I’m honestly not sure how much stock I put into those ghost hunter shows I see on television. While I do believe in the supernatural, the art of creating special effects to simulate horror has been around for centuries. “Paranormal”, the game I’ll be covering today, reminds me of those shows in that you’re a person with a video camera trying to prove that your house is haunted. Before we get started, I’d like to thank Matt Cohen for sending me a free press copy.
The main menu allows you to start a new game and adjust game options. The game doesn’t take that long to play, so there’s no saving or loading your progress. The options menu addresses things like screen resolution, graphic sliders / toggles, and sound. I’m not sure if it was my computer, but I had an issue with the toggle buttons. When clicking on them, I received no indication that they were active or inactive. This can be frustrating if you want to turn off options like anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion to spare your video card a workout. I can’t claim that everyone will have this issue, but I did.
After a brief introduction, you’re allowed to explore your house. You’ll have access to a flashlight, be able to interact with the environment, sprint, crouch, and look/move around. Unlike most video games, you’ll be seeing things through the eyes of a video camera. A battery indicator is displayed in the top right part of the screen, containing a total of four bars when full. Exploring the house depletes the battery, though sleeping in your bed allows the camera to be plugged in and recharged for the next day.
The game pulls its punches in the first day, but things quickly ramp up in the days following. The game advertises that your play experience will be unique each game, and that is partially true. The scares that you experience are the same, but the day or order in which you experience them are randomized. It’s possible that you’ll miss out on a scare or two in one game, only to experience them in the next. After about three playthrus, you’ll start seeing particular occurrences and expect them to play out as they had before.
That’s not to say that they aren’t disturbingly spooky. I don’t want to ruin the any of the gameplay experiences, but there were moments where I jumped and others where I rose an eyebrow, trying to process exactly what I was seeing. There are a few scares that I experienced that served to kill me and end the game, so it is possible to “lose.” I won’t say what they are…I’ll let you figure that out on your own.
Game length is fairly short. I managed to complete the game on my fifth attempt, each one ranging from five to fifteen minutes. Once I beat the game, I tried to do it again to see if I could speed run my way through it. It’s possible to finish the game in under ten minutes if you know what to look for and where to go. Without spoiling what that is, I had an issue interacting with one of the objects in question. For whatever reason, I could only interact with it facing the side of the object instead of its front. It’s difficult to go into specifics without spoiling a major puzzle, but suffice it to say that there are slight issues with pathfinding and getting stuck in the environment. In one instance, I had to force quit after my character became frozen in the middle of a room for three minutes, at which point the battery on my camera went dry.
Overall, I both liked and disliked “Paranormal.” The scares were well thought out and did some pretty unexpected things. I liked the experience of exploring the house and trying to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, once I did, the game lost most of its replayability. You can replay the game in the hopes of experiencing a few scares you haven’t seen before, but beating the game is done the same way each time you play. There’s also the issues I mentioned above regarding the options menu and sometimes unresponsive controls. My video card also complained rather loudly despite all of the graphics settings being turned down. I could overlook all of those things if the game were longer and contained a wider variety of scares. To that end, its full price of $9.99 is asking a bit much for the current length of the game. I feel that $4.99 would be a bit more fair, but that is just my opinion. Still, it’s a refreshing look at the horror genre and worthy of a few playthrus. I’d honestly like to see more of games like this and from what I saw in the game’s ending credits, that very well may be a possibility.
You can learn more about and purchase “Paranormal” by visiting the following websites:
You can help bring the game to Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page here: