Some of you may be looking for a genuinely spooky horror game for Halloween. It's for that reason that I decided to review Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a game that's being called just that. Amnesia (developed by Frictional Games, developers of Penumbra) is available for PC, Mac, and Linux, and it's part of Steam's Halloween sale of horrifically good values! [Edit: Redditor BBQBaconBurger pointed out that the game is actually available for less on Frictional's website, if you prefer to buy it direct. Also, there's a demo on Steam's page.]
I'm not a fan of most horror games. Why? They often fail to provide exactly the element that they're supposed to: horror. They rely on cheap scares to startle you, but those don't produce genuine horror in the player. They rely on weird scenarios built around supernatural events and creatures, but those aren't really frightening, either. Why would something completely implausible be frightening? If you saw these creatures outside of the dark, shadowy hallways of the game, their design would just look goofy. There's no need to turn to making ridiculous stuff up to scare anyone. There's plenty of creepy and authentically frightening things to draw from in real life. Simply dropping you into a dark room with some bizarre creatures isn't enough; there needs to be a certain atmosphere, and a situation that offers something to really frighten the player. Additionally, my suspension of disbelief is interrupted the moment that irritating game mechanics creep in or clunky control schemes start making progress difficult. Making a game challenging with unnecessarily difficult controls is another trick that comes off as cheap. To make a horror game realistic, it has to feel seamless. You have to get drawn into your character, and forget momentarily that you're just playing a game.
|Amneisa: feels like a psychological horror film.|
Amnesia succeeds in putting you in the right frame of mind to be scared by setting an eerie mood with dynamic lighting, sound, and camera-effects. The graphics are quite high-resolution, the world is exquisitely detailed, and the physics and game mechanics are well done. This all adds up to a nearly flawless and very immersing experience. The story is set in the 19th century, and it's very reminiscent of older horror films in how it tries to thrill you with atmosphere and imagination, as opposed to gratuitous violence, gore, and cheap tricks. Amnesia also succeeded in making the thrills fun. It wasn't so scary that I wanted to put it down, but it was genuinely and enjoyable spooky. The mysterious environment drew me in, and I really, really wanted to keep playing. If you enjoy classic horror movies and novels, and want a game that captures that feel, then I highly recommend Amnesia: The Dark Descent.