An offering from Hush Interactive which describes itself as dark footage, first-person horror. This is right up my street as you may have already figured out from my previous horror themed reviews. At 54p in the Steam Sale (price correct as of 24.8.16) it would be a crime not to give it a whirl.
From the title screen the found footage style is apparent from the interference and scan lines making you want to fiddle with the tracking on the VCR. This takes me back to many a time trying to get my old copy of Return of the Jedi working and also invokes films such as Paranormal Activity. Xbox controller or keyboard can be used to play through the game.
Eerie noises and sound affects echo out from the loading screen, this is a good start!
The game consists of four chapters, each admittedly quite short, but this is a bargain basement priced game and sometimes it is nice to complete a game in one sitting rather than battling with it for weeks!
Chapter 1 - The Interview. Starting out with a voice recording, it hints at many a horror film. The character hears about a job at an old nursing home and wanting to make her father proud, she sets out.
Moving from this introduction screen, we are now exploring the new place of work through a distorted 80's camcorder. The game looks like you are playing a found footage film; shaky and poor quality. While this makes it difficult to see what is happening, the very fact you cant see what is happening, is indeed what makes the game scary.
Similar to Outlast, you view the game through a video camera, the only light being that of your mobile phone. Walking around the environment you can find notes and recordings for additional fluff and story. The entire game has that camcorder grain like you are watching a VHS recording. Seems unusual that the character has a modern phone, but an old VCR camcorder. Maybe I'm overthinking things as this certainly doesn't detract from the game itself.
The game has some spooky concepts. Entering a ward in the hospital it is slightly unnerving to find the beds filled with inanimate mannequins. This is escalated when you start seeing apparitions!
The sounds are weird, almost verging on a low rhythmic chant at times.
No form of map does make it a bit unnerving and certainly more realistic. This was a good touch. So many branching corridors indicates there is lots to explore.
Random notes on the door are freaky and give some context to the exploration.
Interacting with one door, uncovered a puzzle which needed to be solved before the door unlocked and allowed me to proceed. I wasn't expecting any puzzles within the game, so this was a nice little touch to break up wandering around in the dark holding my breath! I was looking forward to more puzzles as the game progressed, however, this was the only one.
You can run in the game, however, the character puts down her light while doing this making it more difficult to see what is happening. Do you want speed or light... that is the question?!
What really adds to the atmosphere of the game however, are the audio recordings that you stumble across where you hear about events that have transpired and gives your exploration in this first chapter some context.
After running from a freaky shadow figure (who is naturally crawling along the floor in homage to The Ring), we get to Chapter Two: Down Memory Lane. The second chapter is played though the eyes of another character.
What is a nice touch here is that the character doesn't initially see through their own eyes, but instead through the camcorder viewfinder. This does leave a lot of eerie dark space around the screen. The character can switch between camcorder and flashlight.... without giving too much away, different things can be seen using different pieces of technology. A great touch!
This second level has a very quiet music, the main sound being a repetitive noise, not at all unsettling! (At least that is what I am telling myself!!) As it gets louder, you know that soon death will be your friend! I think if I were to reply, I would do so with headphones as feel this would make the game more atmospheric.
In terms of graphics, the rooms are very 'samey'. This makes it confusing in terms of remembering where you need to go and where you have already been. This adds another level of frustration.
Chapter Three: Deep Below returns to the character we met in Chapter One. Some of the voice acting is not the greatest, however, this can be forgiven given due to the cost of the game. Chapter 2 was a nice concept, but not as good; try and get through it. The female character is more unsettling, and strangely, more enjoyable to play. Some backtracking involved once you've found certain triggers to unlock escape routes, but not excessively so. As soon as getting back into the swing of things with this character, the chapter ended, making this the shortest chapter in the game.
Chapter Four: A Dark Past. The same character. Not quite sure why this couldn't have been merged with Chapter Three. Chapter Four has the same goal of collecting things as chapter two. Not quite so interesting the second time around, especially as I can now see everything again being able to use phone (light) and camcorder at the same time. Finding photos in series of very similar rooms, is neither fun nor scary.
In summary, the game cost me 54p for 30 minutes of entertainment and I can't grumble at that. It is a good hint at what Hush Interactive may be able to produce in the future, however, focussing more on the scares and less on the running around and collecting things and this game would have scored higher in my opinion. It started with a good concept, but it ran out of steam becoming a bit too samey near the end. My final thoughts after completing the end of the game was it was boring in comparison to the promise the first half showed.
The Final Take is available on Steam and currently on offer for 54p. (Normal price £1.59).