With Halloween just around the corner, it’s a great time to be checking out some of the indie horror games available for the PC. But which ones are worth spending time on? We take a look at three potentially terrifying ways to scare yourself…
The free download for Hotel Remorse is an intriguing and promising recent début from Irish developer Charlie Behan. Despite clocking in at barely 15 minutes, the game provides an assured lesson in how to slowly and methodically build suspense. With a few scares along the way, of course.
The storyline is intriguingly bare. It’s primarily told through scraps of notes which you find throughout the game. Thankfully, there’s a dream-scape setting to make sense of the diaries, rather than the tired cliché of audio logs. Besides the note collecting, the remainder of Hotel Remorse revolves around a handful of rudimentary puzzles and the odd moment of scripted drama as the game builds to a climax.
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Without wanting to spoil the game too much, let’s just say the conclusion wouldn’t be out of place in a 2004 Flash game. It also leaves the still threadbare story unresolved, including the important question of why on earth you’re stuck in the titular hotel in the first place. The Shining has a lot to answer for, it appears.
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As a free 15-minute game, Hotel Remorse is a mostly clever and memorable experience. If you don’t expect too much from the plot and ending, then you’ll enjoy the journey, if not the Final Destination.
In contrast to the youthful energy of Hotel Remorse, Rinat Mirzasalikhov`s Strangers is a leaden, dispiriting trudge through a number of tired horror tropes. The tale of a city slicker terrorised in a country house by a gang of marauding clowns, Strangers is nowhere near as entertaining as that synopsis sounds. Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek approach could have saved such an inherently ridiculous premise, but the game remains defiantly humourless and po-faced throughout. This is just the start of its problems however.
Despite clocking in at well under an hour, Strangers is a tedious enough journey to feel much longer. Confined to a minuscule house and forced to complete mundane tasks in a strict order, the player soon finds themselves yearning for some autonomy. Although played from a first person perspective, gameplay is essentially a glorified point and click adventure. This influence even extends to the objects scattered around the house not springing into interactive life until a story beat dictates it.
The glacial pace of the game is only rendered worse by how flat and dull its few, belated attempts at scares are. Multiple endings are available to encourage repeat play-throughs, but with the prior hour so laboured this feature seems an optimistic punt at best.
In many ways, Strangers has much to learn from perennial Steam sale member Coma:Mortuary. Not least in how, gleaming in all its Unreal Engine glory, Coma comfortably eclipses the former’s scrappy indie aesthetic.
However, despite the shiny presentation, similar gameplay concerns remain. A linear, slow-paced experience, Coma:Mortuary offers an intriguing, if not necessarily enthralling, experience. Following the death of the lead character’s girlfriend, the game tells the tale of his suicide and subsequent trek through the unravelling afterlife.
How much the player can relate to this when trudging down identikit sewer pipes is another issue though.The gameplay consists mainly of throwing switches and the occasional signposted dash from pursuing foes. It makes arbitrary deaths and repeating corridors more of a chore than a scare.
Ending on an as-yet unresolved cliffhanger, Coma:Mortuary as a whole is in many ways the reflection of its unfinished conclusion. Slick graphically and with a hint of engaging plot, but lacking where it matters most: gameplay. An interesting but not highly recommendable experiment.
It’s well worth checking out Hotel Remorse, perhaps taking a peek at Coma: Mortuary and reflecting on how good a game it could have been, and probably best to give Strangers a miss. Which seems a reasonable lesson for life in general in some ways.
Given the need for more gameplay scares, why not leave a comment with your pick of the best frights and scares in video games below?