I’m a horror snob.
That may just be the fact that I’m a snob about film and at times games as well, but I’ll pick apart anything I can (Hence this site). I think it boils down to my need to ask ‘Why X was done, or done in that way?’ Too many times I realize that it’s simply to get the audience from set piece to set piece for the vapid flashing colors. I can’t blame studios like Blumhouse for making them because they invest very little and make bank at the boxoffice. That adrenaline rush, however empty and cheap it is, can be very addictive. But giving the appropriate properties the time to digest, become continually rewarding combing over its details. It’s why I love a slow burn character study like The Invitation about a dinner party through the eyes of a recovering man grappling with his and his ex wife’s handling of grief, or looking past the flaws of The Last Exorcism in telling a story of faith whether its how people perceive the world or how it impacts others. It’s a lot harder to find a game that tells similar types of stories, the closest being Silent Hill 2 and to some extent 3. So when an indie project comes along, serving as pure catharsis for its creator, I’m already clearing what little time I have for it.
Enter Adam – Lost Memories. A simple Reddit post from its creator, was all I needed. It was just showing off the trailer, but the title is all I needed; “Years ago my psychologist said that the best thing I can do to get myself together after my childhood’s trauma, is to release it in some form of an art. I created this game because I wanted to show people how it feels to be a child who grew up in a family that’s falling apart.” The trailer dives a bit deeper saying Adam was abused as a child, and that this game is made to feel exactly like that. First of all, I applaud Adam for his courage and taking his time to craft the experience as an outlet and hopefully provide him some closure or understanding, but I don’t blame anyone for thinking the theme is too oppressive and the barrier from the game. Truth be told, I had trouble staying in it for more than 10 minutes at first, although in my book, its for all the right reasons.
Two things are apparent from the get go, how it is implicitly and explicitly uncomfortable. The first scene has you walking through a dark watery, and maybe fleshy tunnel with a light at the end and a figure that slowly comes into view. The voice over sets the tone for atmosphere, theme, and purpose of the game. Its primitive in its current state as the voice acting, which I assume is Adam, is a bit forced and a line or two can be seen as edgy if they stumble into this without any external influence. This moment starts the journey, through this sickly birth canal which is anything but comforting. Afterwards, you’re just dropped into the world, specifically a room where you come out of a haze in a previously sealed room with only a wheelchair and arm straps. Coming out, you get the true taste of the environment. Grimmy industrial steel walls, looking like the interior of a World War 2 warship, without the practical layout and sometimes mysteriously void of props. It’s an interesting decision that works out well as it seems familiar at first, but traversing the halls makes you question what kind of twisted mind would make this. That thought slips as it becomes clear it’s because of the damage and how foriegn a home can feel. With the first mechanical items present, it’s clear the gameplay is inspired by Amnesia and Soma even if the setting is more reminiscent of Penumbra, minus the manually pushing or pulling the majority of doors open. Instead that is more like Resident Evil, where short loading screens divide the map in bite sized chunks to its advantage. There’s no half measure of going through doors, and in those first minutes it shows off that the map does let you look into previous areas in order to give a better sense of interconnectivity or seeing what else is in the area.
From crusty hallways to aged mechanical rooms, all with parse lighting, the sound design is minimalistic in just the right way. The low hum that pervades every scene as sometimes the only thing you hear for minutes. It’s only when faced with scripted events that a high tone starts spearing its way into the mix, and with it your vision starts degrading by seeing double that will swim around the center of your screen. Much like Amnesia (I promise I’ll stop comparing it to Frictional Games’ catalog), the encounters spread very cleverly, where seeing this entity stalking me 3 rooms way, and having to backtrack only to see them close the distance in a room change, challenging your sense of security, and not even register your presence rounding a corner and as they walk away. Given Adam’s answers on that Reddit post, he says there aren’t jumpscares, and I believe this is as startling as it gets. The game is made to set the player on edge in the environment, and it succeeds.
Now, the game is in a very early build, the information section of the order page lists its current playtime at 2 hours, so I don’t want to go much further. Given the artistic prowess shown and shockingly great graphics for its state, the current asking price of $4.25 (It’s on sale, normal price is $8.50), it’s an easy decision for deep horror fans. Just know that the game only supports the main few resolutions, but not 2560×1440 (2K), it seems like the motion blur effect doesn’t completely go away after changing the setting, and frame rate is either locked at 30 despite saying otherwise or the optimization isn’t stellar. All minor quibbles in my eyes, especially for essentially the first build of a game. There is also a demo available showcasing the first hour.
I plan on keeping a close eye on this and will cover it again after its full release.