Horror is a genre that the indie scene has taken and made its own. With a ton of throw backs to old school classics and some takes on newer experiences, there is something for everyone. Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward is a procedural horror game that puts players in the role of an unnamed character who is working with a team of paranormal scientests called the Project nightmares team to investigate the case of Henrietta Kedward. While there is an interesting story to be found here, frustrating gameplay makes it hard to fully enjoy this game.
Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward has you investigating a haunted house that was home to the titular character, Henrietta. After being put to sleep through the use of a machine that can help link the person in the chair to an evil object, you are set loose in a dark and eerie mansion with nothing but a candle stick to guide the way. As you progress through the home, the candle will slowly burn away and you are forced to keep an eye out on the candles life. Thankfully there are extras stashed in a multitude of locations so you are able to get a sense of safety as you build up the number of reserve candles in your inventory. As the wick burns away slowly, there are a few loving details put to help keep you aware of your candles life. For example, as he flame eats away at the candle, your character will adjust their grip so that the heat isn’t directly on top of their hand. You can also look down to find candle wax dripping onto the floor as well for a nice touch. Your character slowly walks through the mansion and you are able to sprint to speed things up but this will blur the camera as well as run the risk of blowing out the candles light which leaves you in the dark and unaware of your surroundings.
One of the biggest draws of the game is that it is procedurally generated which means that each run through the house will be different than the last. As you wander through the house, there will be a multitude of things to interact with in order to help fill in some of the background in regards to what exactly happened here. Items show up on the left side of the screen while the right will have a short description of what the item is as well as any text that can be found on the item. Using the right stick allows you to rotate things in order to get a better view or find new ways to interact with it. There was one instance where I had to rotate gems on a puzzle to finish the pattern and this was one of the more interesting aspects of the game. Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward has an interesting story to tell and I wish there were more positives to be found here.
Things start to take a turn for the worse once you start running into the scares. This game relays on jump scares and taking the camera control away from the player to force them to look at something. There was an instance where I was walking down a corridor and right when I got to the end of the hall, a woman was crawling across the hallway floor. She was right in my path and I would have had to walk in her direction to proceed so I was already on the edge of my seat. That feeling of fear slowly started to fade when the game took the controls out of my hand and had the character slowly turn to face the creature. The candle flickered and sure enough, she was suddenly right in the cameras face and screeching loudly before fading away.
All of the moments that were supposed to be scary ended up like this. Plates constantly flew off the wall and every scare was announced with some loud sound or flash of lightning before throwing something in my face or blaring a loud sound through the speakers. While this may work for some, others may find it to be a major annoyance as well as a reason to put the game down. It feels like the game is doing more to scare the player through sensory overload as opposed to create and maintain a genuinely scary an tense experience.
I found myself more concerned about the sudden volume changes as opposed to being actually scared of the creatures in the mansion. There are a few moments where things get tense such as when a ball mysteriously rolls down the hallway out of no where but these moments are infrequent. Although the hallways are procedurally generated, I am unsure if the scary moments are supposed to be as well. There is an moment where a phone rings and you pick it up only for a brief second of silence only to be followed by someone yelling at you to wake up. I ran into this three times back to back and by the third time, I was ready to put the game down. Overloading my senses is not scary but instead a cheap way to get a jump out of the player.
The other issue I found with the game comes from a mechanical point. The movement of the camera felt sluggish and unresponsive, with the camera slowly turning moments after I tilted the stick. I am not sure if this is supposed to be intentional or not but it made it hard to stomach the camera movements. The game is also extremely dark, even with the brightness turned all the way up on my monitor since there is no in game brightness slider. While this may be due to the atmosphere that they are trying to create, it made things hard to spot without being right on top of them. I found myself wandering down the halls and being frustrated that I could not even see the things I was supposed to be scared of.
This is definitely a game that has a lot of potential and I would love to see more from these developers but I really hope they do better with the next entry in the series. The switch port of the game ran fine with no performance issues in both handheld and docked mode. While the visuals were a little blurry in the handheld mode, playing docked made things look a little sharper but did not solve the issue of the game being too dark. While this could have been solved by turning the brightness on my monitor up, things ended up being washed out and muddy. The scares found here rely on loud sounds and sudden pop ins which is bound to get some players but may leave others wanting for something more.