In the mobile gaming world, “escape the room” games are a dime a baker’s dozen. These games task a player with solving a series of puzzles that usually lead to more puzzles until finally escaping whatever location you are in. Art design tends to be static and there may be “find the object” sequences thrown in for variety. In the genre, the reigning king is The Room by Fireproof Games. This 4 game series (the 4th released for iOS January 2018 and is coming soon for Android) mixes devilish puzzles and gorgeous graphics with an unsettling Lovecraft inspired tale of obsession and ancient Elder Gods. I’ve played the first 3 entries and each one is a superb example of mobile gaming at it’s best.
Recently a friend posted about the game True Fear: Forsaken Souls from developer Goblinz and compared it to The Room series. Intrigued I downloaded the demo and played it. I was so impressed upon finishing the demo I happily hit the “Buy now for $4.99” button and continued the game. True Fear: Forsaken Souls puts you in the shoes of Holly Stonehouse as she investigates the dark secrets in her family’s past. One dark and stormy night Holly is awoken from a horrible nightmare to a knocking at her front door. She receives a letter from her estranged sister, Heather, asking Holly to come to her house to “learn the truth” about their mother’s death years before. The game begins properly once you arrive at Heather’s house, which is falling down and appears abandoned, and you start investigating each room.
There are 2 locations in the game: Heather’s house and the Stonehouse family’s house. Both feature wonderful art direction and are unsettling to explore. You will spend most of your time in the game closely looking at each location, clicking on shimmering areas, and solving puzzles to acquire objects that you will take back to another room to solve puzzles and acquire objects which you will take back to another room to solve puzzles and so forth. These puzzles are for the most part quite logical, although there are a few that I was baffled by how to continue forward.
To combat frustration the developers have included a hint system in the form of an Annabelle-like doll that sits on your inventory bar, eyes glowing red, that can be activated to get you back on course again by blasting a black mist across the screen highlighting what you need next. Only once or twice when I resorted to the hint system did I have an “oh duh” moment when I saw the answer. For the most part either I wasn’t sure how something interacted or the game didn’t make it clear where something was. Happily these frustrations were few and far between. For a game with interlocking puzzles as complicated as Fear Itself: Forsaken Souls is remarkably fair and clear for the most part. A map button allows you to easily fast travel to locations already visited which is a godsend when you are 8 rooms down a path and need to get back to the outside of the house with your newly acquired trinket.
The story is clichéd but effective, reminding me in tone of Silent Hill without the combat. It mixes elements of Rosemary’s Baby, F.E.A.R., and The Grudge to great effect. As you progress further in to the story the strangeness increases and some deeply unnerving rooms later on provide a ghoulish creepiness. By the end I cared enough about the story to keep pushing forward to unlock another missing notebook page or audio tape that would fill in the story gaps. Voice acting is good and character models are adequate, although in cut scenes Holly’s eyes are more lifeless than your demonic doll companion.
Total time to play is probably between 4-6 hours depending on how quickly are you can move through the locations. There is a “Skip” button for puzzles that prove too difficult and while I didn’t use it I don’t think there are penalties for doing so. True Fear: Forsaken Souls is addicting and compelling to play and I found myself firing it up whenever I had a few minutes to spare over the course of the day to try and solve just one more puzzle and dedicated whole lunch hours to playing it when I was approaching the end and a “To Be Continued” warning leading in to the 2nd part of a planned trilogy (part 2 is on track to release sometime 2018.*
Strongly recommended for puzzle game and horror fans alike.
True Fear: Forsaken Souls (Available on Steam, PlayStation Network, iOs, Android).
For this review I played on a Samsung Galaxy S7. Ran smoothly with no trouble but a larger screen would have been helpful for some of the hidden objects puzzles.
The game is rated M and contains scenes of graphic violence, especially in the opening cut scene. In terms of scares and actual violence overall I would compare it to a PG-13 horror movie.
*You can find updates from Goblinz here. The sequel seems to be going through development hell at the moment.