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A hidden-object game for a horror fan?

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    True Fear: Forsaken Souls – Part 1

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    A hidden-object game for a horror fan?

    There’s not many hidden object games out there that feature a horror story or setting, but True Fear: Forsaken Souls is here to change that. Before we get too deep into the review though, note that this game is "Part 1" of a planned trilogy that has yet to be fully released as "Part 2" is still in development. With that said, let’s take a look at what True Fear has in store for us!

    The story begins with a nightmare of an asylum, which turns dark very fast… blood spattered on the wall, bodies barely recognizable and something moving them around just off-camera. Soon our playable character, Holly, will wake up to someone knocking on her door late at night to give her a letter from her sister who she hasn’t heard from in ten years. The letter beckons Holly to come visit an unnamed house to meet her and learn the "truth" about their family after all these years.

    The setup to the story (trying to follow instructions from your estranged sister) is solid enough, giving Holly a reason to search the spooky locations you’ll eventually visit while trying to find your sister. Unfortunately though, the game’s horror elements are fairly light and ultimately unsatisfying. Perhaps I’m just jaded by being a huge horror game fan, but without my character being in any real danger I’m just unable to feel any "true fear". That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have a horrific atmosphere at all (it does), but the horror element really doesn’t extend beyond that.

    While the game is labeled as a hidden object game, it’s just as much a "point and click adventure" as well. The core game play here takes you from scene to scene exploring various location and finding tons of items, which you’ll then have to use to unlock new areas and solve puzzles with. Exploration really is the name of the game here, but following the logic of knowing which items to use where is just as important and provides those satisfying "Aha!" moments at a regular pace. Every now and then though, the game will present you with a more traditional puzzle to figure out (such as sliding puzzles or circuit-flow puzzles for example). These puzzles are another welcome addition and aren’t overly difficult either, providing the perfect distraction from the exploration you are mostly doing (and there’s even some true "hidden object" puzzles in there to boot!).

    One thing many fans of the genre have to worry about is getting stuck in games like these. After all, all it takes is not noticing one particular item and BAM! You are now stuck with no clue on how to progress. Thankfully, that’s not a problem at all here. The game has three difficulty selections, with a hint AND clue system in place to make sure you never get stuck (along with a journal to record your story progress, which is nice).

    The game play here isn’t breaking any new ground, but it is solid and perfect if you enjoy the "hidden object" genre. The pace of the game with story revelations, puzzles and cut-scenes is also handled extremely well and kept me engaged throughout.

    Being a hidden object title, the vast majority of the graphics throughout the game are just still environments. Granted, they are all horror-themed so expect a lot of decrepit buildings, shadowy figures, and generally spooky locations. Thankfully, there are also several animations in various locations that add some graphical flair to the game (spiders and rats crawling around, drapes fluttering about, etc…), which is appreciated as you can tell some effort was put into the graphics.

    Speaking of animations though, the character models in the game just come off as way too… plastic. The models look like barbie dolls, honestly, with good design but just not enough animation in them to appear human (giving them that "uncanny valley" look). Like… I get that this game has a horror theme, but I really doubt that’s what they were going for here…

    Being horror-themed, you would expect the soundtrack here to have a lot of atmospheric music to it, and you’d be right. There’s a lot of drawn-out string pieces here that really help add to the game’s atmosphere, but I was pleasantly surprised by some melodic tracks here and there as well (you don’t hear too many piano melodies in games like this!). The voice acting in the game is very sparse (it is mainly Holly talking to us), but well done. Overall, the audio here was much better than I expected it to be and provided a great atmospheric experience.

    I should note that while this review is for the PS4 version of the game, True Fear did come out on PC. One good thing about picking up the PS4 version though is that it comes with the bonus content from the PC release automatically. This includes a "making of" sneak peak, some cut content, and a sneak peak of "True Fear Part 2". The biggest bonus however is a "bonus episode" that actually sends Holly to the asylum she had nightmares about from the opening of the game for another hour-plus of game play (which was definitely an awesome inclusion and just leaves you on a cliffhanger). The game also has collectible statues hidden throughout the game you can find and, being a PS4 title, includes a full trophy list (with a Platinum Trophy).

    Overall: 7/10

    Overall, "True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 1" is a solid addition to the hidden object genre with a horror twist to it, so if you enjoy the genre already you are likely going to enjoy this game as well (and vice versa, of course…). If you’re just a horror fan though, you may find the constant stream of puzzles to be annoying as the puzzles definitely out-weigh the story here, so just make sure you know what you’re getting into (this isn’t Silent Hill or Resident Evil after all!). If you’re on the fence (even with this review), the best part is that there is a free demo on the PS4 store you can download if you wish! I know that I, for one, will be patiently waiting for "Part 2" to release later this year. Have fun and keep playing!

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