substance with no padding to artificially lengthen the game. The game respected my time rather than waste it under the pretense of “longer game = better value.” I liken Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis to a game like Trace Memory. While Trace Memory was only about 3-5 hours long, it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I ever had with a Nintendo DS game. Aside from my misgivings with the writing, the only other caveat I have with Pinku Kult: Hex Mortis is that its macabre style and occult themes may not suit every person’s tastes. Personally, I was into it and would totally buy a Pinku Kult tote bag to keep my instrument cables and other bass-related accessories in for if/when my new band ever starts playing out in preparation for our own World Domination tour.