Right off the bat they warn you that you might get sucked into some kind of evil parallel dimension, so you’re as prepared as one can be when–sure enough–it happens. Other than that, this game has nothing but contempt for your desire to know what’s going on.

Does it matter? It’s clearly supposed to be more of an experience than a full-fledged story. When you’re at an amusement park do you really need to know the background of the haunted house for it to be scary?

Maybe so. This sure isn’t conventional horror; nothing’s there to chase you with fangs or chainsaws or whatever, and they would never stoop so low as to jump out and say “boo!” It’s not psychological horror, either, since you don’t know enough about the situation for it to burrow very far into your subconscious mind and poke at your more complex fears.

“Joy.” Not likely

It’s supposed to be “atmospheric,” which I guess means more visceral, but it might have a little too much atmosphere for its own good. There’s definitely no shortage of unsettling imagery. At least I think there was. Everything was so aggressively low-res, dark and gritty and grainy that it was hard to tell. Yeah, if you thought Darkwood was fuzzy you haven’t seen anything yet.

The problem is that they crank it up so fast that you don’t have time to settle in. It eliminates any sense of dread. Before you know it you’ve already seen half a dozen things that would have left a normal person curled up in the fetal position; but you just forge ahead, unfazed, as if you’ve already lived a lifetime in hell and are inured to the horrors that surround you.

Of course not

Where do you go from there, once the needle’s already at maximum? I guess you casually detour into a sewer to check out some writhing freak chained to the wall. Then you head back down the street, careful not to step in the mutilated bodies, to the docks where some other freak is twitching at you out on the water; you ignore him and pick up a pay phone as shadowy figures lurk in the darkness nearby and call your mom; and you’re like, “oh, hey mom…nah, everything’s fine.”

There was a startling moment when I opened the save menu for the second time and saw the filename and I was like, “oh @#%$! how does it know my name?!” but then I remembered that’s the character’s name.

Atmosphere may be enveloping but it’s also tenuous, and this game makes me think that on its own it can’t take you much farther than the vignettes where this story originated. You get acclimated to it and its effect dissipates if there’s no deeper connection to the characters or events. That’s why buildup is so important, even in less narrative-driven stories.

Spooky graveyard…I think

Sure, they give you the basic outline of a motivation but it’s too disjointed and surreal to have much traction. How can you feel threatened if you don’t believe on some level that you have anything to lose? I know I’m supposed to be finding my wife, but in the end I’m not sure what I accomplished; and at this point I’m not so concerned either way.

Sorry, honey, I tried.

If there’s some secret ending and you happen to run into my wife, tell her I still don’t know what’s going on but if she sees a guy with a trash bag on his head she should steer clear. I found that out the hard way.

Developer: Studio Snowspot, T Allen Studios

Publisher: Studio Snowspot

Purchased on: Steam

The Bottom Line:

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.