Despite their varying degree of quality (most are rubbish in all honesty), I do enjoy a horror film. When done right, their unique ability to scare you silly provides a rush of emotion unlike anything else. However, it’s equally as difficult to faithfully create this sensation in video game form. Enter Frightence.
The game is billed as a “short, intense first-person horror experience”. You can finish it in around an hour or so in fact, so short is correct. However, it will only cost you £4.99 and at that price it’s hard to grumble.
You play as a nameless janitor who’s unfortunately tasked with checking the residents’ flats in Apartment #17, to ensure they have all abided by their eviction notices. Unfortunately, the building has something of a reputation for spooky tales and some rather nasty urban legends. You can already guess where this is going I’m sure. It turns out that not everybody has left the apartment block…
To further ratchet up the tension, you have very little in the way of abilities at your disposal as you explore the cursed apartments. You use the thumbsticks to move around and inspect your surroundings from the first-person perspective, ‘A’ interacts with objects and ‘Y’ allows you to zoom in to read things. That’s it really, you can’t even leg it away from your new tormentors.
You will gingerly creep from room to room and down corridors, following unusual activity which will naturally lead you to progress through the game. It flows pretty well and makes sense in terms of where you should head to next, without being too obvious. Frightence takes place entirely within Apartment #17, across three floors. You will pass out a number of times, but awake to find subtle changes to the building you are seemingly trapped in.
There are some items you can study which are fairly clearly pointed out to you. However, make sure to read them first time as once you pick them up you cannot go back and view them a second time. There is no inventory menu. If you miss something, it won’t affect your progress but due to the nature of the game you will feel you’ve missed out on some potentially interesting information.
On that note, you don’t really find any answers to what is going on in Frightence, apart from a few clues at the end. However, the narrative plays second fiddle to the gameplay and rightly so. The horror comes from putting you in the shoes of the unfortunate janitor in the knowledge that all sorts of nasties could jump out at you at any point.
There are some genuinely creepy moments too that certainly sent a shiver down my spine. Whether it’s an unsettling so and so in a mask hiding behind the door, or a small child who zips past you in the hallway, Frightence does a good job in setting the horror atmosphere for the player.
Frightence is optimised for Xbox Series X|S and looks pretty good. The textures can have too much of an artificial shine at times, but there is a good amount of detail in the environments. At points, you can see from one end of the hallway to the other, and your view gets fuzzier the further you look into the distance. This perspective really impressed me, as well as creeping me out.
Sadly, not long after starting, Frightence struggles to maintain its performance, and drops its framerate fairly regularly. It hasn’t been a serious issue, but very noticeable given it’s a game which purposely plays at a very slow pace.
Alongside the visuals, there is also good use of sound effects and a slow, foreboding soundtrack in Frightence. I genuinely jumped a couple of times due to the use of sound, adding to the authenticity of the experience.
Frightence serves a very specific purpose, and overall does it well. It almost feels like a tech demo as opposed to a game, and absolutely falls into the experience category (or walking simulator, if you like). This is of course by design, but should give you an idea if this is for you or not.
Despite being short, linear and fairly simple, Frightence does a good job of throwing you into the centre of a horror experience. Consider me interested to see where this one goes next.
Frightence is available to download from the Xbox Store