Every little thing was scarier on the PS1. That is only a truth. The undulating textures, the immobile patchwork faces, the audio that sounded prefer it was coming by three layers of tin foil, all of it mixed to create one thing really dread-inducing in video games like Alone within the Darkish and Silent Hill. As video games get nearer to photorealism, they get nearer to actual life, and actual life is tedious, not scary. You want one thing actually uncanny to get the goosebumps going, and again within the late ’90s, the PS1 did uncanny like nothing else.

The very fact I used to be 5 years previous on the time most likely additionally had one thing to do with it.

I assume this is the reason The Tartarus Key—which got here out at the moment from developer Vertical Attain—has adopted its lo-fi PS1 aesthetic so enthusiastically. A creepy, puzzle-based affair, the game summons all of the ghosts of the horror of yore to provide life to its large, haunted mansion.

(Picture credit score: Vertical Attain)

You play Alex Younger, a younger girl who awakens one night to seek out herself transported to a haunted home. Locked in a room, watched by cameras, and with no means out and solely one other equally trapped sufferer on a walkie-talkie to assist her, it is as much as Alex to bust freed from her imprisonment and take a look at to not by chance kill the opposite victims she encounters on the best way. It is slightly bit Noticed and slightly bit Resident Evil 1, however with no fight to interrupt you smashing your head towards puzzle after puzzle.

The entire thing is a form of large escape room, with every wing and room of the mansion serving up its personal specific puzzle so that you can clear up earlier than you are allowed to progress. Those I’ve encountered in my few hours taking part in have all been dealt with fairly nicely: they left me poking at issues and scratching my head for 5 or 10 minutes earlier than a eureka second allowed me to progress, and so they’ve all culminated with a ultimate puzzle that leaves the destiny of another unlucky soul in your fingers.

(Picture credit score: Vertical Attain)

The primary one in every of these sees you try to rescue the voice on the opposite finish of that walkie-talkie—an ex-detective named Torres—from a room slowly filling with gasoline. Relying on the alternatives you make, Torres can both make it out of the room scot-free or injured. In a while, you discover a cheerful demonologist tutorial having an intellectually rewarding time being slowly consumed by a rising mass of otherworldly flesh. 

I confess that I might need made a hash of the banishing ritual as soon as, twice, or 3 times earlier than my fourth and ultimate save-scum lastly let me save the poor idiot. The opposite occasions? He died, sucked right into a moist glob of transdimensional mucous membrane.

I am all the time game for one thing that lets my world-historically unhealthy decisions result in world-historically unhealthy outcomes, even when I’ll abuse any alternative I am given to redo my determination, so I’ve loved the time I’ve spent with The Tartarus Key to this point. Or, more often than not I’ve spent with it, anyway, so long as the characters aren’t opening their mouths.

(Picture credit score: Vertical Attain)

As a result of though I quite just like the swimmy, archaic look of the game, and suppose the vintage graphics praise its horror in a very sharp, uncanny means, The Tartarus Key appears decided to undercut itself. The characters are often quipping, japing, jibing, and hanging lampshades on tropes in ways in which aren’t fairly humorous sufficient to compensate for undermining the stress of the eerie mansion. 

I may by no means fairly get a bead on the game’s tone: Is that this a tribute to old-school horror or a satire of it? I believe it is meant to be each, however I do not suppose the horror and the comedy mix nicely sufficient to provide one thing coherent. As a substitute, you are simply veering between one and the opposite, by no means fairly certain where the game intends you to land.

(Picture credit score: Vertical Attain)

However for probably the most half I’ve favored the puzzles and the horror parts that the game does not undercut. I need to see how the remaining performs out. The game’s Steam web page boasts of three endings, and I’ve received to think about that your success fee in rescuing the mansion’s different victims play a key function in figuring out which one you get. If my expertise to this point is any indication, I’ll want numerous backup saves.