Some games really surprise you when you play them. I had that experience when I played Husk, developed by UndeadScout. At first, Husk looks like your average Indie try at making a Silent Hill game with some symbolism and trying too hard. However, what managed to win me over in the end was the ending and how the twist allows you to see what each part of the game represents, which ends up giving Husk a higher score then I originally intended to give it. Granted the game isn’t that good, but it does have some shining moments.
In 1995, you play as Matthew Palmer, a father and husband whose family is going to see his dying father with whom he had a bad relationship due to his drinking and abuse. Matthew is both reluctant and wanting to see his father, if only so he can see his granddaughter, but before they can arrive at Shivercliff, the train crashes and Matthew finds himself alone. Now he must look for his family in a town that seems abandoned except for monsters that are out to kill to him. During your adventure, you find papers that link to events that happened during Matthew’s time living in Shivercliff which he narrates. He also talks about the suffering he went through both from his dad and from those living in the area. We are also followed by a strange hysterical voice that seems to know Matthew and recurring reference to alcoholism that might show that Matthew isn’t all he says he is. To say anything else would be a spoiler, but it can be said that, like Silent Hill, the game is all about confronting your own demons with each part of the game. Each part features darker emotions and past actions of regret (no comma) which Matthew must face. The only downside is that it’s been done before by a better series, and it takes forever to get to the good part that invests you into the story.
Gameplay wise, you are in first person in a dark environment that encourages you to sneak or run away from danger. Monsters are both fast and deadly in this game, but you can avoid most of them by sneaking and running. Occasionally, you will get a weapon such as a revolver or lead pipe, but these are few and far between and best used sparingly. Plus, some weapons can only stun and not kill. You’ll have to solve a few puzzles such as exiting a cave or finding keys to unlock a door. Interactions with objects are simple and will require you to perform some tasks with your mouse or keyboard to get them to work.
However, the problem is in the gameplay. You tend to do one task over another that doesn’t seem to really feel like any accomplishment. Combat is awful, and one of the worst aspects of the game. It’s not even a challenge and most of the time you’ll be just crawl-run without any thrill. The monsters are not that great looking either, not even that scary despite the designers’ efforts with the atmosphere and tension. Perhaps the game would have been better as a narrative game with less combat, more exploration, and solving of puzzles. It could also use some creepy effects as you dig deeper into the mystery. Sadly, it just doesn’t do that and feels average at best and boring at worst.
The horror aspect of the game lies not in the focus of blood, gore, and monsters, but the real-life problems people face. Alcoholism, abuse, and emotional detachment are real themes the game pushes here. This is really the best part of the game and it does it very well. However, this comes at a cost to everything else. The environment isn’t that scary with the dark shadows, red lighting, strange black liquid, and dull music. It just seems all there, but not given any life or effort to push it into becoming an actual horror scenario. It’s all just so basic and lifeless that you tend to get bored of it. The only positive thing I would say that the game has is the voice acting, which is good for the most part, especially during the dramatic moments.
Husk is, for lack of a better word, a husk of a game. It has something in it, but not enough to really make it good. The themes and strong and twist is nice, but the gameplay and horror aspects suffer a lot from this. Originally, I was going to give it a 3 out of 10, but the twist was something that I liked so I ended up giving it a 4 out of 10.
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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