Many horror games have attempted to recapture the rare feat that was PT. Hideo Kojima’s cancelled Silent Hill game has sparked a mini subgenre of exploring the ‘creepy suburban home’ with heavy psychological elements being the centrepiece. Developer SadSquare Studio is the next to join the ranks with their game Visage. However, will fear be found at every creaking corridor corner for the right reasons?
You assume the role of Dwayne, and you wake up in a pool of blood finding yourself in a dark, dreary, empty room. Soon afterwards, you receive a phone call from a neighbour saying they haven’t seen you in about three weeks, and they’re worried (I wonder what the neighbours think about me when I haven’t left the house for weeks). From here, you travel through the forgotten rooms and corridors of the residence to unravel the secrets that are crawling within the walls. It becomes clear in this abandoned house that not all is what it seems.
Through the chilling house, there will be cues in the form of items that can be interacted with to activate different chapters. Each of these four chapters will tell a tragic story of the house and the poor unfortunate souls who once resided within. The chapters have many barriers to overcome in the form of confusing puzzles to be solved and clues for you to hunt down.
Quite often, it felt like I was playing a twisted game of ‘follow the leader’ with the music on mute. It was not always obvious what moves the game wanted me to perform next in the sequence, and it expected no margin of error when performing these tasks; otherwise, it was impossible to move on. This was made even more frustrating for me by the ghostly apparitions and demonic visions that roamed the halls. These visions are frightening and gruesome to look at, but it is even more frightening when they catch and dispose of you in disturbing ways. I’ll admit that many times I died because of these unwelcome guests.
The atmosphere of the house, in all honesty, is truly eerie, with some great uses of both sound and visuals. It has many sounds which are hair raising with crashes and cracklings randomly resonating throughout the house, giving it an unnerving feeling. The game also knows when to use echoing silence at just the right points for dramatic effect. It draws upon many paralyzing images and moving visuals. These dark depictions conjure up sinister visions and help build upon the dark tone and mood throughout the experience.
The inventory can be restrictive at times and it left me feeling unsatisfied with the management system. There are two sets of items that you can carry: dynamic items that are essential to your survival, and can range from lighters, cameras, and pills, to key items like room keys which help you navigate puzzles throughout the game.
You can only carry four dynamic items at one given time. That may sound like a lot, but when you are in a near-death scenario balancing items is easier said than done. Four really does not go far, and it often led me to drop items to make room for others. Afterwards, I would double back on myself, hoping that I would remember where the item was dropped. This is not helped either by the dynamic items only being active when they are being held.
It was a challenge to switch items around mid-way through because the controls require an awkward combination of button inputs to switch them over. This led to a lot of time being wasted. Another difficulty is that the items and environments you choose to interact with will not immediately respond to the control’s inputs. A lot of time was spent repeatedly trying to open a door, which was made far more difficult than it needed to be.
With the abandoned house being so big to explore, it contains a lot of stuff. This was initially fun to explore, and it forced me to take the time to rummage around in every nook and cranny. It was a good storytelling method as it makes you throw yourself into the experience, like picking up and examining family photo frames and envisaging what might have happened to unleash the current supernatural events. Yet after a while, because there’s so much random stuff in the house, and a lot of the items have nothing to do with the story dialogue, like picking up lots of random empty beer cans on the floor, which can leave you feeling a little dissatisfied with the sheer amount and volume to go through. Sometimes even if an item can be used, I found myself asking the question: “should I be using this item right now?” For instance, should I change a lightbulb that has blown? Or should I just leave it for the repairman?
Visage embraces an Amnesia style system of sanity control for the character. This is displayed by a red cloud in the left-hand corner of the screen. Just like real life, many factors will come along and affect your sanity. When the red cloud appears, things will escalate quickly with paranormal activity following closely behind. Depending on what your sanity meter is at, it will stop you from performing certain tasks to progress to the next stage and can even result in supernatural surprise attacks. Your sanity can be restored by staying in well-lit areas or by popping some pills that are scattered around the house (Chris would love this house, even if it’s a bit scary…) The only problem is that it’s hard to gauge what point of the meter you are at, with the meter only really appearing when your sanity is already too far gone.
My experience with Visage was a bit like a swinging pendulum. On the one hand, it didn’t rely on the traditional jump scares to insight fear. Instead, it lays in wait, biding its time and allows you to make your own mistakes which will inevitably lead to your downfall. In this sense, it heavily relies on psychological elements to create a truly bone-chilling experience that I enjoyed. At the other end of the scale, in a game that had such an explorative nature, other mechanics went directly against this, such as opening doors being a downright nuisance. If you have the patience for figuring out puzzles, Visage will offer a fiendishly good horror experience.
Visage PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
Visage provides a truly chilling experience with some out-and-out ghostly antics. Nevertheless, frustrating controls and an annoying inventory system stops the game from reaching its maximum potential.
- Chilling atmosphere
- The ghostly apparitions are scary
- Sound and visual cues come at the right time
- Controls are more complicated than they need to be.
- Puzzles are not always obvious
- Inventory has too much going on
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a PS4 Pro