Release Date: 9/8/2010
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The survival horror genre is probably the fastest dying of them all, but it’s games like Amnesia that really get the spotlight when they hit it home on the scare factor. Amnesia stays true to the genre, and this is due to the fact that there’s no combat whatsoever. Zero, zilch, nada you can’t fight. If you see a creature you have to hide or run, and this is what adds to the tension. If you can fight you can just kill it, but if you can’t then you have to really think about what to do, and can make you not want to continue.
Amnesia may be a first-person adventure game, but you’re only weapon is light and against your own insanity, not creatures. Staying in the light is key, and oil for your lantern is as precious as 9mm ammo in Silent Hill. It’s scarce, and you try to savor every drop or just use tinderboxes as an alternative. You can light candles, lamps, or any source of light to guide your way to preserve oil or if you run out. Daniel can see in the dark somewhat, but it’s hard to solve puzzles like this.
As your sanity slowly drains you will hallucinate, walk slower, the screen will distort, and creatures will hear you. Seeing traumatic scenes, can do this too, and also looking at creatures for too long. You will also lose sanity if you don’t progress or solve puzzles so it keeps you on your toes, but don’t worry I only encountered a couple of times where Daniel went totally insane and lost it. You’ll more likely go insane from fright before he ever will.
And that’s the thing about Amnesia it frightens you with atmosphere, pacing, and tension from the environment instead of zombies popping out. The music and ambiance are haunting and it makes you paranoid throughout the whole game. One scene had me in a room where I was picking up a letter and suddenly something started bashing down the door. I literally jumped and tried to find a place to hide. A wardrobe! I grabbed each door and swung them open and hid, and as I peeked through the crack Daniel started freaking out so I had to not look. I heard the creature breathing, moaning, and moving around and I was afraid it would start bashing down the wardrobe! It soon turned away and I could continue hunting for puzzle solutions, but was I ever so scared!
The haunting story doesn’t help either with you just waking up in a castle not knowing who you are. You read letters along the way trying to discover some orb and trying to stop The Shadow from consuming you. I can’t go into more detail because it will spoil the story, but it’s very creepy and disturbing and was well put together.
The second part of the game is the puzzles. These vary from object hunting, physics, and pathfinding. I have to admit that Frictional has always been known for obscure puzzles, and some of the time I didn’t know what to do and was completely clueless. You rarely get hints and this can lead to frustrating backtracking and pixel hunting so a FAQ needs to be handy. Other than that the puzzles were clever and really stuck to the story, and they all felt necessary.
Amnesia is a horror classic and is even better than Frictional’s Penumbra series. This game will scare the pants off of you, even clocks in at a nice 6-8 hours, and has three different endings to see. I really hope for a sequel or another game similar because Frictional found the survival horror sweet spot.