Horror is one of those genres that is guaranteed to divide its audience. You begin with the group that simply hate to be scared, this then expands into peoples dislike of certain styles, and those that simply hate jump scares. I sit in the group that enjoys the thrill of losing myself to the horrific moments that the developers have in store for me. When I saw the advertising for The Childs Sight by HANNMADE Studios and published by Forever Entertainment S.A, I knew it was a game that I had to play.
When you have a story that bases its main concept around childhood fears, it has to be careful not to ham it up too much. It would be easy for a developer to delve into the realms of make believe, and try to produce something so catastrophically scary, that it quickly becomes clichéd and laughable. So, does The Childs Sight strike the right balance between fear and imagination? Do you play this with the worry that something is going to jump out and end your game at the snap of your fingers? Having almost soiled myself several times during my time with it, I’d argue that they got it just about right!
What makes this scary?
The concept is simple. The world is seen through the eyes of an innocent child where you dredge up memories from the past that have long been forgotten. You must try to put your mind at ease by forcing yourself to remember what has scared you. Was it just the unknown, or maybe it was something more sinister? The tale is broken down into chapters of your early childhood, and each is separated into 2 stages; exploration and attempting to sleep.
The exploring stage is a respite from all the evils that haunt you. It allows you time to explore the surrounding area without the risk of being hounded by the unknown. Here you can experiment with items from your past, you may pick up toys, find notes, and investigate any portion of the restricted space. This part has little bearing on the second part of each stage, but it allows you to piece together your past and possibly the reason to why you find yourself in this position.
This is the main section of the game, and where you spend 90% of your time. As a baby, sleep is important, but fear and anxiety stop even the youngest of minds from being able to complete this most basic of tasks. A creak of a door, the sound of banging, a rocking chair appearing to move by itself and more await you. As the chapters roll by, more fears are added to the list, and you as the player must remember the tasks associated with each. A carousel comforts and protects you, and you must keep this running at all costs. A night light hangs over your cot, this must be activated and deactivated depending on what fear you are experiencing. It’s a complex list of chores that must be abided by, and can confuse at first.
Why complete this long list of actions, why not just shut your eyes and fall asleep? There is something lurking in the dark, and by listening to the audio queues, and ensuring you do everything correctly is the only way that you will slow this abomination down. Drifting off to the land of nod takes an age, this builds suspense and gets your heart racing. You know you are doing everything you can to keep the beast from your door, but you never know exactly where it is. Have you done enough to keep it away, or will it reach through the bars of your crib and get you……When the latter happens, have a spare pair of pants available as it will loosen your bowels, and make you jump feet.
A memory game with a twist.
The long list of tasks and visual and audio queues becomes hard to keep on top of. It’s easy to confuse yourself with what must be done when you see or hear a certain thing. The developers have not helped the situation, as there is an expectation that you will recall every action required to succeed. It makes The Childs Sight a deceptively difficult title to play and complete, it’s a memory game with a horror twist. It’s an unusual combination, but one that works perfectly in this setting. There were occasions where I switched on the light when I shouldn’t, this sped up my impending doom, and caused me to express some terrible expletives. This is something that you must come to terms with and expect if you attempt to play this. Be prepared that failure is around the corner, and that your fears will catch up with you.
It’s all about the atmosphere.
You may think that it would’ve been easy for HANNMADE Studios to have a list of commands on the screen. A cheat sheet if you like. This would have been handy, but I believe that it would have made for a complex and untidy User Interface. Perhaps a scroll that showed a list instead, something that could be used at the press of a button? Again, it would have been nice, but babies can’t write. This would have been at odds with the whole concept, and wouldn’t have worked. Ultimately, the only way that the brilliant atmosphere and immersive nature of this title could be retained, was to make it as clean cut and straightforward to look at as possible.
The aesthetic qualities of this game are enhanced brilliantly through both the graphical approach, and the excellent audio. All the action plays out through a first-person perspective. A grainy sepia quality has been applied to all the imagery, this gives the gameplay a dated and surreal feel. As the world is viewed through the eyes of a child, every item is larger than life. The toys have bulging and overbearing eyes that look unnatural but oddly cute. The crib appears like a gigantic mega structure that engulfs our protagonist like the walls of a wooden prison. Finally, there is the unnerving and evil persona of the creature that haunts you. Its face peering through the bars as it grabs you is something that will haunt me for some time.
Headphones are a must!
There is no wonder that this poor child is terrified. As an adult playing this, I have felt his fear. Sitting in a darkened room with my headset on, I felt every crash of lightning, and every thud of thunder. The torturous noises that tease you throughout are enough to send you insane. A rhythmic sound plays out as you attempt to sleep, but this must be ignored as the finer noises are what’s important. These audio queues wake you from your slumber, and you must act upon them immediately. It’s stressful, worrying, but fantastic. It’s a basic concept done exceptionally well and makes this game the success that it is.
It’s as clumsy as a toddler!
I’ve alluded to the fact that you must remember a lot of sounds to partake in several actions. I’ve also stated that it is imperative that this is done quickly and accurately. You can therefore imagine my annoyance at the cumbersome control system that has been implemented. Looking around is a slow experience, like the baby has a turning circle of a tanker. When you pick up an item, it must be returned to the spot that it was found. Everything was as clumsy as a toddler taking its first steps, so in that respect the developers matched the lead character perfectly, but from a gaming experience it’s hard to swallow. For me, it needs to be more responsive. There was little to no urgency, and this contradicted the theme. Even babies can move fast when they need something, and I know I wouldn’t be waiting around when a monster was hunting me.
In modern day gaming, it’s all about the value for money and replay value. How does The Childs Sight fare in this category? Very well. At only £4.19 you get a lot of game for your money! In fact, you’ll spend more on new underwear to replace the ones you ruined during your time with this. Two game modes are available, the main story, and a time trial that asks you to survive for as long as possible. Alongside these 2 modes you will face a small but challenging achievement list. To gain your 100% score will require time, and perfection, so practise will be required for the completionists out there.
Is this more than just a horror game?
Though its laced with scary moments, it is more a horrific adventure memory game than a classic horror tale. It plays to its strengths, particularly well, and creates a brilliant atmospheric world that you can lose yourself in easily. The difficulty is high enough that it will challenge most gamers, but may be too much for some players. You have to immerse yourself in the audio portion of the game. Failure to do so will lead to frustration, so play this one with the sound cranked up, or through headphones. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do. A purchase can be made here if my review has tickled your fancy. Can you piece together the parts of your childhood that haunt you? Was it just your imagination that scared you, or was there something hiding in the shadows? Why not buy a copy and see if you can survive this dark horror memory game.