Developer: Bloober Team | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Horror
This game was a mixed bag. It had a lot of clichés and was really too repetitive, but it was also pretty and atmospheric. It had enough of the latter to see my through to the end – about 3½ hours later.
It was a horror adventure that took place in a dark and of course haunted mansion. There were enough opening doors to mock it as being a door opening simulator, and it was also not very original. It reminded me of other horror adventures such as e.g. Outlast and even used the popular interactive gimmick of dragging the mouse to open doors and drawers.
It was quite linear and frequently used the trick of changing the rooms and hallways. There were too many jump scares and ghostly transformations, while actual puzzles were easy and far apart. This, together with the linear nature of the game with no real dying, made it feel like a haunted funfair attraction.
And it had an abundance of almost pitch black rooms.
What I did like about it was the idea of having to find six objects, each time returning to a small atelier to continue a painting with this object. The protagonist, which was a man barely visible in blurry mirrors, had a limp and walked to the rhythm of a heartbeat. After a stretch of uninspired hallways I also found a set piece in the office that suddenly turned into a vertical challenge hunting down ringing telephones.
This part even gave me vertigo – it was unexpected and made it worth persevering.
Read more “Outlast”
Developer: Red Barrels | Released: 2013 | Genre: Adventure, Horror
I played over an hour of this horror sneaker, up until I was given an injection and put in a small cell. That was after the part where I had to restore power in the basement. I’m not a good demographic for horror games anymore, though. It takes a lot to scare an old geezer like me anymore. Sure, the jump scares can get me, but anyone can be surprised by a sudden shout in the neck.
Also, the hiding in the lockers reminded me too much of Alien: Isolation.
But the game was still well done. Good graphics, solid sound work, and the body awareness with hands and all was nice. Armed with only a camcorder, I could film stuff to take notes and switch on the night vision, which was frequently required in the often pitch black mental hospital. Sometimes there was a monster roaming an area, like the cellar where I had to turn on two gas pumps and a main breaker to restore power. Lots of sneaking and running around there.
There was a strange part in the beginning where I had to sneak past a few sitting brutes watching snow on a bloodstained television. They must have seen me, but they ignored me. I’m not sure if the fact that I had to do this was good design. If only I had felt the horror of this sequence.
Read more “Alien: Isolation”
Developer: The Creative Assembly | Released: 2014 | Genre: FPS, Horror
As a first person horror action/adventure, this game was quite true to the first movie and really managed to exude the same atmosphere. Especially the prefabs and corridors were an amazingly close call. In the beginning it also felt like a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, in part because of the ominous graffiti on the walls. And it was quite a looker. Lots of details, all high resolution textures, and a solid lighting style with small whiffs of smoke here and there.
The gameplay was mostly sneaking around, avoiding androids or the alien using various tools for opening doors and a bit of crafting for e.g. creating distracting bombs and health syringes. I could hide inside lockers or crawl through vents. Weapons were weak and ammunition sparse, and most of it would barely scare away the alien anyway. The androids in the game were also tough bullet sponges. Fighting one felt just as absurd as when Ripley fought Ash in the movie, just as it should be.
The levels were quite linear to begin with, but the later areas got bigger and with adjoining corridors. If the area felt particularly open with lots of options for moving around, chances were that the alien would be tagging along there as well. There was also a lot of backtracking, either to get back to a hub (such as the tram stations) or to open previously blocked doors with newly acquired hacking or cutting tools.
But it’s true what they all say – it was way too long (a whopping 19 missions) and sometimes relentless. I heard the rumors and prudently selected one of the lower difficulty levels, but still. There were actually a lot of levels where the alien wasn’t even present, but when it was, it felt like it was tethered to me. Sort of like if it could sense my aura and know not to go too far away.
Read more “DreadOut”
Developer: Digital Happiness | Released: 2014 | Genre: 3PS, Horror
It was really a shame coming from such a nice surprise as Lifeless Planet to this frustrating mess of bad design. If I could have gone back in time and told my older self what not to play, this would definitely have been one of them. DreadOut was a horror adventure that borrowed a lot from Silent Hill – even the dark style of the inventory, with big images of inventory items. The saddest thing is that the horror atmosphere was actually quite well done. Although cliche of course, it had just the right amount of disturbing dread and jump scares, supported by a marvelous ambient background sound.
The heroine, a teenager on a trip with her teacher and school mates in a car, used a smartphone camera and its flash to scare ghosts and monsters. A red vignette on the screen indicated that a spiritual being was close (sometimes invisible so the camera had to be held up to see it) and a blue vignette that an item or interaction was nearby. Being pummeled could lead to death, and this was shown as a limbo sequence running towards the light. To make matters even worse, some monsters were “camera bullet sponges” and had to be continuously snapshot. In between there were also mild puzzles and keys to find.