I have a special place for horror games, the tension within them are what makes survival horrors so good! Dead Space for example, the idea that something can pop out at you at any moment is just so exciting to me. To my surprise Blackbay Asylum managed to do this perfectly, despite it’s top down game style. It had a perfect mix of scares and dark humour in it to make it an enjoyable game. I also enjoyed the puzzle solving element, as I felt I had achieved something every time I worked out a difficult one after 10 minutes. It is easy to tell that this game didn’t have a high budget, but that didn’t stop it from being good in my opinion.
The story revolves around a confused psychopath and convicted mass murderer named Doug who one day finds he is alone in Blackbay Asylum, the story is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. So he takes it upon himself to explore the hospital grounds in search for the answer of where everyone has gone. Doug and his teddy soon discover that the hospital has been taken over by an ancient evil which merges the real world and nightmares into one cruel adventure. The story is told through old journals and notes you come across in your travels, which is really good as I always enjoy reading the details. There are 10 chapters in total, each one varying in time and presenting new challenges and new survivors to interact with.
The gameplay is great, and switches from top down to first person depending on the situation. You can also start a dialogue with other survivors you find along the way which, as well as being very well voice acted, are full of humour. There are also lots of demanding puzzles to solve; this was one of my favourite aspects of the game. An impressive feature was the interaction that you could have with your surroundings, everything blended in so anything could be a useful item. But useful or not, Doug still finds something amusing to say about it, you also have to battle monsters by using your wits in methods that always managed to be inventive and funny.
Although the graphic style seems simplistic, it was actually very well portrayed. The long trails of blood on the floor and tiny details are displayed perfectly in this top down style of play. Like all horror games, it is best to play them in a dark room with headphones on. However, Blackbay Asylum managed to terrify me more than others. Mainly by the random bangs and screeches in the background, but sometimes because of the silence and the expectation that something was about to attack me. The voices also added to the atmosphere by having to hear piercing screams when you had to “take care” of an enemy. My only complaint about this game was the lack of a save anywhere option, but I can see why it wasn’t there as it added to the survival aspect of the game.
I think that this is a very good horror adventure game, and well worth your money and time. With a seemingly simple story which develops as you go on to become more and more complex, this is a definite must for fans of horror games who are looking for something a little alternative. And for those who love puzzles, you needs will also be met. There are mind-boggling puzzles to be solved from start to finish, one of which stopped me in my tracks for a good 10 minutes.
For all these reasons I’m giving Blackbay Asylum 8 out of 10 as it was just so enjoyable to play, and it’s a great alternate yet enjoyable style to the horror game genre. Despite it getting mediocre ratings on Metacritic I thought it was very good. It gave me hours of enjoyment, and hours of nightmares! So even if this game doesn’t look like your cup of tea, still give it a go. It’s no doubt worth your time and money.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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