Horror video games love abandoned and haunted mansions. Be it the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil or the Barrows Mansion from Clock Tower, this creepy and confined setting feels right at home in the horror genre. For RYM Games’ (an independent studio in Morocco with veterans of franchises such as Rayman and Prince of Persia) newest launch The Conjuring House, the haunted mansion trope comes to life with a new generation of scares, albeit with the tried-and-true story elements we have seen before. An abandoned mansion, a history of murders and disappearances, and a pesky poltergeist just know how to bring out our fears! With a new tale of ghostly hauntings, does The Conjuring House succeed in terrifying gamers as a good new horror title?
The Conjuring House is truly eerie. There will be points where you will jump with legitimate surprise or fear due to the abundance of horror elements. Instead of relying on blood, guts, and gore to drive its eerie narrative, the tone focuses on the unnerving ambiance that derives from scary stories. Everything–from the heavy breathing to the sounds off in the distance of the decaying building–are meant to trigger the fear inside of you. And this is where The Conjuring House truly succeeds when it comes to the game itself: it wants you to be afraid while exploring the claustrophobic setting.
The Conjuring House takes place at the renowned and mysterious building, the Atkinson Mansion. The abandoned mansion is ripe with decades worth of disappearances, ritualistic murders, and rumors to fill every campfire story for people in the neighboring town. Gamers take on the role of a man trapped inside the mansion who is desperately trying to escape. The problem, however, is that the spectral spirits of the house are hunting you down with the intent to kill you. All you can do is explore the environment, search for clues, and try to exorcize the main baddie. Oh, and run. (Lots of running.)
The house itself is visually stunning it its own way, which might sound strange when describing a decrepit and rotted setting, but the love and care in crafting the macabre home is visible in this game’s atmosphere. A lot of time and effort was put into the texture and history of the Atkinson Mansion. Peeling wallpaper, drips of rain, and the inclusion of propping made the environment feel like the historical home it proposes to be. Each room and hallway had a touch of unique charm, which made them different than the others–and the differences helped when navigating the building in a frantic panic. I lost count at the number of times I got lost at first before becoming accustomed to certain areas.
But, the house is its own character here, and shines with the biggest stellar moments throughout the game thanks to its moody effects. Sounds and darkness played a huge part in enhancing the creepiness of The Conjuring House. Elements like the creaking of a door, a sinister laugh, or the wind rustling would fill the emptiness to break up the mood. While those notes raised the tension, they were helpful in the long-run to warn players about impending danger. When it came to darkness, batteries became your best friend, especially since some areas were pitch-black. Acquiring batteries at first were easy enough to find, but after some time exploring deeper into the dark mansion, preserving flashlight batteries became a necessity.
In fact, resource management turned out to be a surprising gameplay element in an exploration game that has no weapons. The Conjuring House is very much like Outlast or Clock Tower, where your character isn’t a fighter, and they’re only meant to run away from enemies to escape. Once an enemy does appear, you need to run until you avoid detection or find a safe room. The most helpful item to find in The Conjuring House is the defensive ritual, which sends the poltergeist away to another part of the house. My tip: hold onto these as much as you can! The spirit has a nasty habit of appearing often, and as the difficulty rises, these items will come in handy.
As you explore the house, on the other hand, the terror and novelty starts to wear thin. The Conjuring House sticks to a tried-and-formula: creepy noises, a scary enemy appears, and then running away until the enemy disappears. There isn’t much variety to break up the experience in between all the exploration puzzles and destroying artifacts. None of these framing elements aren’t exactly new to the horror world since they’ve appeared in other gaming series that came before it. Some of the best horror elements are included, but there isn’t anything new or ground-breaking that sets it apart.
The minimal plot might be one’s biggest gripe. The Conjuring House sets itself up nicely with the inclusion of the introductory cutscene that explains the house’s history, and the appearance of notes that describe the backstory. The story itself is filled with paranormal eeriness; however, beyond the main objective, the progression is very linear. The game is cut and dry about what’s going on, and what you need to do next; there isn’t much else to do to add to your haunting experience. This hurts the re-playability factor about wanting to discover more after completing the game.
Plus, some objectives are given without context. For example, my character knew about the main objective of the game before even encountering the big bad. The pieces were put together far too quickly, and the pacing may throw off players looking to become more absorbed into the lore.
The Conjuring House is an atmospheric journey that plays on our fears of what goes bump in the night. Its visually appealing environments set the uneasy tone of being trapped in a nightmare, and the added elements of darkness, sound, and ghostly hauntings round out the horror experience. While the exploration lures you in with an eerie mystery, the unfortunate reality is that there won’t be much else to offer depth. The Conjuring House isn’t breaking the mold of what you’d get from a paranormal horror game, but it’s still a fun time, and you’ll get some scares out of it.
Developer: RYM Games
Publisher: RYM Games
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Copy Provided By Developer