Creepy Tale, a ‘point and click’ puzzle game, with elements of horror and platforming, certainly remains faithful to its name.
A simple premise: you and your brother walking in the woods, turns quickly into a tale of dread and discomfort – where something just isn’t quite right – at all times.
Within moments of playing the game – and after a bit of peaceful mushroom picking – your brother is lured away by a seemingly innocent butterfly and quickly snatched by some hairy bright-eyed monsters.
Left all alone, the onus is on the brother to explore the creepy woods and try and save his brother.
Whilst not outright terrifying like the likes of the Outlast games (shudders), Creepy Tale never fails to make the player feel on edge.
An appropriate atmosphere:
The world and general atmosphere of Creepy Tale is excellent. The 2D art direction is visually striking, with a sort of ‘soft’ look that juxtaposes greatly with the ominous ambience that follows you wherever you go.
The gloomy colour palette and absence of sound evoke a sense of hopelessness and dread. This is especially effective when you’re attacked and even the slightest noise – such as the sudden grunt of an underground monster – feels that much more impactful.
Because everything in this forest is out to get you, even with the softer monster designs and lack of jump scares, the game’s atmosphere still shines.
Whilst I didn’t find the game particularly frightening, the game’s ending absolutely raised the bar and felt genuinely horrifying.
A puzzling experience:
Your character, unsurprisingly, cannot fight back against the monsters in the forest. As such, you will have to carefully hide and avoid monsters and traps to survive.
To successfully make your way through each level you will have to deal with a number of puzzles. There are also different items that you can interact with in the forest, such as the aforementioned mushrooms or objects such as buckets and keys. Each item has certain uses and it is left completely up to you, the player, to figure out what to do.
This is where the game started to frustrate me. The complete absence of sign-posting or clues means that puzzles are often more of an exercise in tedium and frustration, than actual challenge (some would argue that is part of the challenge, I would kindly disagree). I somewhat understand the ethos behind this stripped-down approach, and the foreboding threat of monsters does add a sense of urgency to puzzle solving.
Thankfully there is the option to turn on hints, which I found considerably improved the experience for me, but the need for this reflects the lacklustre game design.
The puzzles themselves are also rarely interesting, save for a few exceptions, which do involve you needing full awareness of your surroundings. Most of the time, it feels like time is wasted and because the majority of the gameplay loop is centred around puzzle solving, the experience really starts to drag.
The game is also very short (once you figure out what you’re supposed to do).
On a more positive note, the game’s generous save system and almost instant respawns felt encouraging and allowed me to see the fascinating ending.
A game of two halves:
For all the praise that I am happy to give to the game’s excellent atmosphere and visual design, the frustrating gameplay fails to hold up. At a discount I’d say the game is worth playing for the visuals alone, provided you have a considerable amount of patience and composure.
Also the ending, provided the gameplay is improved upon, could lead to a really interesting sequel.