You cannot run, you cannot hide... no really, no run button.
In Frightence, an apartment building named Apartment 17 is home to urban legends, scary stories and many odd residents. “The City” has served it an Eviction Notice to be completed by the end of tomorrow, and you play as the building’s Janitor on the last night of his job. Knowing that most people have already left, your task is to check in on the remaining residents to ensure they move out on time.
Inexplicably, once this context has been delivered via the short intro, the main character is awoken in the building’s dirty basement by a monstrous looking individual. This strange person tells you that the building depends on you and you need to take care of her, then mysteriously vanishes. The main character doesn’t comment on this bizarre occurrence, or even seem shaken by it. Instead, they just get up and begin their job of checking on each apartment.
Split over 4 sections, each around 10-15 minutes in length, Frightence is a first person Walking Simulator dressed in many tropes of the Horror genre. The old-fashioned building is predictably decrepit, with black bags of rubbish strewn about the floors, unwanted furniture piled up against the walls, and broken items scattered everywhere you look. You have 2 floors to explore, each with a number of apartments waiting for you to visit. Within these apartments are where the horrors play out, and getting to see them is the main focus of the experience.
Despite a slightly blurry presentation, the initial 5 minutes leave a good visual impression, as the quality of the assets used to bring Apartment 17 to life definitely wows. The atmosphere on display is only heightened by the background ambience, which is equal parts subtle and unnerving. The initial walk around is tense as you slowly make your way through the hallways, checking on closed apartment doors that occasionally have mysterious sounds emanating from them, giving a small hint as to what may be just out of reach. If you are able to play with headphones, I’d highly recommend it.
Beyond those first 5 minutes, however, the cracks in the façade of Apartment 17 begin to show. The controls are basic, with movement taken care of by the analogue sticks, X being used to zoom in slightly, and B used to open doors and pick up highlighted objects.The limited interaction found in this short horror experience is certainly expected, but the lack of a run button is almost criminal, as most of your 50 minutes in Apartment 17 will be spent slowly traipsing from one locked door to the next. The game’s length is also artificially inflated, as only one apartment is available to enter at any given moment. This means you’ll spend a good chunk of time trying to figure out where you’re supposed to head next. This area of the game could have used some gamification, as there is no rhyme or reason to which apartment you should visit next.
Thankfully, at the end of the first section, you are granted the ability to run. At this point, the controls feel much better, but it’s a fleeting experience. Once you wrap the first section, you are once again forced to travel at a snail’s pace. This is only made worse by the game’s frame rate, which tanks at the beginning of the next section. It’s not horrendous, but things go from a solid 30fps to around 20fps thereafter. I restarted my Switch and even checked the game on other platforms, but it seems the frame rate drop is something you’ll experience no matter where you play.
Frightence is a short, intense first-person horror experience.
Once you finally get to the rooms you’re meant to be in, there can be genuinely creepy moments. Disturbing residents, crackling old radios, toys moving by themselves, and other uneasy happenings await you in each location. Jump scares are also present, which creates a sense of dread each time a corner is turned, or another door is opened.
In order to trigger the next step in the story, key items must be found and collected within apartments. The density of objects within each room, along with their high level of detail, undoubtedly look great. Furthermore, these items have small pieces of in-game lore written on them, but you’ll have only one chance to read these. Once you pick an item up, they will be gone forever. For whatever reason, Frightence forgoes an inventory system, which definitely could have allowed for subsequent lore readings.
The way items are handled adds to the overall feeling of ambiguity in Frightence. Vagueness in Horror is usually good for keeping you invested and constantly guessing, but the arbitrary nature of where to go next in Frightence only brings confusion. You’re never quite sure if you’ve missed some guidance on where to go, or if you’ve skipped a story beat explaining events that just happened. Sadly, even when the experience is over, those questions will continue to linger.
At a glance...
|Developer: Playstige Interactive||Genre: Horror Walking Simulator||Price: £5.39||File Size: 15Gb|
The enjoyment of the virtual ghost house that Frightence offers is sadly diminished by the lack of fun in getting to each of the exhibits. There are hints of a sequel here, and if the developer was to tighten up the space between the set piece scares, and possibly introduce a few puzzle elements to guide the player to their next destination, they could have something very interesting. As it stands, though, I’d recommend Frightence if it goes on sale, and only if you have an hour to kill on a dark and stormy night.