Visage is a psychological horror game in the first person developed by SadSquare Studio and released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on October 29th. Since it was announced in 2017, it has caused a lot of curiosity among fans of horror games, for its proposal to be the realization of the game that the famous PT of Kojima should have been, before being canceled by Konami. But could an Indie game made by 5 people make the same impact?

The whole game takes place inside a large house, complete with several bedrooms, a basement and an attic, and over the course of a single rainy night. The patter of rain drops, the howl of the wind and the creaking of wooden floorboards are sounds that will accompany you throughout the experience. And the sound of distant footsteps, doors opening and a soft breath other than yours, will also be there.

The great insight in the terror of this game is to use a real fear that we have when we find ourselves in some unknown place, especially alone and in the dark. It is an irrational fear that we all have, a fear of maybe seeing something strange along the way. Well, here this fear is made real.

Perhaps these spirits are from people who died in the house? And how long has this been going on? Is there a relationship between these stories, besides the fact that they start at the house, and then go off to the surreal and take you to strange places? And who is this man we are controlling, who killed an entire family in cold blood in the first minute of the game?

In the beginning, as you explore the house, strange things happen, such as a previously closed door being open, or the bedroom light going out on its own as you rummage through the closet drawers for clues. They are small and silly things but they fill you with terror because it is happening exactly what we fear will happen in real life.

The game’s story is divided into 4 chapters. The first three can be done in any order and tell the story of one of the ghosts that haunt these walls. We have the Lucy chapter, a little girl with an unfriendly imaginary friend, the Dolores chapter, an old lady with dementia who dreams of recovering her son, and the Rakan chapter, a man who suffers from severe hallucinations. The stories are not told directly to the player, depending heavily on interpretation and assumptions about what happens.

Each chapter tells a different horror story, and uses different mechanics to deal with the hauntings. In Lucy’s chapter, for example, you will receive a camera whose flash can reveal things invisible to the naked eye, such as horrendous drawings on the walls, or scary figures at the top of the stairs that we must climb. At Dolores, mirrors begin to appear scattered around the house, which when shattered reveal passages to strange places. It is a good way to keep the player alert and on the edge of the chair, as the scares are unpredictable.

The game mechanics revolves around dealing with scarce resources. You can take items in your hands, or store them in one of the 5 available inventory spaces. You can carry lighters, candles, lamps and soothing remedies. This game also has a sanity mechanic that decreases when you encounter a paranormal event, like a radio that turns itself on, or spends a lot of time in a dark place. The lower your sanity, the more frequent and violent are paranormal events. The tranquilizers are used to recover when it falls too much, and candles and lamps help to keep the environment bright.

To advance through the chapters, the game requires you to solve several puzzles around the house, which usually consists of finding a key to open one by locking it, or a tool that allows you to get to another blocked room. And while you search the house, don’t forget that you are not alone in it. Each chapter has a haunt around the corridors, and can appear at any time. The randomness with which they appear adds to the tension of the game and the sense of paranoia that we develop, seeing shapes out of the corner of your eye where you have nothing (or did it and disappeared as soon as you looked?).

Solving these puzzles is the main goal, but they may also be the source of the biggest criticism in the game. There was a constant feeling of being lost, of not knowing what to do to move forward. Sometimes it was necessary to find a small key hidden in some corner of the house, a key that does not get any prominence from the environment and is easy to miss, or worse, when the key is an object that you have no idea it would be something important. Having to go through every drawer and cupboard in search of something that can be used, was a source of frustration, especially when you start running out of lighters to light the way. The Rakan chapter is especially guilty of this frustration, as it greatly enlarges the area that needs to be explored, and much time is spent without any progress.

This affected the experience very well, because the game shines when you don’t have to walk back and forth, but when the game makes it clear what you need to do, or when your only option is to continue and endure what Visage will play in your direction. Exploring the house is an incredible and terrifying experience, as there are many secrets and scares to discover, however, when you don’t know what you are looking for, the exploration ends up becoming frustrating and the scares diminished when you get used to its corridors. Of course, this familiarity also leads you to decorate where each piece of furniture and decoration of the house is, so when something changes places, it becomes noticeable, so it is a “double-edged sword” that helps and disturbs simultaneously.

The design work of the house and the ghosts, as well as the work done with the lighting and sound design of this game are horrible (in a good way). The house is almost photorealism, with its furniture and household items appearing normal, and that this could be a very cozy house, were it not for the fact that we have disturbed spirits walking through the house. The hauntings are quite varied, and with disturbing designs that are scary to look at, and even more scared when they are coming towards you.

The lighting is done in a way that leaves everything with extremely dark shadows, leaving everything with an air of strange, this when the lighting does not change to the surreal, as when one of the doors gains a red glow passing through the cracks. The work of shadows and light is very well used to give a terrifying appearance to apparitions, which are never seen directly.

The sound work deserves praise for using minimalist music in moments of calm, but it grows suddenly when something paranormal happens. Basically, the jump scares of this game come mainly from the sound than what occurs on the screen. And there is always an uncomfortable background sound that makes you alert, looking for its source.

Visage is s a horror game, without having to resort to cheap jump scares, or appealing gore scenes. No, Visage uses a much more subtle and effective strategy than that. It uses our fear of the dark and of what may be hidden in the shadows, a place where we cannot quite understand what is in front of us. It is one of the most terrifying horror games some people have ever played. Its combination of an oppressive atmosphere, dark passages and “eye-popping” appearances, makes the experience incredibly uncomfortable, and therefore good. The puzzles are uncomfortable with answers that are not very obvious and a lot of trial and error, but when you solve them you are rewarded with another dose of terror to make your hearts jump, hairs stand on end, and your eyes close instinctively.

Leave a Reply