In the 1968 musical fantasy film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the one thing that everyone remembers is the scary child catcher. It’s that idea and concept – of children being taken away – that has been in stories from the dawn of time. Sometimes there is a magical reason behind it, at others, a more realistic, gritty tone.
Horror Tale 1: Kidnapper sits somewhere between those two points of view. It’s a tale of kidnapping, stealth adventure, and trying to find a way to escape and be the hero. The game has been present on mobile first, receiving some good reviews, yet now it’s up to us Xboxers to see what all the fuss is about.
In the fictional town of Lakewitch, they have been having a small problem… children have been going missing. You jump into Horror Tale 1: Kidnapper playing a small child, heading out on a dangerous mission with your best friend, Harry. It’s up to you to find out who has been kidnapping these children and why this horror is happening around you. You have the night to find out all the answers before the return of your parents.
The writing and setup are bewitching, bordering on the fun more than horrific. It has a similar vibe to the likes of Hello Neighbor, what with the cartoony world rather than real horror. But there are some scares along the way. The writing is good, but it feels like a kid’s adventure rather than an adult one; that is fine by us, especially as it delivers a nicely paced story with lots of things to do and explore.
Horror Tale 1: Kidnapper is set in the first person and what you need to try and do is achieve a few objectives in each of the areas around the town, all in order to bring down the kidnapper. You have your treehouse which acts as a base and fort, from there heading out around the place to attempt the completion of several tasks; escaping or collecting certain items from a list to fortify the treehouse for example. You might also discover a room or area that needs unlocking, or some boards that require a hammer to break up wood. You get the idea – one item needs another item to get into a previously locked area to progress the mission objectives.
But at the same time, you have the kidnapper patrolling the area you’re in; any noise or movement will attract him to your location. So the main bit of the game works around a stealth mechanic, leaving you to slowly move around the locations, hiding in handy little spots when the heat becomes too much. Of course, at times you’ll be spotted, left to leg it and get some distance between you and the hunter.
There are different difficulty levels at the start of the game that will determine how alert the kidnapper is to your presence. There is even a ghost mode which means he can’t see you at all, which does make the game a bit pointless because you lose the tension and excitement of hiding and being spotted.
The utilised visuals have that graphical comic-book feel to them, almost a bit like a Telltale Game from years gone by. It works fine though and the level design is good with some great hiding areas and intriguing spots to discover. Little collectibles are sprinkled around too, alongside the usual documents which aid the story and context. The kidnapper – with his bunny mask – is a nice scary design as well, whilst the soundscore comes complete with a menacing vibe that ramps up with some faster, more intense music when you are spotted. There is some solid voice-over work as well.
Horror Tale 1: Kidnapper is a good experience; a likeable stealth game that is fun to play for a couple of hours. Horror fans should expect the themes to be more in line with a PG than any 18-rated hardcore action, but it works well. However, once the scares of being spotted begin to lose their effect, the game settles into a rhythm that gets a bit samey after a while. But there are other things to take in too, and plenty of story to keep you interested throughout.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see where this franchise goes with the next chapter.