Stifled - Scares in the dark!

Unfortunately it will be hard to describe this game, without a certain amount of spoilers, but I will try to keep them at a minimum. I have to note, that my current impressions are on a fifteen minute demo build and I was charmed of it.

Stifled is a game that depends exclusively on the sound. You take the role of David (if I remember right, because I’m not good with names) and after an unpleasant car crash, not that there are any such pleasant ones, you open your eyes and delve into the surrounding darkness, to find your wife. In the very beginning, the game pleasantly surprised me with the momentarily story build up- a letter and a few items, that makes you raise one eyebrow up and mysteriously go “hmmm…”. I liked that the items just raise interesting questions, without telling the whole story at the beginning. The story creeps up on you with the course of the playthrough, at moments hard and directly, at others- subtle, but as a whole- very fluent. I can write down, without a doubt, that GATTAI GAMES have managed very nicely with this part.

The ambience is very innovative. Almost at all times, with a very few exceptions, you are surrounded in a pitch black darkness and your only friend is echolocation. No matter if you use a button on the keyboard/ pad or if you prefer, you can make noises yourself at the microphone, you will have to walk step by step. That is the most interesting part, that can also drive you nuts. When you or some environmental object makes noise, you see ripples, just as if you’ve dropped a stone in water. According the strength of the noise, the diameter of those ripples is different and you see the environment, only inside their reach. That mechanic is the best in this game and the same time- a bit annoying. If you decide to sink yourself in the gameplay, keeping in mind that the game is VR ready and use only your microphone to make noises and “see”, you will stumble upon some problems. I have to say that currently I have no VR set, nor is my microphone any good, which can be the main reason for my problems, but occasionally I had to push the noise button. There are 3 diameters of the sound ripples. Let’s say- small, middle and large. Those diameters apply even for the microphone, which takes us to the annoying moment, that if you raise your voice only slightly more then you have to, the ripple goes to it’s next level. This may not sound so bad, but when you try to stay hidden, it may cost you your life. Again I want to say, that this may be due to my cheap microphone, but none the less it left a bitter taste in my mouth. As far as the noise button, which replace the use of the microphone- there should be more than one. The more you keep it pressed- the bigger the ripple. If you don’t keep an eye on how long you are pressing it, instead of a quiet sniff, you’ll get a loud yell, like a shepherd who’s calling his sheep. I sincerely think that this one button should be separated. Keyboard buttons 1, 2 and 3 are at a comfortable place, or maybe a trigger plus button on the pad. My personal opinion of course. I will mention one more thing here. The demo build was around 15 minutes. I know that they can put only so much things in that time, but I hope that there will be a bigger variety of scares, along with some interesting puzzles in the full version. Otherwise I fear that the game will get boring very fast and loose it’s potential. And it does have potential.

Graphics… I’m not very sure that I can comment on it very objectively. As I mentioned above- the game is VR oriented and I don’t have such a set. From the clips I’ve watched of Oculus I’m left with the impression that the graphics of VR oriented games are a bit lower than today’s standards. I suspect it’s because VR sets can’t handle higher graphics, but I didn’t read about it, so I won’t comment on it. In Stifled, you can easily close your eyes for the graphics, as most of the time, everything is going to be depicted in lines and barely seeable silhouettes, simulating the echolocation. The game is not demanding and on my “middle” PC configuration it was easily playing on 60FPS. This is very rare sight these days.

The sound in the game is…  Well, the biggest part of Stifled is counting on the sound. How do you think it is? Everything is very well done. The sounds coming from your character, the ambient sounds, and those of the baddy. Especially of the last mentioned. If I say that I had goosebumps, the first time I’ve heard it, I’ll belittle my reaction. I’m very glad, that my skin is well attached to my body, otherwise I was going to be walking around skinless. Maybe the mentioned “screams” are affecting me in that way, but I won’t forget them any time soon. As a whole- the sounding is very good and I have no remarks towards it.

Hey, I think I should end the review. It got a bit longer then I’ve intended. I think I’ve written longer about Stifled, then I have actually played the demo. To sum it up- the game is very good if you ask me. It manages to scare even without a VR set, it’s innovative and the touch on the details is awesome. Personally- I can’t wait to reveal the whole story of David and his wife and to see what kind of horrors await in the full version of Stifled!

If you want to try Stifled yourself, before the full version, that comes on December 13th, you can find the demo version on it’s page in Steam:

Closed Demo Build of Stifled was provided from GATTAI GAMES.

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