We’ve seen plenty of horror titles over the last few years that have tried to replicate the unnerving sense of dread that PT instilled upon players during its short lifespan. Some have managed to bring with them some real scares too, whilst others just seemingly died after showing initial promise (I’m talking about you, Allison Road). None have REALLY managed to completely embrace the same tension and atmosphere that PT did though… until now.
I’ll say right off the bat that Visage does lack that sense of originality and surprise that PT had, because let’s be honest, no video game will be able to replicate the sense of unease and fear that Hideo Kojima’s psychological-horror romp brought with it during that first playthrough. However, Visage does a damn good job of offering the next best thing, with its entertainingly eerie ‘haunted house’ escapade one that’ll certainly keep players on the edge of their seat…
Visage’s narrative ramps up the tension ten-fold from the get-go thanks to its disturbing opening sequence. I don’t want to spoil anything here for the player, but you can expect to see a tragic event unfold before you find yourself wandering around this… well… seemingly ordinary house. Of course, there’s nothing ‘ordinary’ about it, with the cursed four-walls home to an array of traumatic tales of those that lived there before you. By triggering different events within the house, you’ll live out the memories of these characters and witness the fate that befell them as you unravel more about the disturbing mysteries that lie at the heart of Visage’s horrors. It’s really engaging stuff and will keep you completely hooked in, even IF you know there can’t be a happy ending to this story.
Most of your time will be spent exploring the house, so you should expect to acclimatise yourself with its many rooms and the objects within them quite quickly. Everything will seem pretty normal from the get-go too, besides a few objects that might turns themselves on and off or the echoes of a few weird noises… you know… typical things that go ‘bump in the night’. However, it doesn’t take too long for things to go really weird, with the different chapters of the game each bringing with them some environmental changes that’ll catch you off-guard. Some will be pretty small in scale and will require a keen eye to notice, but others? Well, they’ll transport you off to a myriad of different locales that certainly bend reality, whether it’s with a ridiculously long corridor or just a whole new location altogether. It’s creepy stuff and utilises a sense of ‘expect the unexpected’ when you should be re-treading what would typically be familiar territory. It means you can never get too comfortable when exploring, which is EXACTLY what I want from a horror game.
The scares don’t end there either. As the game progresses, you’ll notice more and more creepy things occurring around you (and appearing in front of you), whilst there’s also a sanity system in place that decreases when you find yourself in the darkness. Thankfully, there are plenty of light sources to use that’ll keep your mind in check, whilst the occasional downed pill will also keep you sane. What happens if you do lose your mind? You can expect to meet a disturbing figure that’ll bring your time exploring the house to a swift and grisly end. Nothing in Visage ever feels like a cheap-scare though, but a calculated one that has been dreadfully built up to catch the player off-guard.
The dependence on staying in the light to remain sane means that there is an element of resource management to be found in Visage, especially since light sources and pills come in a limited supply. Despite this, I never found myself running out – especially since you can often turn on lights in rooms to brighten them up anyway. Sure, there were still moments where I was caught unready thanks to a light flickering or just going out completely, but rarely did I feel like the game was actively working against me.
I suppose the most difficult aspect of Visage comes with simply solving its many puzzles. Most of these consist of finding the right items scattered across the house, but with rooms constantly changing and some items’ purpose proving menial, it can take some time to figure out what exactly you need and how it can actually help you. You’ll even come across more cryptic enigmas in some chapters that’ll take some thinking outside of the box to solve – they do have that satisfying ‘euraka!’ moment when you finally do figure them out, but I’d be lying if I didn’t go through a few moments of frustration (and resorting to attempting to interact with everything around me to solve them) in the process. I was also left kicking myself a bit too, especially since some of the solutions were so obvious when you really think about it.
There’s a lack of guidance in the game too, which works for and against Visage. In fairness, it’s meant to be a frightening experience, so not knowing where exactly you need to go can really up the tension. On the flip-side, so much of the world remains the same between chapters, so not having anything to indicate where a change might have taken place means you can be left wandering aimlessly looking for that little something to guide you. It might’ve been a little nice just to have a way-marker to point you in the right direction here and there, even if it was just an optional extra for players who need a bit of a helping hand.
Outside of that, there’s not a whole lot to complain about in Visage. Sure, it has some graphical oddities such as the lack of a shadow for the player and the way that you can clip objects in the environment when you’re examining them, but they’re minor flaws that don’t hinder the gameplay experience. Everything manages to look great in-game too, with the well-designed and believable environments brought to life by some fantastic lighting effects that’ll continually keep you on edge as you wonder, ‘did I just see something lurking in the shadows’?
Visage offers a genuinely frightening and utterly engaging experience that’ll keep players on the edge of their seat as they unravel its eerie secrets. Fans of horror will love uncovering more of the haunted house and seeing what creepy sights are lurking in the shadows, whilst the puzzle-design is solid and will force you to think outside of the box.
Sure, some puzzles could be a little frustrating and there are a few visual glitches in place when examining or using items, but they’re minor issues in what is otherwise a compelling (and at times disturbing) horror escapade. Fans of the genre will NOT want to miss out on Visage.
Developer: SadSquare Studio
Publisher: SadSquare Studio
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC