Master of Jumpscares
It’s driving me to despair: Even when I know that a zombie is about to rush towards me out of the darkness, I still have to let out a scream. each. Separate. Just. My neighbors may forgive me. Ultimately, Supermassive Games, the makers of Until Dawn and four The Dark Pictures titles, are to blame for the disturbance. The studio seems to have some coded secret recipe that turns me into a screaming school kid in their VR games. Almost every other VR horror game leaves me much colder, but the predecessor Until Dawn: Rush of Blood regularly got my pump pumping.
I was all the happier when a sequel to the PSVR insider tip was finally announced, with a new narrative framework, fresh graphics and all sorts of cool haptic and eye-tracking tricks. As in the predecessor, I’m sitting on a supernatural roller coaster to shoot my way through the “Shooting Gallery” full of hordes of monsters gone wild with two hands, pistols and extra weapons. So there is no free movement. A complete run remains quite short at three hours. The structure is reminiscent of old light gun shooters like Sega’s The House of the Dead. A warning right away: I couldn’t finish the game properly due to a bug – more on that at the end of the article…
The Dark Pictures as a VR roller coaster
This time, the first four stories of the in-house horror adventures from The Dark Pictures Anthology serve as a template. After a massacre in a derailed, burning subway, I am thrown into numerous horror scenarios full of supernatural phenomena such as blood pools or torture blocks. Since I haven’t played the templates, I may have missed a few references that tie the nightmare levels into a larger storyline. The possessed Laila from the cover plays an important role. In the course of the adventure she keeps getting in my way or whispers sympathetic love greetings in my ear after I die.
Boss fights proved to be pleasantly heated – sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.
So good conditions for a manic shoot-out, the mood of which is also conveyed by screaming synthesizers and eerie chimes. The roller coaster meanders through hellish caves, burning places of worship, over cursed ghost ships and through the World’s Fair Hotel with a sadistic serial killer. The variety is pleasingly large, countless meanies are immediately on my toes here. The walking chamber of horrors ranges from the stumbling zombie with a head that likes to burst open, to horror dolls that twitch erratically and right up to the stick-crazed robo-doctor with questionable ideas about hygiene.
Fire for the combo
But even everything that is nailed down becomes useful: the decoration demons, for example, have skulls nailed to occult poles at every corner. Shooting bottles, crates, and other odds and ends will help keep the combo going. On some corners, good timing is required in order not to remain non-violent for too long. Since even the highest level of difficulty is still manageable, the high score hunt plays the most important role here. The numerous alternative branches create long-term motivation! It is a pity, however, that the world rankings (general and for friends) can only be viewed rudimentarily instead of being freely scrollable. Nevertheless, it is motivating to catch more and more undead and inanimate objects in one of the levels on later attempts for a higher score. Before these become accessible, however, the story part is on the program, which alone is entertaining. Of course, if you don’t like rail shooters, this isn’t the place for you. I, on the other hand, enjoyed finding the right timing to pop heads, fend off swarms of bats, or duel tough bosses.
Here you shoot first at valves, then at padlocks – a cathartic experience for anyone who has ever crossed Cologne’s Hohenzollern Bridge.
A small highlight are the already mentioned rooms with the warning “Don’t blink” written in blood. After my car stops and the doors close, some naked mannequins slowly but surely approach me. Every time I close my eyes, they are suddenly closer to me than I would like, until they finally attack. The mechanics is a really nice idea. It actually momentarily forces me to have good timing when firing, reloading (button or gesture), and even wetting my eyes. Unfortunately, the mechanics are only used for a few moments and therefore remain more of a gimmick for the time being. How about a DLC full of perfidious eye-tracking passages?