January 24, 2012
First person survival horror titles have really come up to the forefront of gaming lately and with titles like Slender, Amnesia & Outlast proving to be pretty darn popular, it's not surprising that many other developers are queuing up to grab a piece of the action. Well Team Junkfish are one of those very developers and they've stepped forward with Monstrum, their own horror title that has recently been Greenlit over on Steam back in March.
First off, let me just say that I love the idea of survival horror games. Grabbing all the scary charm of a monster or slasher movie and then dropping fans into that immersive experience for themselves is brilliant, especially when modern movies don't seem to cut it anymore when it comes to scaring the willies out of an audience (also, watching somebody screaming during a let's play video is nothing short of genius). That said I hate survival horror titles as I am what some may politely call a wimp; jump scares get me every time, I'm not a fan of gore and really at my age I feel that I am past the point where I should be
crying screaming out like a little girl. That all said I jumped at the chance to redeem myself by being a big boy and playing Monstrum's alpha release… I didn't do well.
Monstrum like the majority other similar titles to the genre stars you off in a spooky atmosphere with very little explanation to what you're doing there or without warning to what horrors you may find yourself up against. In this case you find your surroundings to be that of an old abandoned ship complete with the dank, musty and rusted that you'd come to expect to find in such an environment.
You begin by walking into the first room in where you acquire your first item in the form of a flashlight, this is something you're going to need but at the same time use sparingly because of course, battery life is limited. Once you grab this first beacon of hope, you find a note conveniently placed below. These notes are essential in discovering fleshing out the back story on why this ship is no longer in use and much like the pages from Slender, simply walking around and searching room to room for them can be a terrifying experience. Along with notes there are other items you may scavenge along the way to better aid you in your little adventure in investigation; these include glow sticks for those crucial times when your torch dies and then others that you need to find uses for along the way like fire extinguishers.
Now when searching for items and clues you need to explore the ships various deck, checking out new rooms and opening lockers. While you're creeping around playing detective however, you are the whole time being pursued by monsters. Apparently there are three of these guys you need to watch out for but me being a bit rubbish, only ever encountered the one (again and again). So an easy solution would be to search rooms quickly and make sure to move around to different areas you'd think? So did I until I found out that these monsters are attracted by sound and boy is it hard to stay quiet while playing Monstrum (my own wimpish sobbing and yelling aside).
So the problem - as you'd expect walking round an old abandoned ship, is that everything makes noise. Open a door, search a rusted locker, walk, run, climbing stairs, anything and everything will attract these beasties. There are even motion detector alarms to watch out for in the corridors; if you walk in front of them they beep and if you dwell then they'll sound an alarm. In my first play through I'd walked out into plain sight of a camera thinking "oh what's this?" before being confronted by what I can only describe as some kind of flaming Gollum .
You have to be so cautious in your movement and weary of your surroundings when playing Monstrum, because once you're dead the game is over and you have to start from the beginning again. It's that threat of perma-death that keeps you on your toes, for fear of losing all of your precious pages. However if you don't find the idea of a one life and out type of system challenging enough (you sadist), then how about procedurally-generated level to explore? That's right, each time you play though Monstrum no play through is the same.
Another interesting feature is the support of Oculus Rift headsets, not being able to try this VR mode for myself was a bit of a disappointment as I really like the idea of
having a heart attack truly losing myself in this game's creepy atmosphere and getting that truly terrifying experience. The idea of using a VR setup for running away from predators whilst looking back over my shoulder and hiding under furniture or inside a locker, then peeking out to see if the coast is clear really both appeals and terrifies me.
At present Monstrum is in alpha so the version I got my hands on was a great start but still has a way to go yet. Controller support for one was not yet included, which for me is a disadvantage as I've only just joined the 'master race' of PC gaming. However what I did get to play I enjoyed, even if it did leave me curled in the fetal position on the floor as a blubbering mess.
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