I am a wimp when it comes to anything even close to scary. A few months back I was camping Quall and had the crap scared out of me when I turned around to find a massive male Tauren on a scorpid right behind me. I shrieked and Syndrome made fun of me for the rest of the night. When I was a child I was walking into the library one winter day and screamed when a man who had been smoking stepped out from behind one of the columns leading up to the door. That was pretty mortifying. Given my history with anything startle-worthy I tend to steer clear of games and movies that are even remotely frightening because I know I’ll over react (there’s a scene in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Will accidentally breaks something on the wall in the Governor’s home–it made me jump the first time I saw it). Despite all of that I decided that I had to review a scary game. I mean, Halloween fell on a game review week, how could I not? I searched and searched and ultimately chose a free Steam game called Haunted Memories. Unfortunately, it was a mistake for more reasons than one.
Let’s start off with the premise, shall we? Then you can see why I chose the game and why I was ultimately so disappointed.
“Every time we wake up on the other side we have a small chance of falling in to never ending dream. Honestly – which side is the true one? We wake up in our beds, but is it possible to remember second awakening? You remember well what you have done in your dream, what happend, who was there and what was your goal or desire.” –Steam Store Description
From the get-go I was intrigued by the short description offered on Steam. It didn’t sound like a hack ‘n’ slash horror game. It sounded…cerebral in a way. Like perhaps more of a psychological thriller than a blood fest. I wanted to know more–were we trapped in our dream? Were we about to find that our dreams were just as real as the waking world? Or maybe we were going to find that neither world is any more or less real than the other. I wasn’t for sure so I downloaded it and decided to give it a go.
Pathetic as it may sound, I was pretty much terrified from the moment I got into the game. What I found interesting about it was that it managed to turn many things I like into things I found horribly unnerving. In case my name hasn’t given it away, I really love rain. A lot. When I can’t sleep at night I turn on Rainy Mood and the wonderful sound of a thunderstorm lulls me to sleep. There is nothing in the world as calming as a thunderstorm to me. But as I crept through this blue (favorite color) forest (favorite place) in the middle of the night (favorite time of day) I found that the thunderstorm was unnerving me.
After only a few paces I froze in my tracks at the sight of a light in the distance. My heart pounded harder as I inched my way toward it, trying to find a way to bypass it completely. My paranoia had already set in and I was distrustful of who or what was wielding that light. Soon enough it became apparent that the light was coming from a car. Realizing that there was no way around it I gritted my teeth and, dreading the monster that was soon to come, I went up to it only to find that it was abandoned (with its lights and radio on?) Convienently located on the hood was a map, a note, and a flashlight. I snatched them all and slowly headed for the gate that was just beyond the car. My tension had eased a bit when nothing bad happened at the car.
So then of course this happened.
I shrieked a little and jumped. Jesus, that thing looked like Slender man!
At this point I pretty much chickened out. Every few paces I would pull up my map because I was too afraid to look around. You see, of all the made up monsters in our world, Slender man is the one who scares me the most. Yes, I know he’s not real. Yes, I know all of those photos are shopped. But there is just something about the long, thin arms and legs of this creature that scares me shitless. Even the Endermen in Minecraft make me scream from time to time.
If there is one thing I really don’t like, it’s when things appear in front of me unexpectedly (see Tauren and dude at library stories). So you see, I knew I was pretty much screwed. So scared was I that I didn’t manage to find a single item in the game aside from the flashlight I grabbed back at the beginning.
Oh, and speaking of flashlights? The bloody thing’s batteries died as I was wandering through the dark, scary as shit woods! Lovely, right? Right…
In the end, however, my death was quick and painless, for that I am very much pleased. I was looking at my map, heard the telltale heartbeat, saw my screen freak out a bit, and then saw “Game Over”. At which point I heaved a massive sigh of relief and exited the game as quickly as I could.
So the game is definitely creepy if, like me, you let it be. But how does it play? Before we continue I must point out that Haunted Memories is in alpha right now, so things are not quite finished yet. That said, for the most part I had little to complain about.
Since I was far too terrified to play it a second time I recruited Relative Sanity to give it another go. His biggest complaint was the head bob motion when you ran (the game is in first person). I disagree though. It felt so much more realistic to me than most first person animations. It really put me in the shoes of the person who was running which, unfortunately, made it that much more real to me.
What did get to me as far as gameplay goes was the weird menu select. Once at your menu you can look at papers you’ve found or select items from your inventory. But rather than use your mouse to select the item you wish to equip, you have to use the TFGH keys. The whole inventory system felt really awkward and weird. I already have my hands on WASD and my mouse, why should I move to TFGH? It’s a small complaint, I know, but it absolutely got on my nerves every time I tried to use it.
The game was spooooky, alright, but was it what I was expecting? No. For one I’m pretty sure a good 70% of my fear came from the fact that I was expecting it to be scary, so I spent every moment in the game anticipating some unknown horror. But aside from that first glimpse, I never saw Slender again (and Syndrome only saw him once in his playthrough).
Speaking of Slender, I was not expecting him to have anything at all to do with this game. If I had wanted to play Slender I would have, but I didn’t because I freaking hate Slender man so damn much!! To make matters worse he reminds me of the Silence from Doctor Who and they just so happen to be one of the scariest monsters in the Who universe to me so I think it probably goes without saying that I never would have made the choice to play Slender on my own. Never.
Putting that unpleasant surprise aside, the biggest reason I will not be playing the rest of the game when it comes out is that it just didn’t seem to deliver on what the description had promised. If you take away the fact that I was scared to bits, the game was really rather boring. Hey, here’s a generator that needs gas, go find the gas. Hey, there’s a locked door on this inn, go find the key. Hey, here’s a creepy building with weird noises around it and that appears to be it. The biggest failing of the game is that, as far as Episode 1 is concerned, it focuses too much on the fright and not enough on the story. The whole reason I picked this game was because I thought it had potential for an amazing plot and I was interested to know more. But neither of us ever found much of anything that was terribly illuminating. The first letter you get is fairly generic horror game: something about how they’ve closed down this park and Facility 109’s objective has been altered from “Destruction” to “Adaptation”. It just all felt very unoriginal.
While I found the graphics and game world to be nothing short of gorgeous, it still was not enough to keep me interested. I might have stuck it out (while watching Relative Sanity, of course!) if there had been something to keep me wanting more, but ultimately it felt very dull.
In the end, the game fell flat to me. I know that there is absolutely an audience for it, but that audience is not me. I could have perhaps sat through something that terrified me if I at least found it interesting, but so far this game is just not. I’m sure it will pick up in later episodes, but they failed to hook me in this one so it is not a game I will be returning to.
Before I go we would like to wish you a very happy Halloween (it is the best day of the year, after all). Stay safe, have fun, and we’ll see you tomorrow with the Question of the Week! (And don’t forget those awesome Halloween costume pics!)