Written by sPINDRAFT 8/13/2013
Well now this awesome little demo has been out for over a year now apparently so we must be getting close to a full scale release; I certainly hope so because this adventure flick is going to be a real treat for all fans of horror/adventure/psychological/just plain intense atmospheric gaming (whew!).
Welcome to the Hanwell Mental Institute and the Asylum Demo a point and click adventure horror that promises to be bad ass, plain and simple. The art direction here is breathtaking, a truly spooky, gloomy, dusty place that gives you the creeps just by standing on its cold floorboards. There is chipped and cracked paint on the walls, scattered rusty old beds, discarded items everywhere and bars on the window that immediately make you want to hit escape on your trusty keyboard. The damn place makes you feel trapped before you even get down the first hallway and through the second door.
The narration appears to be well done for the most part, the first few lines reminded me of the voice actor from ‘Alan Wake’ but this quickly faded as the character began to take on an individual persona. If you kind of just stand around for moments here and there as you move through the portions of the building open for the demo the narrator, which I am assuming is you the player, slowly babbles on with myriad details of the building itself, what it was like there (must have been a patient at one time you little psycho) and his obvious dislike for all the dust. There are also plenty of details posted right on the various corkboards on the walls, one is even a pretty good blueprint of Hanwell’s first floor ( you could actually build a model from this thing), not to mention old newspaper clippings of disturbing conditions at the institute and its ultimate demise.
It takes a minute to get used to the minimal control over direction and movement that is used in this type of game, especially if you are used to directly controllling third or first person characters, but once you get the hang of it all is good. This form of play actually encourages the player to consciously look around at their enviroment at every minute detail before moving on to the next area; a unique perspective of detailed visual perception not always present or even appreciably acted upon in the far faster world of split decision WASD control. There is plenty to feast the eyes upon in this creepy old place as well not the least of which are the images you glimpse within the cell door windows as you traverse along the hall in the male ward, it is still a bit claustrophobic just being in these halls but at least you are not in one of those rooms with their intense horrors. Look very carefully at the details or you may miss the obvious and like me go running to the forums for help; this game is amazingly well crafted.
I was under the impression that the asylum is no longer in operation but during the demo you do get to view some of the patients, not sure if these are lingering impressions or those still awaiting transfer out of this hell but the really screwed up part is that one of these deranged souls – real or not – is not in his cage, he is loose in the halls with you. Though he does not appear to be an imminent threat, just cowering in a bloody bathroom after apparently killing his teddy bear, it is non-the-less very disturbing to know that the possibility of some unhinged terror could be unleashed upon you from the shadowy corners of this very uncomfortable place; and I do mean uncomfortable – this is a virtual reality that makes you very conscious of your own sanity, or lack there of, causing a great deal of palatable distaste for your surroundings.
Asylum is being developed by Senscape, an Argentina company founded in 2010 by Augustin Cordes, the creator of the cult hit ‘Scratches’. Senscape is making much more than just an adventure game, they are going all out by including extended items such as the ‘Record Book of the Insane’ which records the history of patients at the asylum, you can even get your own page in it with the proper donation to the project (the Kickstarter project went from Jan 29 to Feb 28, 2013 but I noticed there are still items left in the funding campaigns, there may still be time to get in the book). This will all be offered in a neat, nolstagic box package along with undisclosed additional goodies.
Slated for a Q4, 2013 release Asylum is going to be one hell of a mental jaunt through the disturbing world of a large institute with a tortured history. Senscape has worked a masterful tale here and the world eagerly waits for admittance to Hanwell and all of its horrors. This game will go down as a must have in every horror gamers library, I dare say even those that do not follow horror adventure gaming.
HAG Score – The Demo scores an A+
Senscape scores an A+