First-person horrors can be utterly terrifying; just spend a few minutes playing something like Outlast or Layers of Fear, and you’ll no doubt agree with my sentiment. That’s why Quintus and the Absent Truth piqued my interest, because it’s billed as a first-person horror adventure. Surely though, an adventure about a man and his mouse won’t be too scary, will it? With every single light in the house switched on, I tentatively delved in to find out whether Quintus and the Absent Truth is going to give me nightmares for weeks on end.
Quintus and the Absent Truth is a first-person horror featuring a bloke named Alan Shaw and his friendly mouse companion, Quintus. Alan is a multi-award winning composer, who’s awoken by his furry little pal, before learning that Alan’s daughter Lydia has gone missing. The narrative that follows sees this dynamic duo doing whatever it takes to figure out what’s going on and ensure Lydia returns home safely. Things take a bit of a strange turn however, with a supernatural entity intervening to aid Alan on this quest.
The sheer sight of Quintus in the opening moments is unnerving and makes a great initial impression, with a real creepy looking presence to the supposedly friendly rodent. The soundtrack does its best to create an edgy atmosphere, but the horror factor is certainly lacking here. Aside from a couple of decent jump scares, being slightly odd and a little eerie is about as scary as it gets. The terrible voice acting for supporting roles doesn’t do it any favours; especially when some characters are supposed to be menacing and instead you end up bemused at how bad the line delivery is.
Furthermore, as this mystery slowly unfolds there’s an underwhelming antagonist and a rather far-fetched climax to the plot – yes, more far-fetched than a man and a mouse working together in perfect harmony. Hence, there’s a sense of disappointment once you reach the latter stages of the storytelling, but up until then, the intrigue surrounding Alan’s life is a real driving force to be fair and will push you through the adventure. Building the back-story for Alan is done very well, with just enough details given to you at the right times.
As for the gameplay, well this comes in two distinct forms. While controlling Alan, the emphasis is on wandering around and interacting with anything of interest. Occasionally you’ll be sending Quintus to perform tasks in hard to reach places, like behind furniture to retrieve a key or into a vent. Simple stuff in truth. Thankfully, more puzzling moments come to the fore as you progress, which require logic and memory to solve. On the whole though, whenever Alan is the focus, you can take it easy and enjoy the narrative build.
The same can’t be said for the ability to roam around as Quintus, which is introduced at the halfway mark of the four chapters. I respect the ambition to shake everything up, with Quintus having to navigate obstacles and manoeuvre items that are almost his size. What this does though is expose the poorly implemented physics and causes frustration for the most part. You see, whenever Quintus has to carry anything, chances are it will get knocked out of his grasp or merge into nearby objects. This is never more apparent than the segment where he’s having to carry a tin of tuna up a series of floors and it just keeps getting loose, falling down to the bottom.
While on the subject of technical annoyances, there’s a very bizarre bug early on that can halt your progress indefinitely. It’s really innocuous, but if you’re not quick enough to retrieve something from Quintus’ hands, he disappears along with the item, never to return. The checkpoint system needs work too, as I left one session in Chapter Three and the next session it put me back near the end of Chapter Two. Quintus and the Absent Truth did crash twice as well, causing further irritation.
In terms of visuals, I like the fact that the outlines of objects and structures stand out in the dark. It’s a style I haven’t seen too often and it’s often better than when the surroundings are illuminated, because the environments lack points of interest and the colour palette is boring. The most fascinating areas to look at are in the bonus mode known as The Experience, which is a museum of sorts. Through interacting with the things here, you’ll get great insight into the design and storytelling decisions made by developers Wreck Tangle Games.
Ultimately, Quintus and the Absent Truth sets out to be a horrifying tale, but doesn’t do anywhere near enough to put fear into the player. That’s mainly down to a lack of menacing protagonists and an ending that’s quite silly in presentation and delivery. To give credit, the soundtrack does manage to create a spooky vibe, so at least it’s a little bit creepy. Sadly, the technical problems are definitely a downer and become more apparent with the most ambitious sections of gameplay. Not all hope is lost however, as the life of Alan is fairly intriguing, solving the few puzzles is enjoyable, and the mysterious goings on could keep you interested for the most part.
While I can’t recommend Quintus and the Absent Truth as your next horror fix anytime soon, it might be a kooky experience to indulge in during a sale. Even then, it’s a stretch.
Quintus and the Absent Truth is available to purchase via the Xbox Store