• Gaming and Tech

Indie Halloween

Four new games for four sleepless nights.


By the Gaming and Tech Editorial Team



Photo courtesy of Steam

Inscryption

Release Date: 19/10/2021

Game Length: 8+ hours

Price: £16.79 (Free Demo!)

Review by: Ask Vestergaard


At first, Inscryption seems just like another roguelite card game—a hauntingly gorgeous one where cards cost blood and require sacrifices in order to be played, yes, but a card game nonetheless. But then the cards start talking to you—whispering strategies and begging for their lives. And then your shadow-shrouded opponent gives you items that let you cheat: jars of blood for easy sacrifices, pliers that let you pull out your own teeth to weigh the scales and gain points, and all manner of other icky goodies. And then your opponent tells you that you can walk around. You put down your cards and get up from the table, and suddenly Inscryption isn’t a card game anymore: you’re trapped in a cabin, surrounded by secret locks and mechanisms. The door is sealed: you’re in an escape room, playing for your freedom.

And then reality breaks. Anyone familiar with developer Daniel Mullins and his previous game Pony Island will remember his metatextual, genre-bending, fourth-wall shattering work, and Inscryption is his most innovative and creepy creation yet. The game shifts and twists, becoming something else—something sinister.

And then you die. Your host reaches out of the shadows and snaps your neck… and then he drags your soul back from the abyss to play another hand of cards. Again. And again. And again.


Photo courtesy of Steam

Bloodwash

Release Date: 16/09/2021

Game Length: 1.5 hours

Price: £5.79

Review by: Ask Vestergaard


The idea behind Bloodwash is, frankly, brilliant. It’s a short first-person survival horror with gorgeously chunky, PS1-era graphics and a very simple premise: you’re at a laundromat, waiting for the spin cycle to end, trying to kill time by pottering around, reading comics, and playing a game on a little handheld console—while a serial killer is trying to kill you. The very act of waiting for the washing becomes, therefore, terrifyingly tense. Also, the loading screen is a pint of blood spinning around in a washing machine, so that’s pretty cool.

Sadly, Bloodwash as a game isn’t nearly as interesting as its premise. That isn’t to say that it’s bad, necessarily—its failures do, in a way, have a point. Bloodwash, along with Torture Star Video’s previous game The Horror at Salazar House, is heavily inspired by Italian style-over-substance giallo films like Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Deep Red. So yes: Bloodwash’s narrative is silly and exploitative, its horror is a missed opportunity reliant on jump-scares, and its game mechanics don’t seem to meld, but if you really like giallo, this’ll be more of the same—if maybe a little less colourful.



Image courtesy of Steam


No One Lives Under the Lighthouse: Director’s Cut

Release Date: 21/04/2020 Game Length: 2.5+ hours Price: £5.19 Review by: Ask Vestergaard

Yet another PS1-throwback first-person survival horror, Sowoke Entertainment Bureau’s No One Lives Under the Lighthouse isn’t actually a recent release. However, the Director’s Cut of the game received a hefty update this month that overhauled the second half of the game and completely changed two of its three endings, so those of you who already own and enjoyed it have some new content to check out. Also, the horror game I wanted to review on this spot didn’t actually turn out to be spooky at all. Anyway. No One Lives Under the Lighthouse, as you might expect, bears more than just a titular resemblance to Robert Eggers’ 2019 masterpiece The Lighthouse. However, rather than being an exquisite character drama, the game commits entirely to being a mood piece. You play a lighthouse keeper, and much of the initial gameplay consists of maintenance: filling up cans of oil in the dark basement, keeping the light lit, and patching holes in the ceiling of your cabin that were left by a terrifying monster. Where Bloodwash largely fails to cultivate tension through mundanity, Under the Lighthouse’s gameplay loop of performing boring chores as eldritch creatures go bump in the night and dank basement halls open up into the ancient subterranean cities of ancient gods is a delight of slow-burn horror.


Image courtesy of Steam

If On A Winter’s Night, Four Travelers

Release Date: 21/09/2021

Game Length: 2.5 hours

Price: COMPLETELY BLOODY FREE

Review by: Graeme Sutherland


Unfolding as a gothic mystery, Four Travelers puts you through the last recollections of passengers on a train they don’t remember boarding. It’s a classic point-and-click with a gorgeous art style and irresistible atmosphere—and you can get it on Steam free of charge. The fact that Deep Idle Games care more about sharing the experience than monetary profit is perhaps a testament to the love that they have for their game, and that certainly comes across in the narrative. Every story feels like an individually wrapped love letter to gothic literature: it moves from dramatic betrayals and tragic romances to ghostly grief metaphors and tales of the occult—yet despite the dramatic extremities, I found myself completely taken in by it. Thomas Möhring’s artwork is a large part of this—each area is richly detailed, with the pixelated style adding a level of charm that cleverly blends with the unsettling narrative, amplifying the atmosphere without ever disrupting it. This effect is accentuated by Laura Hunt’s gameplay, which essentially involves moving characters around and inspecting various objects, therefore allowing for both playful, comedic moments and more serious, plot-driven encounters. The game is certainly not flawless—I encountered a couple of scripting bugs, pacing issues and strange plot points—but it’s impossible not to recommend this title when it was so wonderfully immersive and completely free of charge. If you’re looking for an eerie game this Halloween and want to avoid the gratuity of horror, look no further than this.