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Scholar’s Mate Review

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After my many experiences of being hunted in horror games by a huge monster or madman, it’s no wonder that my recent blood pressure test came back as quite high. 

But there are both good and bad ways to keep tension up in these survival horror games. The bad way is if the enemy pursuing you isn’t very scary, let down by creature design and sound effects generally. But there’s also the issue of dying so much that you become desensitised to the big bad following you.

The good way is to build tension, be it through sound, lighting, or having things to do that require patience in contrast to the urgency. Scholar’s Mate falls into the latter camp. 

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Scholar’s Mate – classic escape room horror

The actual title of Scholar’s Mate comes from a classic checkmate move in chess. It’s a good description that sums up the meat of this game, as it’s an experience which requires cunning and brain power in order to get you to the end. The story doesn’t give much to go on from the start, but as you progress little bits of information and snippets of narrative are revealed. 

You play as a young woman, Judith, who against her will arrives doped up in an old abandoned psychiatric hospital. She wakes up in a room, blood on the walls, candles lit, a huge creature stalking around outside. She is locked in. What does she do next?

The story is simple and works well. I do find the abandoned hospital trope a bit old hat, but I can understand why it works in the escape room context found in Scholar’s Mate. Some bits of dialogue are well-written and delivered brilliantly by the actress playing Judith. 

The gameplay works in the first person, and feels like the more recent Resident Evil games to start with. You can explore the spaces around you, picking up objects and examining items. Very soon into the playthrough though you’ll get access to a torch; essential to being able to see things as it’s very dark in the hospital. However, using that always increases the opportunity of being spotted. 

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You know the drill…

Hunting you throughout the hospital is a huge monstrous man; a guy wielding a weapon. He can run and chase you, and – as you may expect to hear – if you are caught, it’s game over. There are difficulty levels that allow you to amend the intensity of things, picking on his chasing and spotting skills, but even on the lowest level, Scholar’s Mate is very tricky.   

This is a game that requires patience and stealth, while sometimes you just have to run and do loops. It’s good and the tension is built up very well thanks to the sound effects. But there are moments in which it feels a bit dull, especially when you are spotted for the umpteenth time, all while you’re desperately trying to solve a puzzle in the dark. 

The puzzles themselves work as a good mix of ideas, a combination of hunting for clues laying around the area, the collection of items and more. There are some complex puzzles in Scholar’s Mate and you may want to dive into the online world in order to find help. But on the whole, this provides some very good escape room brain scratchers. 

Scholar’s Mate can look good at times, with some nice attention to detail in the interior environments. The lighting is decent, but this is a dark game and you’ll need to get used to that. And whilst the main hunter is terrifying at first, as with all things scary, after a while, you get used to it. The sound design is excellent though, ramping up the tension and scares with amazing footsteps signalling your foe. It also has some brilliant, well committed voice work that manages to lift things above the usual stuff found in this genre. 

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Scholar’s Mate – feels a higher standard than others in the genre

Scholar’s Mate feels of a higher standard than many other games in the survival horror genre. Much of this is due to the excellent sound design and some great puzzles. The constant ‘hunt’ does get a bit wearing after a while, a bit too relentless, too easy to die.

But if you want a bit of tension in your gaming, something that is capable of raising your blood pressure, then Scholar’s Mate could be a nice bit of medicine.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Excellent sound design
  • Interesting puzzles
  • Some good visuals
  • Cool bosses
Cons:
  • Very easy to die
  • A relentless monster
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, JanduSoft
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 4 July 2024 | £12.49
Gareth Brierley
Gareth Brierleyhttp://www.garethbrierley.co.uk
I am an actor and a writer. I act quite a bit on stage, a little bit on tv and never on tuesdays. I have had some of my writing published and have written for TV and stage. I have been playing games since they begun and don't seem to be getting any better.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Excellent sound design</li> <li>Interesting puzzles</li> <li>Some good visuals</li> <li>Cool bosses</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Very easy to die</li> <li>A relentless monster</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, JanduSoft</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 4 July 2024 | £12.49</li> </ul>Scholar's Mate Review
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