I recently got trapped in a motel. Not in real life, but in a survival horror game I was reviewing – Oxide Room 104. Now I’m stuck in another place of hospitality, a more fancy hotel but one where there is still the same amount of horror on offer. FOBIA – St. Dinfna Hotel feels like a nice relaxing place to stay from the outside. A large reception area, nice presentation with a little museum and a friendly member of staff to greet you. But underneath the facade there is horror, monsters with claws, and a whole assortment of the supernatural.
Fans of old-school Resident Evil games will love FOBIA – St. Dinfna Hotel. Even though it’s in the first person it employs the old-school techniques of inventory management, puzzle-solving, finding keys for many different doors, and creepy chilling monsters waiting to kill you around every corner. Funnily enough, the thing I felt most rewarding was exploring this strange hotel, trying to piece together what has happened and how it all went wrong in the first place.
The hotel in question is where the story begins and after a compelling prologue, you play Roberto; an investigative journalist staying at the hotel. The hotel has had a mysterious past and some investigators who followed this story have vanished without a trace. You arrive at night and are given your room key which you go to for the night. But when Roberto falls unconscious and wakes up, everything has turned into a nightmare. The hotel is in ruins, a terrifying child with a gas mask keeps appearing, as do strange portals and apparitions. It’s up to you to explore what is happening – and mainly try to escape the hotel.
The writing and premise are the strongest parts of the game and kept me intrigued, at least for the first half of the experience. You see, when creatures started appearing, trying to kill me, it took away the intriguing narrative and became just like a load of other games. In fact, it lost its originality.
The gameplay has a nice twist when exploring and that is the use of the camera you get quite early on in the game. This old-school camera – when equipped – can see hidden areas or objects that you can’t see in normal vision. It puts the view into a night vision mode, letting you walk through doorways for example that aren’t there in normal vision or open objects that are otherwise hidden. You can even see written messages that help you through the passage of the hotel. Like the classic games of this genre, you will encounter doorways that you won’t be able to enter until you get the right key, tool, or code, to get through. You will be doing a lot of backtracking, moving up and down stairwells to go forward.
There is combat to be had as well, along with use of a gun, limited bullets, and different upgrades on the weapons and ammo as you progress. This is fairly standard fare and not something that is particularly enjoyable to action. As you’d expect to hear, you’ll need to heal yourself with items and combine other items to make better medicine too. It is very old school, but not innovative and at times a bit frustrating.
You also get to play as another character after the first hour or so and that’s a nice refreshing moment as the gameplay allows you to swap between worlds and different times in the hotel. Again, the first half of FOBIA – St. Dinfna Hotel is enjoyable, but it starts to drag a bit after the first couple of hours, especially as the combat gets started.
Visually the game is impressive for the budget. It has a real sense of dread, decay, and world-building that I particularly savoured throughout. The way the game switches between the different perspectives with its use of the magic camera is impressive; something which is utilised effectively throughout. Documentation and the decoration of the hotel – both in its ruined state and the normal state – is nicely designed and laid out, whilst the soundtrack and effects are excellent; building to the creepy atmosphere correctly. Voice over does a good job of delivering the lines, all while staying just the right side of cliche.
The retro survival horror tactics of FOBIA – St. Dinfna Hotel are enjoyable enough for the first few hours, as you go about exploring and working out what is going on, all as a strange tale of the supernatural unfolds. It’s only when the combat gets involved and monsters start appearing around every corner that the interest starts to wane, as the threat becomes a bit redundant.
If you are after something well made and need a spooky fix then FOBIA – St. Dinfna Hotel should just about be for you.
FOBIA – St. Dinfna Hotel is on the Xbox Store