Well, it’s that time again, folks. The time where I search the internet for an obscure horror game with which to test my character. Considering I’ve been doing a lot of reviews lately, and that the last couple reviews were of books, I figured I’d make a post related to gaming for a change and find a nice indie title to review. This time, I found a nice little game called Schuld, developed by a German RPG Maker user named Kelvin and translated to English by the community at RPGMaker.net. Despite what I first thought, Schuld ended up being a pretty good horror game in the vein of the Silent Hill series. It isn’t particularly scary, but it does a great job of conveying a surreal, unnerving atmosphere, and has a compelling story of psychological horror to go along with it.
Schuld is a freeware indie game developed in RPG Maker (it’s available for free download here) that seems to be inspired by the Silent Hill series. It isn’t very long (my final gameplay time clocked in at about two hours) but it’s a very enjoyable game that conforms to the typical conventions of the survival horror/puzzle adventure genre, but with a few extra surprises including some well done action elements and a few genuinely challenging boss fights. For the most part of the game, you’re tasked with exploring a series of increasingly disturbing environments (with some interesting surreal imagery used to great effect throughout the game) while collecting items and solving some cryptic logic puzzles – the type that fans of Silent Hill will be familiar with – that really get you thinking, but ultimately aren’t too hard to figure out.
Occasionally, the gameplay is interrupted with an action scene or two (such as being chased by an enemy, having to negotiate a series of timed traps or even a pretty intense gunfight sequence with a boss enemy) that change the pace of the game and mix things up to prevent Schuld’s puzzles from becoming too tedious. These action scenes are programmed well and are challenging to play through, and they do a good job of increasing the game’s tension (since these action sequences are the only times of the game where your character can actually die) though often you’re thrown into them with little idea of what you need to do and it can be annoying to have to play a certain scene more than once before you know what you have to do to progress through it. Given Schuld’s short length, however, this usually doesn’t get too bothersome.
The best part of Schuld however, and the one aspect of the game that will really draw you in and keep you playing, is its story. In Schuld, you play as Aaron, a rather normal man who has found himself in a world that seems to be slowly dying around him. Aaron can’t remember where he’s come from or why he’s ended up in this place, and the bulk of the game’s story, which focuses on psychological horror a la Silent Hill, concerns Aaron trying to make sense of a world that is growing increasingly horrific with each revelation he makes. This story takes you through a world overtaken by a flesh eating disease, a world gripped in a never ending war, a demonic prison and a futuristic space station and each location is filled with its own mysteries and imparts a little more backstory to the proceedings. The story is written well and the dialogue has been competently translated to English (save from a few parts where the dialogue reads slightly more awkwardly than it needs to) and effectively discusses the theme of morality, though some parts do come across as a little heavy handed and undermine the sense of psychological horror that Schuld otherwise does so well.
So, if you’re in the mood for a challenging horror game with an interesting story, Schuld isn’t a bad choice to pass a few hours with. It’s better made than most RPG Maker horror games, manages to balance exploration with tense action pretty well (and this is no mean feat considering how awkwardly RPG Maker usually does action games) and, best of all, emulates the surreal, dreamlike atmosphere of the better Silent Hill games as closely as you can get. It isn’t really up to par with any commercial horror games out there, since it failed to actually scare me as I played through, but considering it’s free to download and doesn’t have a huge file size, I can’t really say anything else other than “play it, you’ll enjoy it.”
And that’s the review! If you find any other interesting indie games that you think might interest me, let me know, as ever, in the comments, or send me an email. Next week, we’re back to posting about writing tips, so if you were disappointed that this week’s post was about gaming, stay tuned – more blog posts about writing craft and more book reviews (I’ve got a free copy of Jake Elliot’s new book, for one) coming soon!