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The Mortuary Assistant combines body embalming with demon invasions

This horror game is full of delightful surprises

The Mortuary Assistant - Rebecca checks her clipboard while tending to a corpse to prepare it for a funeral. Image: DarkStone Digital/Dread XP
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

It’s pretty common to pick up a new job and have things take an unexpected twist. Of course, it’s usually something like having a chatty co-worker or needing to learn a new piece of software. In The Mortuary Assistant, I have to not only go about the business of getting bodies ready for burial, but I also have to ward off demons by surviving terrible visions and supernatural creatures. The Mortuary Assistant might be off the beaten path, but it’s found a warm welcome in the horror community thanks to its mix of corny and supernatural, all embalmed in a nice package.

The Mortuary Assistant starts with a heavy helping of cheese by warning the player that this game may lead to their home being occupied by hostile demons, and if that’s the case, they should consult with a paranormal investigator or a priest. I enjoy the game’s audacity; it not only informed me that playing the game might open a portal to hell, but also if that happens I’m completely on my own.

The narrative starts with an introduction to the protagonist, Rebecca, who has just picked up a new job as the titular mortuary assistant. Her grandma doesn’t approve and Raymond, the boss, seems kind of off... but it’s a competitive job market these days. Rebecca learns the proper way to get a body ready for burial, but a wrench is thrown in the works when it turns out that one of these corpses is possessed by a demon — and Rebecca is at risk of possession herself.

a terrifying demon perches on top of a cabinet at the mortuary’s workshop in the video game The Mortuary Assistant. Image: DarkStone Digital/DreadXP

There are some clumsy controls that allow me to move through the funeral home, but functionally The Mortuary Assistant is a point-and-click adventure game. I have to go about my duties with the body, including draining cavities and hammering at the corpse’s gums. It’s grisly work, punctuated by the process of checking a ’90s-era office PC to get everything neatly filed.

While my first shift is clean and easy, my second shift becomes terrifying when the lights flicker, scary whispers echo in my head, and I am briefly teleported to a nightmare realm. Hilariously enough, much of my early dialogue with Raymond is Rebecca freaking out and Raymond bluntly explaining that she needs to listen and follow the correct arcane ritual, or her soul will be invaded by a demon.

Hey, Raymond, it’d be nice if you included all of this info in the job interview, man. I don’t know why you’re getting so mad at me for being upset about this arrangement. I, in general, prefer not to be in risky demon situations.

Eventually, I find myself falling into a routine where I go about my task, checking cabinets and doing the busywork of the job... before spotting a malevolent demon or being pulled into a nightmare of the past. The story is heavy with horror cliches like addiction, family dysfunction, and suicidal imagery — but the scope remains nice and small.

The Mortuary Assistant is also fun to watch streamers play, as each playthrough is different, with randomly generated hauntings that pop up. The scares don’t follow a specific script. Some players get ambushed by what appears to be their loving grandmother, while others are shocked by a grinning demon hiding in the shadows of a fan. It’s not particularly gory or unbearable; the actual horror of it all is quite tame, but like a ouija board or campfire story, it’s fun to buy into the fantasy of it all.

There are several different endings to the game as well, including some grisly or tragic ends. While The Mortuary Assistant is a little clunky and a few of the puzzles are a little confusing to navigate, it delivers a fun set of scares between the satisfying cadence of sewing up open wounds and draining guts.

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