For a game with the title Amnesia it’s certainly hard to forget this trip into the darkness and that goes for the equally creepy sequels all collected here on Switch for the first time.
Horror games are an interesting bunch, you can go down the gore route or go for jump scares but few really nail the real dread of a good scare. Amnesia is one of those few and it still holds up well despite being released quite a while ago.
The premise is pretty standard; wake up with no memory of who or where you are in a musty old castle that houses plenty of dark corners and creaking doors. You means of defence are light and the ability to cower like Scooby Doo after a particularly bad encounter with the monster of the week. Escape is only possible after solving the environmental puzzles standing in your way.
It’s a formula borrowed from one of the very first survival horror games; the original Alone In The Dark, which i’m a huge fan of, and manages to apply some of the other ideas, such as the dangerous nature of the spirits you come across meaning that close encounters are most often deadly. What Amnesia also provides is a sanity meter which will drop as you stay in the dark or look at the various ghosts dotted around the place. Running and hiding in the shadows is the only way to avoid them but also runs the risk of lowering your sanity until you come across any natural light or use the various candles on the walls, making sure you carry a tinder box around to light them.
Amnesia: Justine is a piece of DLC that takes a bit of a different turn to the original in that it focuses more on giving you a moral choice whether to help, leave or kill people along the way and the payoff is a series of different endings. It’s much shorter, unsurprisingly, but also provides a nasty twist; failure sees you starting right back at the beginning. Other than this and the fact that the story and characters are separate to Amnesia, it does feel quite similar, something I can’t say for The Dark Descent.
Both the game and it’s DLC do show their age graphically and in terms of how you pick up and handle objects, this never really gets in the way of the game or the dread you feel playing it. It’s testament to the developers that it still manages to scare in spite of its age, like a good classic budget black and white horror film.
While The Dark Descent is part of the series it may as well be a different game franchise altogether. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture developer The Chinese Room took over the developer duties for this game and it shows in the fact that this is much more a walking simulator than a horror game. Despite this, the atmosphere is incredible and the graphics are a big leap from the earlier game and its DLC. It feels more like Layers of Fear and removes much of what made Amnesia so creepy, including the excellent sanity meter and need to find light, while still providing some scares of its own.
This trilogy-of-sorts is a great addition to Switch, which is slowly gathering a good collection of horror games like Outlast, the Resident Evil titles and Layers of Fear. Despite its age I’d still recommend this to any horror fan, especially with Halloween approaching. Now if someone would only remaster Alone in the Dark…