Horror games are a genre that is often a hit-or-miss. In the early days of console gaming, there were great horror titles, namely Resident Evil and Silent Hill, which established key gameplay mechanics (e.g. Resident Evil’s scarce ammo placements and Silent Hill’s radio static) that elevated the scare elements of the game beyond their lo-fi 32 bit visuals.
The latest generation of horror games skew towards action with plenty of predictable scares (“OH NO, MORE ZOMBIES/UNDEAD ATTACK!” a la Dying Light, Outlast or Dead Space) and heavy towards presentation (e.g.: BioShock’s creepy underwater city environment) to create the horror atmosphere, rather than building terror from the gameplay mechanics.
Enter Stifled – a mic based survival first-person thriller game where players need to create sound (or talking) to the microphone, in order to ‘see’ in the game. Think of it like a sonar or Daredevil’s radar sense. This mechanic is not a gimmick as players can barely see anything in the game, until there’s any sound from players, in-game objects or enemies that bounces off the environment to create echolocation effects which would visualize the game’s environment, properties and enemy’s position temporarily.
Thankfully, you can use spacebar to create sound so you don’t need to keep talking (or screaming) to the mic. This feature is useful if you don’t want to disturb other people around you while playing the game. The longer you hold the spacebar prior to releasing it, the bigger the soundscape created to see the environment.
Mind you, the sound ones creates would also attract the game’s antagonist towards you. In the case of the E3 2016 demo we played, it was some scary-looking Giant Baby monster.
The overall horror is built up from the fact that everything is pitch black. The fear of the unknown is real. Creating pings to map the environment with the risk of being exposed by the monster. There is nothing scarier than not able to see what’s ahead of you.
With their E3 2016 demo and discovered that Stifled’s developer, Gattai Games, manages to offer an excellent glimpse of how the game would be like without much handholding.
There was a sequence where I was trapped by the Giant Baby monster in the corner of a sewer-like area. Despite trying numerous times to run past through a set of pipes to no avail, until I found a group of throwable rubble on the floor. I threw one of the stones to lure the Baby Monster to the other side of the room. In doing so, I could sneak around him onto the next area.
The experience was is simple, yet the discovery of the solution gave me a great sense of “A-HA!” moment and I hope that I could find more of these moments in the full game.
Developed by Singapore-based Gattai Games, Stifled is the spiritual successor to Lurking, the award-winning final year project from a group of student at DigiPen Institute of Technology Singapore. Judging from the near-polished demo and DigiPen connection, one could hope for Stifled to be as successful as Portal, a critically acclaimed first person game which was developed by Valve and also based on a final year game project from a group of DigiPen Redmond students. #nopressure
You could lend your support to Stifled by voting for it in Steam Greenlight phase here. Stifled is slated to be launched for PC and console platforms in Q4 2016.