The big question we have in the world is whether dreams are just random events that occur in the mind while we sleep; a way of our brain decluttering for the next day. Or do they mean something deeper? Perhaps they provide an understanding of how we are living our lives. Can they even predict the future?
Anthology of Fear uses the idea of dream therapy in hope of discovering the truth about an event. But it will also manage to creep the hell out of you, setting the groundwork for a horror game experience. Look into my eyes and we will begin therapy.
In Anthology of Fear, there are two parts to the story. The first is where you take on the role of a detective looking for their brother, who has gone missing. This leads him to a mental health clinic where that brother, Nate, is being taken care of and – of course – it’s abandoned and things are going bump in the night. The second part puts you in charge of a mother in a suburban house who is trying to take care of her daughter. A strange being haunts and torments her, all before the truth is revealed as to what has happened in her life. Linking both these chapters are files gained from therapy and notes spread across the world.
The story is intriguing and interesting, even though at times I did feel a bit lost on who I was playing and what the purpose was. There are some stand-out set pieces throughout the narrative and some big surprises. And the cliches of horror are there too; mannequins make an appearance and they always scare the bejesus out of me. On the whole, there is some good writing in place, as we get the chance to delve the subject matter with thought.
The gameplay is simple enough, taking place in the third person as you move around the levels. Most of the gameplay is exploration based; going from here to there. There are puzzle elements to solve as well though, including one where you have to decipher poems to get an idea of how people died. There are sort of fetch quests as well – at one point you are looking for human parts to stick into a toy rabbit. Yes, you heard me right. This all works fine but at times the controls haven’t been as intuitive as I wanted them to be.
The combat is very sparse but when it happens it is very much unwanted. You get a gun about halfway through Anthology of Fear, as you are left to kill a few apparitions. But the shooting comes complete with the strangest control system in which you have to press RB and X to shoot. Not that there are instructions detailing that, so I just sort of worked it out. Honestly, I could have done without it.
I have to mention I had a few game crashes as well. Always annoying, hopefully things will be patched and those issues might not affect you at all.
What I do like are the lighting effects and the way shadow is used extremely well. The old hospital locations can feel a bit old hat to start with, but when the world gets stranger and odder, the visuals really start to excel. There are some nice touches included too, like coming across an old PC that you interact with and the nice clean house you encounter near the end that – without spoiling – morphs into hell.
The sound effects work very well in ramping up the thrills and spills. And Anthology of Fear is fully voiced throughout which is a nice touch, especially when you consider everything is performed with commitment and excellence. The soundtrack is very good as well, creating tension and dramatic effect.
There’s much to enjoy about Anthology of Fear, from the tense atmosphere to the marauding storyline and sense of terror. The dream therapy and puzzles also stand out. Yet whilst Anthology of Fear sticks its head above other horror games for a moment, it doesn’t do enough to stay there. Strange combat sections, control issues, and game crashes don’t help its cause. But if you can get through those moments, fans of horror experiences will find a lot to like with Anthology of Fear.