Scary Game Experiment

890 words.

I don’t get into Halloween much at all, but this year I thought I would break with tradition and try to find a scary game to play. You know, one of those kinds of games that makes the streamers whimper and cry and scream and jump, for the lulz and the clicks. I’m not especially prone to being scared by a game, and I’ve played a number of horror games before that I didn’t find particularly scary, but I wondered if I could find one out there.

I asked on the Blaugust Discord for some recommendations for short, single-player scary games and got a big list of titles. On that list, there were several I had already played before, mostly obtained through Steam sales over the years:

  • Amnesia. Played a couple hours of it, but I think I got bored with it. It had a haunted house atmosphere I think but I don’t remember it being all that scary.
  • Outlast. Also played a couple of hours of it, but I got bored. It does the classic style of jump scares, which are only scary if you have your sound turned up too loud and it physically hurts your ears. It was just featured on Travis Willingham’s Yee-Haw Game Ranch. They got a little further than I did I think.
  • The Park. Played it through when it came out. It was a good horror story, but I didn’t find it all that scary. I actually recorded videos of it but the quality wasn’t very good. (Amendment: I discovered from re-watching part of those videos that there was one random chipmunk-suit jump scare that got me.)
  • Penumbra. Played a little bit. I don’t remember it being very scary, just annoying to figure out how to progress through the puzzles. And it turns out I briefly revisited this one in my recent Steam Backlog Bonanza.
  • Soma. Recorded an hour of this one. I liked it, but I don’t remember it being particularly scary. I remember it took a weird turn and stopped making any sense. For some reason I just never went back to play any more of it.

I found four of the recommended titles were free on Steam, so I downloaded and tried them out:

Answer Knot Title Screen

Answer Knot. This was the best of the four, although I felt personally attacked the whole time. :) It wasn’t all that scary, and I guessed roughly how it would end, but it was still a pretty good indie game effort. The music on the title page was very nice. My biggest complaint is that it took way too long to get to the story hook, and it wasn’t entirely clear at first how to advance the story. But if I were ever going to start making games, this is the size and scope that I would start with.

A typical room in the early part of Spooky's House of Jump Scares.

Spooky’s House of Jump Scares. Well, at least it was free. :) I’m not a fan of 8-bit art styles or music, the sound effects were too loud, the gameplay was pretty dull, and I kept getting stuck on corners. And it wasn’t very scary. It looked like someone’s first experiments with programming Unity. I stopped after 250 “rooms,” most of which were just hallways, and it took a frickin’ hour to get that far. If it gets better later on, they should move that part to the beginning.

Among The Sleep Title Screen

Among The Sleep. I only played the free demo, which was about a half hour long. The most interesting aspect of this game is that you play as a toddler, and can switch between crawling to move fast, and standing up to reach things. Once that novelty wore off, it wasn’t all that scary, just kind of a weird environmental puzzle game. It was also very dark, and toddlers apparently don’t carry flashlights and can’t reach light switches. Some of the jump scare sound effects appeared to be deliberately crafted to trigger an ASMR response, which I found annoying.

Fausts Alptraum Dialog

Fausts Alptraum. Also free on Steam, it appeared to only run in a tiny little window on my desktop. It has a nice atmosphere and nice imagery, and it’s fun to read the text, but the ploddingly* slow 2D tile gameplay that shows up after a half hour of narrative prologue didn’t do much for me. The piano music was very nice, though. It would have been better suited for a Commodore 64 in the 80s. Also, this game needed an editor for a lot of the text, it was heavy on the adverbs. *The kind that end with “-ingly.”

There were a bunch of other recommendations I haven’t gotten to yet, mainly because they all cost money:

  • Dreadout
  • One Late Night (supposed to be free but I can’t figure out where to find it)
  • Downfall
  • Wick
  • Bad Dream: Coma
  • Phantaruk
  • Rise of Insanity
  • Distraint
  • Stories Untold
  • Dark Fall
  • Slender

I’d never heard of any of those games. I don’t even know how people find these kinds of small indie games anymore. I certainly never try to “browse” for games on Steam anymore. Usually if a game title doesn’t show up in my Twitter timeline or the blogosphere somewhere, I’ll never know about it.

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