DreadOut – Snapshots of the Dead – Review

Gare – Wednesday, May 21, 2014 8:38 PM
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The Indonesian team of Digital Happiness embarked on an ambitious journey when they decided to create a survival horror title drawing great inspiration from the PS2 classic Fatal Frame franchise, this much I can say with certainty. For those not quite familiar with the franchise, Fatal Frame is a bone-chilling series of survival horror games focusing on Japanese folklore and spirits. The heroines starring each title are in a possession of a supernatural camera called the Camera Obscura, the only tool at their disposal that can banish harmful spirits. DreadOut works with a similar formula with the exception that this time, the setting is Indonesia, and your camera is actually a smartphone. The recently-released first act (we know this from the unpleasant To Be Continued sign at the end of the game) stars Linda Melinda, an Indonesian girl who, along with her friends, sets out to explore a mysteriously abandoned town – more specifically, its school building. Soon enough, darkness falls upon the small town, Linda’s friends disappear without a trace, and she – all alone – is now tasked with trying to locate them while also shedding some light on the supernatural mystery unfolding around her.

Much of the first act takes place in said school building, with Linda – and the player – wandering dark corridors and solving puzzles. While all this is going on, a number of ghosts haunting the school building will make attempts on your life – at times like this, the edges of the screen glow a faint hue of red to indicate that a harmful spirit is nearby. And very much like in Fatal Frame, the only way to defeat ghosts is to take pictures of them, up close and personal. This is where the problems start. Namely, this whole process felt a lot less terrifying than I thought it would be: ghosts don’t actually pose a massive threat, I soon found out, and once you manage to locate them, you can easily snap a few shots and off they go, scurrying off like rabbits at the sight of a predator. While Fatal Frame gave you a wide variety of wicked spirits, each with their own movesets and ways to incessantly haunt the player, DreadOut allows you to simply walk up to the unlucky ghost, go click-click-click with your smartphone and call it a day. As you might imagine, the sense of dread and danger is thus close to zero, once you sort of figure this out.

It doesn’t quite help matters that the school building you’re exploring is tremendously dull and lifeless, with empty, uninteresting rooms filling its dusty halls – and it is exactly these dull, uninteresting rooms you’ll have to comb through in order to pick up the items necessary for solving each puzzle. Personally, I found little enjoyment in this process. Now, lengthy exploration itself is something I have nothing against if the setting is varied and interesting enough to be able to suck me right in. DreadOut, however, is devoid of atmosphere for the most part, and thus wandering its same-looking halls – and occasionally hunting for ghosts that are anything but threatening – soon becomes a massive chore.

Ghost! Click-click-click

DreadOutPlatform: PC, OS XGenre: Survival HorrorDeveloper: Digital HappinessPublisher: PT Digital Semantika IndonesiaRelease: 05/15/2014So that I actually say some positive things about the title – because there are indeed a few good things to be found here –, I do have to point out that DreadOut did manage to unsettle me here and there. Never have I dreaded more the clang of a simple scissor, and I clearly remember shouting profanities during a particularly excellent late-game scare. DreadOut sort of gets its act together in the last 20 minutes or so, giving players a terrifying boss fight (let’s just call it that, folks) and more unexpected scares to follow. However, this is too little, too late. The game is still painfully forgettable at best in its current state; its brief, 2-hour-long campaign barely giving it enough room to really show anything even remotely interesting, those few decent scares aside. The only positive side of the whole affair I can think of is that the upcoming second episode will be made available free of charge for every customer that bought DreadOut – and while I’m not getting my hopes up, the second chapter of Linda’s story may even fare better than the first. We’ll see. In any case, the most I can offer right now is an uncertain recommendation, and only for the most hardcore of Fatal Frame enthusiast – for everyone else, grabbing a PS2 and the *actual* Fatal Frame trilogy is a far better investment than DreadOut, I’m afraid.

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