Snaccpop, the developers of the forthcoming There’s Something Wrong With Sunny Day Jack—a much anticipated erotic horror visual novel that’s built up buzz over at itch.io through its free demos and extra content—seemingly out of nowhere dropped a different, and far sweeter, horror visual novel this year for Halloween. It’s called The Groom of Gallagher Mansion and, though it bears no relation to the Sunny Day Jack series, it nonetheless both serves as a nice peek into what Snaccpop is about as a developer, and as a well executed ghost story perfect for the season.
The Groom of Gallagher Mansion has a simple premise—you, a nameable protagonist of any gender you choose, and Taylor, the head of a ghost hunting club at a local college, face certain club disbandment when your club fails to collect more members. Out to prove that the club is worth saving, your group ventures to the rumored Gallagher Mansion, hoping to concoct some sort of experience to sway the college council to reconsider the club’s fate.
Instead, you (and Taylor, who talks to you from an earpiece while sitting out in a van outside the manor) find an actual ghost: Elias Gallagher! Killed on the day before his own wedding, the ghost of Elias is eternally weak for those in need of love. You decide to fake a relationship with him for the sake of your club.
Sweet, sad ghosts need love, too.
How far are you, the player, willing to go for the survival of Taylor’s club? How far are you willing to go for Elias? The game manages to give avenues to explore both of these questions across four different endings in a tight 2-3 hours—quite a deal, frankly, for the game’s small price of $5 USD.
It’s a little surprising that Elias becomes as sympathetic and endearing as he is, despite how many tropes are set up to work against him. Whether it’s his softness, his excellent voice actor, or his gigantic suit-bursting pecs, Elias (and the mystery you unravel about him) is the singular reason to play the game, and The Groom of Gallagher Mansion seems to mostly get that, too. It is important, to underline just how different this game is from Sunny Day Jack, if you already are familiar with Snaccpop, and Elias is the main reason why. Where SDJ explicitly veers towards yandere with its glitching, unnerving protagonist, the titular groom of Gallagher Mansion is a far kinder man.
The final boss is Victorian era prudishness
He’s also a far more Victorian man, which is both the reason for his emphasis on good manners and why this game is a surprise entry for Snaccpop. It’s not quite an erotic game, despite the game marked as having “adult content” by Steam. Which, honestly, makes sense—Victorian era Elias is a bit of a prude, regardless of what gender he falls in love with, and even if he weren’t, there’s a bit too much ghostly meet-cute hijinks going on in the tightly-paced story for their to be time for an involved sex scene.
There is adult content in the game, though, unlocked only when you’ve completed every ending. It is, in its own way, thematically appropriate that you have to go through a lot of motions to get Elias’s clothes off. (I suspect a different artist did this content’s scene than the main character portrait artist, as Elias’s proportions and rendering style are a bit different. I have a preference for the character portrait rendition of Elias, but perhaps you won’t.)
Not all is sunny in the player experience of Gallagher Mansion, though. The writing is occasionally too cute for its own good, particularly during dialogue from either the player character or Taylor. Taylor is, both by my perception as the player and according to the opinion of the narrator/main character, a mood-killer. He—and to a certain extent, you, his cohort—has all the manners and snark of a slasher film comic relief character, and the entirety of his more-quippy-than-clever writing makes The Groom of Gallagher Mansion‘s ghost story feel closer to Scooby Doo than it probably should.
Sometimes “too-cute-for-it’s-own-good” is still cute!
It’s not enough to sink the game; not at all. But not even the attempted redemption arc Taylor gets does him enough favors to make him anything other than an annoying man-child. Not helping matters is the fact that the voice actor intentionally plays his voice in an over-the-top, shrill manner at odds with virtually every other aspect of the game. If this was the intention with the character, it’s an unfortunate one, since Taylor’s acting and voice in his more somber moments are generally quite good.
Overall, The Groom of Gallagher Mansion is a perfect evening-filler for those that love a haunted romance, and its short runtime and price make it perfect for a cozy October couch-read. It isn’t reinventing the genre nor does it try to—and if Elias sounds even remotely interesting to you, his story will probably stay with you a lot longer than other gay VNs you may find at higher prices on the market.
+Elias, the character
+Paxton Lee, the voice of Elias
+Elias, the, uh, form.
+Easy to enjoy story and writing makes it pick-up-and-play regardless of how much of a reader you normally are
+A generally enjoyable mystery to unfold, comprised of quite a few clues spread across…
+…four fairly different endings all with fairly satisfying outcomes, regardless of whether you’re here for spooks or kisses
-Taylor, while not the worst character ever, is a bit of a drag on an otherwise lovely experience
-Neither as scary as a seasoned horror fan would be accustomed to, nor as horny as a VN enjoyer might expect it to be given the… you know, everything about Elias’s design