“Hey, it’s about painting! It must be classy and profound.”
“No inventory or user interface? That means a truly immersive experience, pared down to the essentials!”
“No combat or death? Sounds like a psychological thriller, with lots of atmosphere and nuanced story.”
Not so fast.
This game’s pretty sneaky about tricking you into thinking that it’s doing way more than it actually is. Hate to say it, but scrape away the superficial gloss of the artistic theme and visual flair and there’s not much underneath.
I mean, what are you really doing here besides walking through a big house and waiting for the next loud noise to startle you?
There’s no fighting and no danger. You follow a more or less linear path, so there’s no meaningful exploration, either. You interact with items here and there but you don’t solve real puzzles. All of the key events happened in the past, and so a cryptic scrapbook of vague hints, allusions and recollections is all that connects you to the characters while you stumble around in confusion, never sure what’s real and what’s in your head.
As the player, you start to wonder why they need you here at all.
The main thing it has going for it is the visual presentation, which can be pretty creative. They do this thing where they change the scene behind your back without warning you and then force you to turn around and notice that everything’s different. Objects appear and disappear; passages open up or close off; rooms turn from normal to scary looking, that sort of stuff. It happens pretty often so you start to expect it; but while it could have become gimmicky it was handled well enough that I thought it was a nice touch. It added to the feeling of disorientation and created a surreal atmosphere in a unique way.
Besides that, there’s the standard array of creepy imagery. You’ve got your bloodstains and dolls and ominous writing on the walls; your melty faces and screaming spirits and dark holes that you don’t want to jump down but you do it anyway. It’s not bad, but I think it suffers from the same problem as Concluse. They overload you with so many horrors so fast, everybody’s already so tortured and miserable that before long you’re numb to the whole spectacle.
It’s really typical of these walking simulator horror games in general. The less stuff there is for you to do, the less stake you have in anything that happens. You need to feel like you have some skin in the game to create real tension.
Oh well. They say art is never appreciated in its time so it might just take a few hundred years, or at least until it’s on sale for under 5 bucks. Whichever comes first.