Review – Frightence
P.T. was both a blessing and curse to the horror genre. While arguably a work of genius in its own right, it left such a lasting impression in the gaming world that it has spawned countless of imitators in its wake. True, it has inspired some successful titles, such as Layers of Fear and Visage, but there have been far more titles that have fallen short and been lost into obscurity. Enter Frightence from Playstige Interactive, which despite some promise, ultimately falls into the latter category.
Frightence doesn’t offer too much in terms of a story. You play as a janitor who is tasked with making sure all the residents of the condemned building you’re in have vacated the premises before it’s set to be demolished. Oddly enough, you’re not asked to clean anything, despite being a janitor. Then again, one look at the place makes it obvious enough that doing so would be a lost cause.
That’s about it. You’ll walk through the corridors of two different floors of the building, trying to open each door you see until you inevitably come across one that’s unlocked. Each room you’re able to enter is essentially a vignette of some sort of horror trope, ranging from a creepy doll-filled child’s room, to a gluttony-themed slaughterhouse, to an almost perfectly replicated clone of the P.T. hallway.
It sounds like a great premise, and honestly, I love the concept… in theory. The problem lies in its execution. Frightence is a walking sim in the worst kind of way. For some reason, the janitor has a limp, which makes moving along a slow, lurching affair. There’s no option to run either. This makes the game extra frustrating because all you’re doing is walking through hallways checking doors. There’s no indication of which doors will be unlocked each time you set out either, so you’ll have to check each door every time. The entirety of the game is walking back and forth through the same hallways over and over at a snail’s pace.
There are no puzzles to solve, no enemies to fight or even run away from, and there’s not really any objects of major importance. To be fair, there are items you can pick up and examine, but they rarely shine any sort of light on what’s going on or who the residents of the building are. I picked up a few VHS tapes I was expecting to view at some point, but I never encountered a VCR I could interact with. I realized early on that you don’t even have an inventory, so there’s no possible way to actually use any of the items you pick up. Once you examine an object, it’s just gone forever. So what’s the purpose of creating points of interest if they do nothing to drive the story and can’t be used in any capacity?
Admittedly, I enjoyed the vastly different feel of each room, which once again makes for an intriguing concept. However, while Frightence does succeed in creating a feeling of tension, it’s never genuinely scary. Most of the game feels gross and claustrophobic, but it rarely leans into those themes enough to be truly unsettling. Instead, Frightence makes the cardinal horror genre sin of relying on cheap jumpscares. Even those don’t land because they’re telegraphed so blatantly. The first one might have worked if I could have actually understood what I was looking at, but all I saw was a brief misshapen lump as it walked past the door, which left me more perplexed than frightened.
Although, I will say that overall the graphics in Frightence are surprisingly good. The lighting, textures, and assets found throughout the game are pretty high quality. The building looks run-down, dilapidated, and absolutely disgusting, but I mean that as a compliment. You really get that feeling that the building could fall apart at any moment. Unfortunately, some of the character animations aren’t nearly as convincing, particularly the cats, of which there are many.
The sound design is another strong suit of Frightence. The groans and creaks of the building help build the tension, as does the random slamming of doors. The voice acting is also pretty solid throughout, what little there is of it.
It’s hard to recommend Frightence, mainly because there’s just so little of it. Clocking in at under an hour of playtime, with no replay value, it’s tough to make a case for it. The idea is great, but the game ends just as things start to pick up and become interesting. It leaves off with a “To be continued” message, which leaves me hopeful that there is a more solid game in the works. As it stands, Frightence feels more like a demo or prologue than an actual game.
The graphics are surprisingly good, although some of the character animations (especially the cats) are noticeably stiff and lackluster.
A walking sim in the most frustrating sense: all you can do is walk slowly and look at things.
The sound design creates a solid feeling of tension.
Fun Factor: 5.0
Each room you enter is its own vignette of a different classic horror trope. Unfortunately, the game ends just as it starts to get interesting.
Final Verdict: 5.5
Frightence is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Frightence was provided by the publisher.