Nighttime is supposed to be a relaxing and calm experience where we can let our minds unwind. This is especially important for children as their brains are still developing. All these thoughts slosh around our heads, generating dreams and unreal sequences. However, occasionally, our minds play tricks on us and the pleasantries quickly turn to horrifying nightmares. STUFFED utilises this concept in its first-person horde shooter gameplay.
Developed and published by Waving Bear Studio, this is an FPS that has taken inspiration from Call of Duty Zombies. This much-loved mode is dark, scary, and hellishly addictive, so will a lighthearted cutesy twist be warmly received? I think it will, but let’s take a moment to look at it in finer detail.
STUFFED is every child’s nightmare!
It’s fair to say that this genre has been done to death, so is there room for yet another title? Normally I’d say no, but I thoroughly enjoyed the developers’ twist on the action. Yes, you experience many of the well-trodden mechanics, but the aesthetics and environment offer a unique take that makes this stand out.
The gameplay revolves around a little girl called Ellie, whose world changes when she goes to sleep. Like many children, her room is packed with robots, cars, dolls, and stuffed toys. These innocent and cute objects should offer no danger, yet, once Ellie shuts her eyes, their true form is shown. You control a cuddly bear whose only objective is to stay alive and protect the bedroom door. You must use your fists, a stick, and an array of weaponry to hold back the hordes while destroying the nightmarish apparitions.
Horribly, the simple twist on enemies and the adorable setting make STUFFED a stomach-churning endeavour. Adorable ducks smile with razor-sharp teeth, gnomes smack you, robots shoot lasers, and then there are the shadow creatures. The list of enemies grows the longer you live, and this makes the gameplay considerably harder as you progress. I loved the gradual curve and the blend of perks and weapons that improve your chances of survival.
I’m usually keen for a fresh approach within this genre, yet STUFFED sits firmly on familiar ground. The rounds last ten waves and each comprises a set amount of enemies. A counter highlights how many are left for you to slay and you can manipulate this to open locked doors with the points you have earned. The more rooms you open, the more weapons, perks, and accessories you will find. Exploration is key to your survival, but you must remember the core objective. Luckily, teleporters are located throughout to help you get back to the start. This was an excellent idea that encourages players to venture out without the fear of losing everything.
Like COD Zombies, you’ll find power-ups to refill ammo, reduce the cost of purchases, become invincible, and more. Furthermore, your bear earns XP, and this is used to level them up. Do you want unlimited sprint power, more health, increased ammo, or more? The choices are all available and you must choose which one best suits your approach. This was excellent, as it included a minor element of strategy to distract you from the FPS action.
STUFFED proves that children’s toys are creepy!
We all know that kids and their toys are a little creepy, however, no one wants to admit it, but come on, they really are! STUFFED has captured this beautifully in its colourful world filled with everyday children’s belongings. It’s this ordinary approach that makes it that much more chilling, and I never tired of exploring the large family home. I enjoyed the sadistic twists on innocent objects and the levels of detail in the surrounding world. More importantly, though, the gameplay is buttery smooth and the hectic action never falters. The developers have worked hard to ensure that their great looking title is matched by a strong performance. I experienced no frame rate issues, screen tears, or glitches, and this was phenomenal for an Early Access title.
The childish nature is highlighted brilliantly within the eerie audio. This Halloween/fairground-inspired soundtrack matches the creepiness perfectly. The minor tones add to the sinister aura, and this complements the theme during every round. Moreover, there is an upbeat pace to the music, and this adds urgency and energy to the nightmarish experience. Furthermore, the wonderful sound effects are unique, unusual, and match the surreal approach from the developers.
Responsive and simple controls.
Waving Bear Studio has incorporated controller support, and this was a crucial decision. Offering both mouse and keyboard and gamepad options improves the experience without alienating its player base. Whichever you choose, you’ll encounter intuitive and responsive controls that are simple to understand and easy to master. As this is an Early Access title, there were a few minor issues that subsequently caused irritations. These flaws are being worked on and should be ironed out ASAP.
COD Zombies has an obsessive fanbase, and I expect STUFFED will be a big hit for many reasons. First, it is excellent to play both solo and online with friends. Second, you can lose hours to each session as the new maps every ten waves keep things fresh. Furthermore, you unlock cosmetics for your hero and looking your best while destroying Satanic toys is always key. The developers have promised more content and this will enhance an already moreish title further still.
STUFFED exceeded my expectations.
I was fortunate to try this at EGX 2021 in London and the Early Access copy exceeded my expectations. This is a gem of an indie title that is only going to get better. With a clear roadmap for further content and an excellent foundation to work from, this will go from strength to strength. I loved it and I recommend you to buy it here! If you give this a go, you’ll never look at your kid’s toys in the same way again!