Imagine finding yourself exploring a seemingly abandoned house, all whilst unravelling clues of peculiar going-ons and heartbreak that might’ve driven the family that previously lived there insane. It’s not an ideal situation, is it? Well, horror game protagonists don’t tend to find themselves in ideal situations and that’s certainly the case in Breathing Fear.
Breathing Fear is more of a horror-puzzler than anything, though it’s one that’s presented in an 8-bit style where the scares are a little less frightening but the atmosphere is still eerie. You’re tasked with exploring a house and its immediate environment to uncover its secrets, all whilst reading through documents, collecting items, and then using those items to solve puzzles around you. It’s all very simple in design with an emphasis based on exploration, with every bit of progress you make proving to be pretty satisfying.
There aren’t grisly monsters to avoid in Breathing Fear, but there is one thing that will cause you harm: your heart rate, which increases if you’re left in the dark in the game or if you encounter something frightening. Your heart rate is represented by a number and if it hits seventy, your hair turns grey and you die. Pretty grim, right? It adds a bit of pressure onto the player, especially since the power in your flashlight is a finite resource and your heart rate will keep increasing on a regular basis if it runs out. Given the puzzle-like nature of the game and the fact you need to explore, this can make every second valuable and any moments wasted can be the difference between life and death.
Whilst a neat idea, this actually works against the game. Breathing Fear doesn’t have any checkpoints or option to save game, so if you die you’re starting over again from the beginning. Of course, you will begin to learn what you need to do to solve puzzles across subsequent playthroughs which does make the game easier, but you’ll also have to do the same things over and over again until you eventually do succeed. It could be a bit frustrating and the added pressure of having to rush proved to be more of a burden than something that added to the tension – the fact that the game can be beaten in under fifteen-minutes when you do know what you’re doing could make it a little less painful though.
That short runtime could typically be seen as a flaw, but it felt long enough in Breathing Fear. The game is available for relatively cheap so you won’t feel like you’re being ripped off, whilst the fact you’ve got to repeat a lot of the same actions time and time again would probably be even more annoying if the game was any longer.
I enjoyed the concept of Breathing Fear and had a decent time seeing it through to its conclusion, though the pressure it puts on players to rush and the perma-death aspect of failure could be pretty annoying. It’s a short game anyway so having to replay sections wasn’t the end of the world – however, given it emphasises both exploration and rushing, it also felt like it was at odds with itself.
Still, with a low price to purchase and its novel horror approach, fans of the genre may want to check Breathing Fear out. It’s certainly not a bad game and its little twists and turns were neat, but you should probably expect to find yourself a little bit frustrated when you’ve got to play through some of the same sections multiple times.
Developer: Drageus Games
Publisher: Drageus Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC