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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Review of "Paranormal" by Matt Cohen

Paranormal is a first person 3-d haunting simulator. ‘A haunting simulator’, you may ask, ‘what on earth is that?’. Scary is what it is. The idea is that you are an artist who lives in a haunted apartment, and has decided to record with his camera the goings on to prove that it is all actually happening and he is not, in fact, simply insane.

The game is essentially a ‘walk around and have things happen to you’ game, essentially a virtual haunted house you might go to at Halloween. Being an artist, the protagonist naturally has a ton of creepy little wooden mannequins dotted throughout his house. The particular type of horror experience this game gives is a little bit difficult to pin down, as it takes elements of many different types. There is an atmosphere, however it does not particularly contribute to the whole horror aspect and I wouldn’t call this an atmospheric horror game, like Amnesia: the dark descent. There are jump scares, in fact two types of jump scare are present, the first the sudden shock of seeing something that was not previously where it was, which is usually more unnerving than scary, and the type of jumps scare often accompanied by very loud noises. There are also scares that I find particularly effective, those that give an obvious lead up (often accompanied by a feeling of ‘oh no, it’s coming, oh no oh no oh no!’) followed by jump scares, along with one of my personal favourites, creepy messages.

The graphics are average for a first person 3-d game, and apart from one minor instance, I have not found it to hinder the game in any way.

The game begins slowly, you may not even notice some of the odd things happening at first, but it ramps up relatively quickly.

For obvious reason I shall not be spoiling any of the actual scares, but I can assure you, there is something there for most horror fans. You cannot fight back against anything, and you need to recharge the batteries on your camera every so often. When you do this you will go to bed, and other hauntings will become available when you wake up, after watching the house on some stationary cameras (I with I could watch telly whilst I slept!).

The game has yet to be fully released and there are many more things being added all the time, with the possibility of new locations being made eventually! It is currently in Beta 8.1 and can be purchased on desura. Highly recommended, especially since the hauntings are partially randomised so each play through should be different.

Definitely recommend it is you want something to play every so often to get a bit of a scare, it is the type of game you play a session of every few weeks when you have nothing much to do at night. Or you have a friend over whom you would like to freak out. Get it on Desura for £6.99, it is worth it and looking like it will be very good once it is finished.

For anyone interested in a little additional information, I asked the developer why he decided to make a game like this. He replied thusly:

i remember watching the Paranormal Activity movies and wondering why nobody made a video game like that. So naturally, I took it upon myself to make one. I've received a few threatening messages from religious folks, so clearly I'm doing something right with this horror game. I've received mostly good feedback, and that's helped me stay focused for so long. I used to work on and off on paranormal, sometimes not touching it for months. And now that it's gotten so big, I can't tear myself away from it (nor do I want to). There's nothing more fun than scaring people with a creation of yours.” –Matt Cohen, Developer

(This is really not my sort of thing at all, so it won't surprise you to hear that this review was by Josh "Arro" Merrick...)

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