MachiaVillain is a monster mansion management sim

One of the first things I did when I played The Sims was try to make the Addams family. Unfortunately, while my Gomez and Morticia fell rapturously in love and Wednesday and Pugsley happily played together all day, I didn't make anybody to keep Uncle Fester company. He eventually died of loneliness. At least he left a thematically appropriate gravestone in the front yard.

In MachiaVillain you're supposed to be making a spooky mansion full of kooks. You've got zombies, psychopaths, psychic killer tires, and other horror movie types living under your roof. By day they craft new rooms and traps, by night they wait for the locals to visit and murder them one by one. Then they collect the bodies, drag them to the kitchen, and one of the cartoon villains dons a chef's hat and starts carving them up for food.

It's a cheerfully grotesque game, with visuals that remind me of Don't Starve—though the interface is much messier. Like Don't Starve it's partially a crafting game, more than I expected it would be. One of the first things you need to do is chop down nearby trees to build the mansion's floors, walls, and doors. There's mining as well, and 'evil trees' that fight back but provide special, eeevil wood when defeated.

Separating people to kill them alone is good, saving the virgin for last is better, and killing the dog is right out.

There's a rhythm to MachiaVillain, where you assign jobs and manage stats like hunger and loyalty when the sun is up, building new rooms and making sure the regular leaflet campaign is finished before the post gets collected. (To keep victims coming you have lure them with mailouts claiming they've won fabulous prizes or perhaps advertising for room-mates or D&D players). Come dark, you get everyone into position and the murders begin.

It's best to have a mansion that's divided into entirely separate wings, one containing areas like the laboratory and factory where minions work, and the other front-facing rooms with friendly lamps and televisions to lure the innocent. As well as providing tasty brains to keep the zombies happy, killing victims provides an essential resource called Evilium, and you earn more of it for playing to the cliches of horror movies. Separating people to kill them alone is good, saving the virgin for last is better, and killing the dog is right out.  

Scaring people too much can be a bad thing, as they'll call friends to warn them or try to escape, running past all your buzz saws and Draculas. That raises the suspicion score, and when it gets too high it brings the attention of monster hunters and cops, who are apparently much harder to kill. I've not had that problem yet, though I've faced plenty of random attacks by giant spiders, and I suspect there are other things lurking in the woods.

Sometimes victims don't actually make it to the front door. A pop-up telling me they're on the way appears and I get everyone to down tools and take up positions, but occasionally the victims start dying on the road before they even get to my creepy puzzle dungeon. I have to rush everyone out to mop up the survivors before they call for help. By the time I get there whatever's attacking them is gone, and only the blood remains. Is it the spiders? Evil trees? The angry ghost of Uncle Fester back for revenge? Or is something else sharing this map with us?

I'm hoping this isn't a bug, because finding out there's something else out there even scarier than us would be a great twist. I wonder if they want to move in? We've got television and a tasty stockpile of smoked brains.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.