Maybe it’s time we take a step back and re-evaluate this whole “atmospheric” thing.
This game looks exactly how something like this is supposed to, right? The woods hang thick with foggy, stylized gloom. Ruined structures lie in various states of decay. The moon is full, crickets are chirping and trees are rustling in the wind. Creepy whispers taunt you from the shadows. The single candle to hold back the darkness is a great visual touch. It really does add up to create a certain atmosphere; problem is, that’s all it does.
The title makes you think that the game would revolve around the candle itself, which would have been a decent enough idea if they had really pursued it.
Like, your fragile little flame is all that’s keeping you safe from the Things in the Darkness that want to eat you; and so the challenge would be to keep the candle lit while you explore the abandoned camp, trying to unravel the mystery and survive. You’d have to deal with wind and rain, struggling to find shelter or coming up with ways to shield the flame, balancing running against the risk of the flame going out. Maybe you’d find a few matches here and there or you’d need to come up with a more creative way to start a fire.
A neat little mechanic like that combined with the solid atmosphere could have made for a really tense, elegant horror game. No such luck, though.
Every level here is exactly the same. You wander around the same area, waiting for the same loud noises to startle you and evading the same ghosts, plus one. The only clear goal is to kill enough time to run out the clock. It’s like they turned the last ten minutes of a bad NFL game into an interpretive horror experience.
There’s a brief adjustment period while you learn the trick for evading the latest ghost, and after that it’s pretty much just RNG. Will you happen to get a good enough combination of events that you don’t get trapped? Meanwhile, they try to tell one of those disjointed hints’n’fragments backstories in the form of cryptic objects that you stumble across, but it makes no difference in the progress or outcome whether you find any of it or not. It doesn’t even matter if your candle goes out, in fact, since it’s not that much harder to survive in the dark, which really kills the immersion.
What’s the point? It’s all just so totally unengaging.
And really, despite what I said about the look even the mood never comes together quite right. The title screen music and design of the ghosts have a dark whimsical sort of vibe. The cheesy conversation cutscenes, on the other hand, feel more like a teen horror movie, whereas the actual scares and violence are more like a straight-up ghost horror game. It’s like half Tim Burton, half campy slasher flick, and half Slender.
Yeah, I know, that’s three halves, which should tell you something about how little sense it makes.