The mechanics stay the identical as “Till Daybreak,” inserting us answerable for a number of characters who can all die throughout the story attributable to a missed button press or a nasty alternative, at which level the narrative modifications and continues with out them. Even the framing is analogous, with a number character to handle the viewers and mark breaks within the story — for The Darkish Photos Anthology, we return time and time once more to a person recognized solely because the Curator, the sequence’s Rod Serling-type narrator.
The Darkish Photos Anthology has all the time been a lot smaller, when it comes to pure scope and ambition, than Supermassive’s different video games. The video games are consciously extra modest efforts, with fewer story branches and recognizable actors. “The Satan in Me” serves as a finale for the primary season of the sequence in addition to a extra targeted, cohesive and experimental different to Supermassive’s larger efforts.
Overview: ‘The Quarry’ is a standout slasher that takes only a few flawed turns
It follows a true-crime movie crew, headlined by Jessie Buckley as its useless, dissatisfied presenter, Kate, and Paul Kaye as its temperamental director/producer, Charlie. Initially, we discover them agonizing over how you can spruce up the crummy early reduce of an episode on H.H. Holmes, the real-world Nineteenth-century serial killer whose booby-trapped resort has lengthy since enshrined him as a determine of American delusion. Fortunately, a mysterious benefactor has the proper alternative for them: He’s constructed a painstaking re-creation of Holmes’s well-known “homicide citadel” on a distant island, and all they should do to movie it’s come go to and go away their telephones behind.
It’s a setup that’s all however begging for hassle, and thus a terrific concept for a horror sport whose generic title belies influences that vary from “Home on Haunted Hill” and “Psycho” to “Noticed” and “Halloween.” Navigating a maze of dying traps, lure doorways and secret chambers, the crew finds themselves dealing with down the purest expression of our tradition’s fascination with serial killers: a masked stalker who has taken Holmes’s mustachioed, bowler-hatted picture for his personal silent, fearsome persona in a sort of H. H. homage.
The sport’s opening flashback of the “actual” model of Holmes all however twirls his mustache, greeting company with double entendres that will make Hannibal Lecter roll his eyes. It’s goofy, however Supermassive’s work requires us to just accept a sure degree of goofiness. Character fashions that look nice one second will look unspeakably picket in one other. However right here, as in Supermassive’s different video games, they serve their goal properly sufficient as avatars whose deaths we’d choose to keep away from whereas we nostril round a sport laden with low cost shocks meant to make us bounce after which snort at the truth that we jumped.
Not for nothing has Supermassive’s work emerged as a multiplayer fixture, excellent for sofa commentary. It’s the “enjoyable” model of horror reasonably than the genuinely harrowing form, and the studio consciously performs round inside these parameters. As an example, the spooky animatronics that populate the re-created Holmes resort are simpler to confuse for actual individuals when the characters themselves are computer-generated mannequins reasonably than human actors.
Is the interactive horror film making its long-overdue comeback?
The yearly output of The Darkish Photos Anthology sequence makes such self-reflexive touches extra seen, alongside slight tweaks and modifications to every new installment. The final sport, “Home of Ashes,” featured a extra adjustable digicam than earlier entries, for instance. “The Satan in Me” furthers the inclusion of extra “conventional” sport parts, like giving particular person characters inventories for gear. For instance, one of many characters, Mark, can use his extendible digicam mount to nudge objects in excessive locations, and he can gentle up the world in entrance of him with a quick, vivid flash. Charlie depends on his cigarette lighter and may jam his enterprise card into drawers to get them open.
In observe, although, the stock mechanics really feel bolted-on at finest, meshing awkwardly with Supermassive’s long-established system. As a result of we’re always shifting characters, the sport doesn’t wish to disorient us by having to trace too many particulars throughout too many inventories. Pickups within the surroundings are primarily keys to be used within the fast neighborhood by an additional button press, which is functionally simply one other method to visualize actions which have historically occurred robotically in these video games. If these new concepts accomplish something, they counsel one thing doubtlessly extra experimental and fleshed out down the road for Supermassive. As is, they definitely don’t ask us to contemplate which character we’re enjoying or which instruments they’ve for various seconds.
Additionally new is the presence of extra traversal choices, just like the interactive busywork of environmental puzzles in a Naughty Canine sport the place we climb round and push objects that each one conveniently have wheels and handles. Quite than deepening our identification with the characters, these mechanics truly name extra consideration to the on-the-rails nature of the sport. Earlier than, we would have accepted that the “interactive film” method requires gamers to give up a few of the management we’re accustomed to in different video games. Now, the interactivity solely clarifies the onerous boundary between walking-around segments and the precise, pivotal scenes that contain quick-time occasion button-pressing and choice-making.
From a story standpoint, it’s powerful to tie up all of a narrative’s threads when any one in all them can finish at any time, and “The Satan in Me” displays the standard flaws of that method. Characters are usually awkwardly sidelined, and motivations don’t fairly coalesce. Even the hulking assassin who can kill each character begins to really feel a bit of inept after we spend a lot time dodging his killing blows.
These points should not distinctive to “The Satan in Me.” “The Quarry” typically felt uneasily patched collectively, struggling to reconcile all of its plot threads. All of this raises a query that haunts the expertise of Supermassive’s video games: Amid gamers’ expectations of visible constancy and complicated narrative, how sustainable is a format the place, at any level, any totally voice-acted, motion-captured character can die and be reduce from the sport immediately?
Steven Nguyen Scaife is a Midwest-based freelance author whose work has appeared at Slant Journal, Polygon, Fanbyte, Vice and BuzzFeed Information. For nevertheless lengthy it lasts, his Twitter account will likely be @midfalutin.