How did wandering around derelict public service buildings become the go-to thing for survival horror experiences? In films, it was always an abandoned psychiatric hospital from the 1920s or a mansion that was haunted by an owner. But the gaming world has taken this and run with it, leaving us to wander corridors, armed with a torch and some wits.
In No Son of Mine, that building of choice is a school. But in that school is a disturbing and predatory entity, hunting you as you wander around looking for clues, attempting to stop it.
I seem to be reviewing a survival horror game every other week on Xbox. It’s a very crowded market and I’m not particularly sure how all these games will survive… maybe there is enough appetite for them all, but it’s got to be a big ask. Perhaps the only way some will find an audience is through the streaming scene – screaming through Let’s Play videos always seems to help sell these games. But for now, we venture in and see what goes bump in the night.
Story wise, in No Son of Mine you play a police officer who is searching for a missing child. Then everything goes pear-shaped, horror hits the character and you find yourself in an abandoned school, armed with a torch, searching for clues. You find two graves early on, but what you do after that is pretty much up to you, as the environmental storytelling comes into play.
The lack of handholding in No Son of Mine is clear from the start; some will relish this and others will find it very frustrating. Whichever, throughout the journey, you are being chased by a school spirit who will hunt you down relentlessly. Meanwhile, you have to do several things in each area, in hope of unlocking progress. Most of these are environmental in nature and require you to find things and clues as you go. Visual clues and bits of texts will be found and I really liked this way of discovering pieces of the story, trying to knit it all together.
But My Son of Mine is very tricky, so be warned. In fact, this first-person adventure is not for the faint-hearted. The demon schoolboy hunting you is the reason for this level of trickiness. You get a weapon – the CoolBoy9000 – and it’s here where you can see the boy with a special filter, if he gets too close you get a shot off to knock him down for a moment. It’s not easy and should you take a couple of hits from the demon boy, you are dead. This will happen quite a lot so be warned.
There is another option available as you work through No Son of Mine – get in the blue-rinsed hiding places that pop up, giving you a bit of a breather. But a minigame starts up which you have to get right or it will be curtains once more. I did enjoy walking around this world and trying to work out the clues along the way, but it does get more frustrating than it is satisfying’ I’m putting that down to the difficulty level though. Thank god for the little candle-lit save points then, for they save a tremendous amount of backtracking.
Visually, the game is impressive with a great use of lighting especially with the various levels of darkness on display. Sometimes when you see characters or locations close up, No Son of Mine is less impressive and it is here where the terror gets lost. But the soundtrack comes complete with a great score, brilliantly using sound to create tension throughout. The effects are superb; a small sound might just cause you to jump out of your skin.
No Son of Mine may be pretty good at doing what it does, but it doesn’t quite have enough about it to ensure it stands out from the crowd. The lack of handholding, trying to work out the story and what you need to do is bewitching and I like how it keeps you on your toes throughout. However, the difficulty level found in the demon boy chasing you becomes frustrating rather than thrilling. The little games do get a bit annoying as well.
If you like a bit of horror though, you could do worse than to chuck No Son of Mine into your digital library.