Playing a horror game can be a thrilling and disturbing experience. However, many rely on cheap jump scares and dated tropes. Consequently, they can be tiresome, repetitive, and often aren’t as scary as intended. As such, when Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel landed on my desk, I was a little dubious. Yet, once I loaded in, I was hooked by its dark plot and creepy undertones.
Developed by Pulsatrix Studios and published by Maximum Games, this is a horror puzzle title. Alongside this, there are some minor combat elements. Unlike the fantastic Resident Evil series, which this has been heavily influenced by, this is slower-paced and not so combat-heavy. However, it makes up for this with its intelligent array of puzzles and eerie and often confusing plot.
Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel lacks direction.
Whenever I tackle a horror game, I want a little guidance. Disappointingly, Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel goes the opposite way. With no minimap, guide, or hints, it can often be misleading and confusing. This wouldn’t be so bad, but many of the puzzles require you to explore the vast hotel. Subsequently, you’ll easily become lost and this can be frustrating. Alongside this, there are many codes to decipher and combination locks to open. As such, you’ll have a lot to remember and many minor bits of information to comprehend.
Where the game excels, however, is its excellent, but strange plot. You control Roberto. He is a junior reporter who wishes to enter the world of investigative journalism. However, his dreams and desires soon turn into a nightmare. There are many strange and unexplained incidents in the town of Treve Trilhas. This small community is haunted by supernatural beings and, in particular, the St. Dinfna Hotel. After a week of questioning the locals, Roberto believes he has hit a “brick wall”. Accordingly, he becomes annoyed and is willing to give up. Yet, a strange anomaly occurs in his ensuite and the world turns to crap. From here, he must fight for his life while trying to understand what has happened.
A creepy world filled with mysteries.
What I loved about this title was the lack of combat and the focus on exploration. Yes, the lack of handholding irritated me, but I found the blend of mechanics intriguing. The action progresses thanks to an array of puzzles as well as the use of a special camera. This ordinary-looking device enables you to view an alternative dimension. Therefore, when it is used, your surroundings alter and new pathways are opened. On top of this, you’ll find hidden clues, secret boxes, and many collectables. This was incredible, as it made you examine each location in greater detail. Now, this may frustrate some players as it also slowed the action down. However, if you enjoy being meticulous, this will tick many boxes.
There is also a reliance on tools and keys to move the action forward. You must find key cards and tool boxes to unlock keypads, fix the lift, and break locks. This element adds to the well-trodden exploration mechanics, but it enhances the eerie and creepy nature of the gameplay. By sneaking through broken walls, chasing ghastly apparitions, or hearing unexplained noises, you’ll be kept on the edge of your seat.
Though there is a small arsenal of weapons to use, the game doesn’t push the combat mechanics. Instead, it expects you to focus on exploring your surroundings, solving problems, and finding the truth. As such, it stays true to its plot, and this reinforces the protagonist’s true desires. Whenever you do fight, there are 4 guns to select, a small roster of enemies to kill, and 3 main bosses to defeat. None of these encounters are challenging, but limited ammo impacts how trigger-happy you can be.
Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel isn’t as polished as expected.
Unlike Resident Evil, Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel lacks polish. However, this isn’t a triple-A title, nor does it command the same price point. Consequently, I accepted its janky finish and occasional glitches. Yet, this doesn’t mean it looks terrible, as it is pleasant in an uncomfortable and haunting way. The dilapidated hotel is claustrophobic, oppressive, and hides many secrets. Alongside this, your foes look disgusting and the special camera mechanics add an interesting otherworldly layer. Furthermore, I adored the first-person perspective, as it made the action immersive and much scarier.
The fear factor is enhanced by the excellent audio. Minor toned music is utilised to set the scene, while overbearing sound effects complete the picture. Moreover, with nerve-wracking footsteps and the sound of crumbling infrastructure, it’s a tough soundscape to listen to. What’s more, the acting is serviceable without being exceptional. Again, this wasn’t a problem as I didn’t expect anything more from this indie developer.
Excellent controls and plenty of replay value.
When a game is slow-paced, the controls are the least of your concerns. Yet, having a nice layout and responsive inputs is still essential. Fortunately, you get exactly that, as well as a great tutorial to explain the fundamentals. Therefore, it is easy to pick up and focus on the task at hand.
If you were to rush through the story, you can expect around 8 hours of action. Yet, if you focus on the additional puzzles, and find every collectable, it’ll take much longer. On top of this, there is a New Game + mode that mixes things up. This is incredible as it keeps things fresh while adding to the longevity.
Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is a confusing but great horror title.
Don’t be put off by the lack of triple-A action as Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel has a lot to offer. Yes, I didn’t appreciate its lack of direction, but I adored its puzzles, the occasional combat moments, and the horrific environment. Furthermore, its story is excellent and you feel for the protagonist. What’s more, it’s an excellent title for completionists even if it will test your resolve. Subsequently, I loved it and I recommend you to buy it here! Will you solve the mystery of Treve Trilhas, or are you destined to remain in the cursed hotel?