There are three types of people when it comes to horror video games. The type that will put on a good pair of headphones, turn all of the lights out, and relish in the psychological terror felt at every turn. The type that will play the game with all of the lights on to make sure that no one sneaks up and murders them. Lastly, there is the type that will not play horror games under any circumstances.
If you fall in either of the first two categories, Camel 101’s Those Who Remain will pique your terror-seeking interests. But is it a game worth playing?
Are you Afraid of the Dark?
When I was first offered Those Who Remain, the title sounded like a not-so-subtle nod to Last of Us. In practice, however, this game shares a lot more similarities with Remedy Entertainment’s Alan Wake – an absolute favorite game of mine and Hideo Kojima’s playable teaser, PT. There are also some nods to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and even a sprinkle of everyone’s favorite Netflix series, Stranger Things.
On the surface, this sounds like an incredible combination. However, Those Who Remain is not able to live up to its promise.
The protagonist, Edward, is an apologetic man intent on heading to a dingy motel to break things off with the woman with whom he’s been cheating on his wife. Things quickly go sideways when Edward’s car is stolen and he is forced to travel by foot to the nearby town of Dormont.
Edward learns he must stay in the light to survive, as there are ghastly figures awaiting him in the dark. How does our hero survive? In the simplest terms, by turning on light switches. Spoiler alert: Edward doesn’t think to just carry a flashlight with him.
Paging Agent Cooper
The set pieces in Those Who Remain, while creepy, have a very disjointed feeling to them. Every chapter takes place in a distinct location. The motel, a house in a corn field, a diner, a library – they’re all supposedly in the same town but you’d never think it. There is no way to travel between these places. Edward is seemingly placed in these locations as the game progresses.
The Stranger Things’ Upside Down-esque world that Edward enters at certain points are a highlight. These are used to reach areas Edward cannot reach in the real world. He can move heavy objects or reach light switches in this spiritual realm that change their place in the physical realm as well.
Much like the aforementioned PT, the game is seen entirely from a first-person view. The game directs your attention to one side, only to have the room change behind you. The most memorable instance being a bathroom wall turning into a jail cell engulfed in the fiery flames of Hell.
Dancing in the Dark
There is no actual challenge to this game. Yes, there are puzzles to be solved, but they all boil down to the same formula. Hover your cursor over an object and press A. Trial and error is all you need to beat this game.
The controls present the most frustration in the game. Those Who Remain was certainly built with PC players in mind. An Xbox controller just does not give the preciseness needed to swiftly target a tiny light switch to escape death.
I found myself growing increasingly aggravated every time Edward died because I could not creep him just enough around the corner to turn a light on.
These downsides could be overlooked if the story, characters, or even locations were engrossing. Instead, there is a very rudimentary plot that never builds towards anything gratifying and a complete lack of character development.
For example, along his light-switching way, Edward meets a shadowy figure that tells him he needs to decide whether other characters, not yet introduced, deserve to die. The life or death decisions are made after gathering evidence such as a note written by the “offender’s” teacher or a criminal complaint written by the police chief.
If there was any character development before I had to make these choices for Edward, this would have elevated the intensity of the game. Instead, I made my decisions based on my own personal philosophies without regard for the characters themselves. There seemed to be no right or wrong answer as far as the game was concerned. Or was there?
According to the developer, there are three different endings depending on how you decide the fates of our subjects. I played through the game twice and made totally opposite decisions in both playthroughs, but still ended up with the same ending. It is entirely possible that there is a certain combination of decisions that need to be made to achieve a different ending, but there is absolutely no indication in the game to say what you “should” do.
The team behind Those Who Remain clearly have a love for psychological horror. While I believe they have a good starting point, this entry may be better left in the dark.