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Midnight Margo review

Midnight Margo review
Johnny Nys avatar image

Stylish, creative side-scrolling fun that should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the challenges of coping with mental illness

If you’re lucky enough to have never gone through a dark period in your life, filled with social anxiety; a time when you were convinced you’d never overcome the obstacles you faced, when all you wanted to do was sleep and never wake up again, Midnight Margo might appear to be a pretty weird game. I wasn’t so fortunate, forced to combat my own demons once upon a time. But I came out of that fight stronger, and that’s exactly what Margo’s mission entails, in a refreshingly creative way.

Margo is a young woman who has been living a secluded life since graduating high school a few years ago, pretty much locking herself up in her room constantly. She has been suffering from depression, though we never really discover the details of what happened to put her in that state. After a final chat with the therapist who’s been helping her overcome it, Margo decides it’s time to venture back into the world and take care of some ghosts from her past. She thinks she has found the perfect means to achieve this in her head: by transforming her life into a role-playing game, complete with quests and skill points. It’s a very clever premise from Faravid Interactive, creator of The Samaritan Paradox and co-creator of Whispers of a Machine, and with its unique, collage-style graphics and genre-bending gameplay, this psychological side-scroller makes for a highly compelling experience.

While there are many small quests to undertake, the main goal of the game centers around a guy named Leon. He used to attend high school with Margo, and during her depression he sent her a letter, which went lost in the pile by her door. When Margo finally attempts to clean up her act, she finds the letter and learns that Leon apparently knew something about her and wanted to meet her. Tragically, Leon died just a few days ago, and the wake is being held that same evening. Now Margo has some mysteries to uncover. What did Leon want with her? What were the circumstances of his death? And what kind of eulogy should she write? There are definitely more cheerful adventure game concepts out there, but rest assured, Midnight Margo is far from a depressing experience itself, with fun RPG elements like different clothing and accessories giving you skill points to tackle social quests.

Similar to the Quest for Glory series, you start off with some basic statistics and a couple of points you can distribute freely over four categories: Soft People Skills, Sophistication, Street Smarts and Mental Resilience. Your “character” starts at level 1, and every accomplishment in the game earns you level points. As you progress through the story by completing tasks and interacting with people, your level will rise and eventually result in a new skill point to add to an ability of choice. Often you can find special items that add bonuses when equipped. This can be as simple as changing into a different shirt or sweater, or wearing a ring or hat. Some items have negative effects as well, essentially lowering the total points of a particular skill, but they serve other purposes, such as solving more traditional, inventory-style adventure game puzzles to acquire objects that are otherwise off limits, like gloves to dig around a dirty place, or a headlamp to investigate dark corners. 

Leveling up will only get you so far, so you’ll find yourself constantly changing outfits to complete quests. You can combine different elements by wearing them on your head, on your face, around your neck, on your body, and on your hand. For instance, the restroom of the local bar is so unhygienic, it requires a high Mental Resilience to enter, so you might have to wear a specific mask in order to reach that. Helping an estranged couple with their relationship takes People Skills you might just attain by wearing a particular necklace, while giving an artist decent feedback about her portraits demands at least a certain degree of Sophistication, which you can temporarily boost by wearing a stylish sweater. Clothes and accessories often have tongue-in-cheek names, like the White Shirt of Responsibility, or the Scarf of Social Bravery. This immediately sets the tone for the humor in Midnight Margo, and the titular young woman often looks totally ridiculous prancing across your screen in the weirdest combinations as a consequence.

Environments and characters border on photorealism. The game features photo collage graphics mixed with hand-painted elements, giving its world a gloomy, gritty aesthetic that tries hard to imitate our real world, while simultaneously still feeling a bit deliberately off. For instance, sometimes characters’ heads appear a tad too big to fit their bodies – think Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Add in quick-footed movements and what seem to be leaden arms hanging limply by their sides, and it all gives the characters a surrealistic yet comedic look that helps relieve the darker aspects of the story. There’s also an added stylistic feature to many locations, in the form of heavy red theater drapes, as if the game wants to reference that famous Shakespeare line that all the world's a stage.

The available locations on the map of the (unnamed) city grow in number as you progress through the story and discover more leads. You start off in Margo’s room and the bar, but you’ll gain access to, amongst other locations, a club area, the community center, a hospice, an apartment complex and a bookshop. You explore each of them in a side-scrolling manner. There is full controller support, but if you lack a gamepad you need to use the directional keys to move Margo left and right since there is no mouse option beyond navigating the main menu. Hotspot labels show up at the bottom of the screen as Margo passes them, which can be items to investigate or pick up, or other characters to talk to. Hitting the action key gives Margo a chance to manipulate hotspots, though some of them will need higher stats. Same for some dialogue choices during conversations with others.

Midnight Margo

Midnight Margo
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Presentation: 2D or 2.5D, Side-scroller
Theme: Psychological, Surreal
Perspective: Third-Person
Graphic Style: Illustrated realism
Gameplay: RPG, Choices matter
Control: Direct Control
Game Length: Medium (5-10 hours)
Difficulty: Low

Midnight Margo features a narrator who comments on the things Margo sees and does. In a brilliant comedic move, he even addresses Margo directly at times, with her replying back, often to the confusion of nearby characters. The entire cast is fully voiced by excellent actors, with the incomparable Ivy Dupler (Twilight Oracle, Whispers of a Machine, Lamplight City and Unavowed) in the lead. You’ll meet an eclectic group of people, like a band of former bullies, a former teacher that hated you, Leon’s girlfriend, an old man and the nurses at his hospice, some road workers, a priest… The list goes on, but it’s always a good idea to visit your three friends Susie, Kim and Daniel at the bar for further advice and smaller quests to earn extra skill points. The sound does suffer some technical issues, where different character voices are sometimes played back at a much higher volume, but this is only a minor nitpick.

The action is accompanied by a well-rounded soundtrack by composer Jacob Lincke, who also wrote the music for Whispers of a Machine. Dominating the general ambience are string instruments like the violin and cello, which provide a melancholic score as if you’re watching a Lars von Trier movie, but some locations are livened up by more cheerful chords. The beer café, for instance, has a nice upbeat loungy track, the local club plays faster electronic music, a spiritual bookshop has an ethereal xylophone playing, and in his own music shop Margo’s ex-boyfriend is strumming away on his guitar. Sound effects are rather scarce, or just subtle, with the most obvious being Margo’s footsteps, birds, cars driving by and honking, and water flowing in a plaza fountain.

Midnight Margo autosaves every time you quit, but you can also use a grand total of four(!) slots for manual saves at your convenience. I used them to redo certain quests for which you only get one shot, but if you happen to fail a certain quest, you can still continue the story. All important obstacles can always be overcome, and how well you do during your journey is summarized by the points on your scorecard after the finale. In the menu you’ll find a quest log, which displays both the active (encountered yet uncompleted) quests and finished ones. I would’ve liked an overview of the necessary skill points for particular tasks as well. I kept track of those myself in a notebook, and when I found a new piece of clothing or accessory, I checked its effects on my skill levels and then compared it with my notes to see if perhaps I could complete one of the quests right away.

I had a blast playing as Margo, who kept reminding me of a movie character Elliot Page might have played back in his Juno days. While Margo constantly struggles to talk to strangers, it’s so fulfilling to witness her standing up for herself once you’ve collected enough skill points for her to finally come up with the right quips. I really liked that at the start of the game she already has some friends who accept her no matter what, and are willing to help her, and the way she succeeds in making amends with those who could be considered her enemies, while remaining realistic enough in not simply turning them into allies. The developers know it’s not possible to get along with everyone, after all, so you shouldn’t try to force that either.

The story involving Leon takes on several layers and goes in an unexpected direction. The goal is to uncover the truth behind his death and ease the minds of the people close to him. Ultimately all the little quests you undertake will converge into the main aim of finding Leon’s diary and the poem that binds him to Margo, and to honor his memory with a good eulogy. In the process Margo evolves into a little detective, and by overcoming her own fears and anxieties, you could even say she transforms into a kind of superhero, or at least the equivalent of a hero in an RPG who has killed all the monsters and discovered every treasure.

At the end of Midnight Margo, I had to use all my skills to write the perfect eulogy. And even then, after seven hours of trying on different outfits, only 68 percent of those in attendance were impressed by it. There’s definite room for improvement, and thus replayability! After all, I failed some smaller, one-shot quests I didn’t yet have the necessary skill points for, and a second playthrough might just give me that final edge to astound the dearly beloved. 

Final Verdict

Midnight Margo is a tale about mental health, recovering from depression, turning your life back around and pushing your limits. As grim as that might sound, the opposite is actually true as the game is a joy to play. I laughed, and though I didn’t really cry, I did sympathize not only with Margo herself but the other characters as well. It’s a story that feels like it takes place in the real world, and these people could be your friends or neighbors. The role-playing elements are fun to figure out, and sometimes a bit frustrating to get wrong, but that just proves how engaging the story is. I really wanted to fulfill each and every quest, to help those people and help Margo in turn. Because in this world, it isn’t enough to be on your own, closing yourself off. You have to take control of your life and open yourself up to others, using whatever coping mechanisms work best for you. If that means turning it all into a big game that’s as fun as it is here, everyone should play!

Hot take


With its unique presentation and hybrid role-playing elements, Midnight Margo maintains the perfect balancing act between serious themes like depression and social acceptance and self-deprecating humor that makes it so much fun to play.


  • Creatively adds RPG elements to progress the story and solve adventure game puzzles
  • Eclectic group of characters brought to life by an amazing voice cast
  • Plenty of genuinely amusing tongue-in-cheek humor
  • Clever, humorous way to tackle the sensitive topic of mental illness


  • Some minor technical sound issues
  • A more statistically detailed quest log would have been nice

Johnny played Midnight Margo on PC using a review code provided by the game’s publisher.

1 Comment

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  1. This is a great review! I was a tester so I didn’t think I could say how much I liked the game. I hope that people will see this review and be interested and buy the game…. Well worth it. It is a serious yet interesting and engaging game. And I am so proud that when you play the game you might see Winfrey……😁


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