Agony aims to bring us a pretty full fat vision of hell that’s as disturbing as it is gross so getting out is obviously high on your list of priorities. The scene is very quickly set, then, for this very odd survival horror game.
Right from the start the atmosphere is pretty disconcerting. It churns out scene after seen made of limbs, screaming souls and genitalia, sometimes all at once. After throwing walls of arms and victims who are never shy of telling you their woes, it seems that all roads point to the Red Goddess as the one who holds the key to your escape, not that it will be easy to get her attention as you’ll need to go through mazes, avoid demons and complete a fair few mundane fetch tasks first.
Having no memory of your life before hell, the only thing to do is press forward through the gore to find this goddess. The game gives you a torch to see in pitch black and ward off early demons. but that’s really about it for weapons. The most interesting mechanic is that while the torch does stop some enemies from attacking you it can attract others, so you’ll need to extinguish it when they’re nearby and use stealth to get past them. It feels a little like Alien Isolation while you’re avoiding demons, though the game unfortunately has none of the subtly found in the Alien title and most of the time you’ll be able to stop and crouch right next to a demon without it spotting you.
After around half an hour, where you’ll be enjoying the walk through the most gross-out scenery ever seen in a game, there comes a point where Agony feels just a little bit more like a trudge. The background becomes less interesting as you desensitise yourself to it and quests to open doors start to feel samey. A few additions later in the game do help to spice the story up, once the Red Goddess makes a proper appearance it certainly helps mix things
up a little, but for the most part demons all end up feeling too similar to the last lot you encountered and the game loses its edge. Unfortunately, the voice acting isn’t really up to much, so by the time you do meet more interesting characters there is even less chance you’ll really care about them.
Something else that works against Agony is the splattering of terrible bugs, getting caught in scenery, dying for no reason, sound going missing and being replaced by horrifying static (this could actually be a good element of the game if it wasn’t so obviously a bug) and a host of other technical issues. These sap what little enjoyment there is left in the game.
Despite the negatives, Agony’s unique view of hell and the experience of walking through it is an interesting one. There’s a game that works when it’s not trying to be a puzzle game and some of the stealth elements work well, too. There are also several endings, some of which are a little confusing or convoluted.
Agony tries hard to be interesting while deliberately repulsing the player but seems to have forgotten that element of enjoyment that you can get from a good survival horror. It’s worth witnessing for those interested in the ideas the game presents, but don’t expect to enjoy your journey through Hell.