Review Visual Novel

Not It: Spookiest Edition – Review | A Dangerous Halloween

Following The Last Act, Snowhaven Studios presents another Original English Language Visual Novel (OELVN), this time a horror story set on Halloween day. Released for PC on 12 October 2021, Not It: Spookiest Edition is an updated version of Not It, an entry by the same team for the month-long Spooktober Visual Novel Jam in 2019. Highlights of the new additions in Not It: Spookiest Edition include event CGs, background music, full English voice acting, and a “Less Gore” option.


Not It: Spookiest Edition tells the story of Katie who, in the midst of moving into her new house on Halloween, quickly realizes that things are amiss. Most townsfolk have evacuated Easthollow earlier that day, and the few who are preparing to leave inform Katie of the curse plaguing the town that has been claiming lives on Halloween yearly for centuries. Just as these remaining people are about to leave for safety’s sake, they find themselves trapped inside the local inn. With the curse looming over their minds, everyone begins to wonder if they can survive long enough to see the next sunrise.

Content warnings for this horror visual novel include blood and gore, death, firearms, knives, murder, and violence. Two modes for the CGs may be chosen, namely “Normal Gore” and “Less Gore”. In “Less Gore” mode, blood is mostly not visible and all physical injuries and mutilations are blurred or covered with black blotches in the CGs. However, the art for Katie’s death ending (akin to a default “game over” screen) shows copious blood in both modes. Furthermore, the modes affect the CGs but not the story text.

Depending on the choices made, a single playthrough takes around 20 to 30 minutes. Getting all the endings and CGs takes around 3 to 4 hours.

 - Car Broken Down

Not It: Not Really Spooky

Despite the game’s title, I personally do not find Not It: Spookiest Edition exactly spooky. The writing is not very spine-chilling, though some of the gore CGs have made me wince and the soundtrack has a generally sinister tone throughout.

With a plot revolving around a curse that claims lives, it is inevitable for characters to die in several story branches. Sadly, due to how curtly the aftermath and reactions are addressed, the death events frequently feel as insignificant as somebody hiccuping. The first time I came across a character’s death in Not It: Spookiest Edition, the witnesses seemed so deadly calm, I nearly thought I misunderstood the story and maybe the character was merely incapacitated rather than dead. One may explain that the residents of Easthollow have already accepted that people will die because of the centuries-old curse, but that does not really account for the unusual calmness because not everyone is used to actually witnessing someone dying in front of them (after all, they always evacuated the town, so basically saw nothing of such nature first-hand for years), and non-locals and those who are skeptical of the curse should not have accepted the situation without any questions or emotions. Oftentimes, nothing feels at stake even after a death has occurred. The only time I was worried for the protagonist’s life was during a pursuit scene, which unsurprisingly ended up as the only segment in the whole game that I found thrilling. Another time when the story gets some semblance of spookiness is when Katie spirals down a dark path. As I followed the protagonist down that route, I kept thinking about what kind of a monster my choices had made Katie become; it is a memorably unnerving and morbid journey.

While the writing has been unable to effectively sustain an eerie atmosphere for its series of rapidly changing events, I find it nice that there are no jump scares used. It is also impressive to see the numerous ways the short story can go, even if the endings can be grouped under four main ending types. Plot events are largely logical too, and it is not difficult to comprehend why the story branches the way it does after a particular choice is made.

Not It: Spookiest Edition - Willow Doesn't Believe

Players will meet eight unique characters in Not It: Spookiest Edition. Although we get to learn a bit about them throughout the story, none of the characters managed to make a strong impression on me. Nevertheless, I like Willow for her level-headedness and the bond of friendship amongst Easthollow residents that is portrayed briefly at some points. As for Easthollow, without the curse, it would be a truly hollow town.

Typos are sparse, and the only time when things did not make sense was when Rita was referred to in a dialogue line that should have been about Willow. Officer Mike’s name label was displayed incorrectly as “Officerita” one time as well.

CGs and Audio: The Spooky Elements

The writing may have fallen somewhat flat on the “spooky” criterion, but the CGs, music, and voice acting of the visual novel still bring out certain levels of spookiness.

Curse Explanation

In particular, the gore CGs, with all the blood and physical traumas depicted, really highlight the discomfort, danger, and madness of the situation that are lacking in the writing. Under the “Less Gore” mode, the same CGs have a comparatively milder effect. However, not all event CGs are spooky because of the blood and gore present. Many times, the fearful facial expressions along with the attention-grabbing composition and apt use of lighting have been used to paint vividly disturbing scenes.

Not It: Spookiest Edition features a soundtrack that is brimming with mysterious, perilous, and disquieting vibes. Unfortunately, some tracks are used in segments that span across just a few lines, so they tend to play for a mere few seconds — barely enough to hear the intro — before another track for the next scene swoops in. There may be just eight tracks used in this short visual novel, but every track is great at setting the required mood.

The full voice acting is the other component that helps bring out some spookiness in the otherwise not really spooky writing. I especially enjoyed listening to Joseph’s and Rita’s lines. Joseph’s fear and panic is captured nicely, and the moment when Rita was gasping as she struggled to speak is pretty haunting.

Not It: Spookiest Edition - Katie Wants to Break Free

Regrettably, Not It: Spookiest Edition has not quite used its audio assets well for a maximum spook effect. Throughout the entire visual novel, the music tracks are simply used as they are, on an infinite loop. But there are moments when it would have been better for there to be silence, such as to create a deliberate break for a suspenseful effect, or to put the audio focus onto an important sound effect (e.g. floorboard creaking ominously) instead. In addition, not all voice clips have similar volume levels, even when the volume slider is pulled to the same maximum for everyone. Officer Mike’s voiced lines are notably soft on several occasions and as a result, get drowned out by the background music often. One or two dialogue lines have also been assigned with the wrong voice clips.

Character Sprites, Background art, and User Interface (UI) design

Apart from the abovementioned spookier elements, the remaining aspects of the visual novel lean towards the “not spooky” end. Still, they each have their own merits.

Character sprites in Not It: Spookiest Edition have a myriad of exaggerated facial expressions that convey various emotions wonderfully. I appreciate how everyone’s facial expressions are updated with the changes in the conversation, thereby providing players with another layer of context on top of the words and voices. And though the character designs are simple, I cannot help but be attracted to how most of them look, especially with those thick black eyeliners and long eyelashes that remind me of the bold gothic makeup style. There is something I only noticed in retrospect, but I like the added symbolism in Katie’s long sleeve black-and-white striped top, which looks uncannily similar to a prison uniform. In endings where Katie is shown without her yellow jacket, her prison-like garb seems to imply that she is imprisoned in a nightmare — a surprisingly creative use of the protagonist’s everyday clothes here.

The story takes place in a few locations within Easthollow, and every place has at least one piece of background art. Furthermore, no two places actually reuse the same background art, not even the two storerooms in the inn, which is remarkable for such a short title. The background art is drawn in the same cartoon style as the character sprites and CGs, and slightly different perspectives are used for different places. The staircase at the lobby of the inn, for instance, really pops out because of the perspective chosen. With how normal and brightly lit most locations look, there really is nothing spooky about the background art. Nonetheless, I like that touch of icy blue glow on some of the windows, which gives off the vibes of an unusually chilly night.

Overall, the UI design for Not It: Spookiest Edition is all right. The Save/Load and Settings screens have a wooden signage theme, but my favorite is the CG gallery screen modeled after a hotel key rack. Even though it is nice to see the characters’ name labels color-coded as well as the accessibility settings to increase font size and change the default font to OpenDyslexic, there is little customization done for the text box and choice menu. 

In terms of functionality, everything works as it should, though some of the thumbnail images on the Save/Load and CG gallery screens would always take a few seconds to load. The only thing I found annoying is the logo splash screen and gore settings confirmation prompt that appears every single time a playthrough ends and returns you to the main menu. Since each playthrough is short, on the scale of minutes, the constant cycle of the same logo splash screen and gore settings confirmation gets irritating after a few times. Thankfully, the logo splash screen can be skipped with the “Esc” key (only the first one that shows up every time the game is opened cannot be skipped), but it is still a segment that the game could do without. The repetitive prompt for the gore settings is quite pointless too, given that the gore preference can be changed under Settings from the main menu.


Not It: Spookiest Edition may not have told a spooky enough story but its CGs, background music, and voice acting can still satisfy some of those cravings for spookiness. For this horror visual novel, there are no nasty tricks but also no particularly sweet treats offered. I would say it is a decent title worth playing for its multiple endings if one is interested in a short game that does not shy away from blood and gore.


Platforms: Steam (PC), (PC)

If you would like to see more visual novels, you may be interested in our review of Synergia.

Many thanks go to Snowhaven Studios for a PC review code for this title.

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