There are two types of horror games in this world. There are the ones that make the hairs on your neck stand up on end, make you check every cupboard in the house before going to bed after a game session and mix scare tactics, human despair and philological trauma into a neat package. Then on the other side, there are those games that make you laugh unintentionally, use every horror cliché in the world and almost bore you to death instead of scaring you into an early grave.
Where does Wick fit into this? Well it’s somewhere between the two camps.
Wick’s premise is a neat one. It involves you and a bunch of teenage friends going to the woods and trying to invoke an urban legend involving ghosts and dead kids. You are blindfolded and left to fend for yourself in the creepy woods, with only a candle and a small number of matches to keep the light alive. The game starts at midnight and the goal is for you to survive until dawn. After each hour (which is around 10 to 12 minutes of game time) the game saves itself and you get to progress a bit closer to daylight.
It plays like a first person exploration game; you can move and pick up objects, light a candle and run like mad if chased. The woods you’re moving around in are covered in mist and darkness. There are key areas that appear again and again like a covered up well, broken bridge and abandoned school bus, but their locations are murky at best. The idea of the game is to confuse and disorientate you in order to give you the best scares.
If you see a flash of white in the darkness, this indicates another candle for you to replenish your light. You’ll need to get there fast before your matches run out and before the candle burns away to a stub. If the light does go out, the ghostly children come out to play and will very quickly kill you.
There is one main boss ghost per level/hour during the night. These ghosts have different skills and you retreat from them in many different ways. The main way is that when you hear them coming, you run until they get bored or you just escape. You only just need to survive the hour and that’s all that is expected of you. You can also pick up clues and objects along the way that give you more narrative information about the urban legends and the ghosts in the woods.
But how does this all play out?
Well, Wick can be put neatly alongside recent horror experiences like Slenderman. I hate comparing one game with another, but this one really feels heavily influenced around that game’s formula. The actual scares here are good with flashes of ghosts appearing for a moment then disappearing, but when you see the spirit itself chasing you for longer than a moment, it loses some of it’s impact.
The reason being is that the actual kid’s ghosts aren’t that frightening, moving towards the cliché horror area and quickly become quite cartoony. What worked well with Slenderman was that you weren’t quite sure of what you are seeing in the darkness. Was it a tree? Is it moving? Oh my god it’s closer now. HELP! With Wick it doesn’t have that mysterious element, and as it becomes clear what it is chasing you, it becomes less scary.
The game also becomes tiresome very quickly, mostly due to two reasons. One is going from candle to candle – you see, as they are randomly generated this can get annoying as sometimes you will have three candles next to each other, so straight away it hinders you as there is not enough distance to escape. And secondly, it’s with the running away when you see a ghost or spirit, something that annoys rather than bringing panic. Sometimes you don’t get a chance to run as the ghost teleports right next to you and you end up dead without even a chance to escape. Because the gameplay doesn’t feel like you’re using any skill at all, when you complete a section everything just feels random and lucky.
There are a number of objects for you to find in each level which then open up bits of voiceover, extra narrative and achievements. These are interesting and well worth finding to break up the gameplay, but I just wish these sections were leading the action.
The presentation and style of Wick is pleasing in its atmospheric tricks, and the style and tone it imposes. It is however when you examine everything a bit closer where you can see the cracks. Visually it all looks a bit dated, and the audio comes down to a mixture of voiceovers – which actually does the job well enough without bringing anything fresh to the genre. The actual effects and score are really good and do 90% of the ‘scare the pants off you’ work.
Overall, Wick is a game that isn’t bad to play, but it isn’t overly brilliant to play either. It delivers a horror experience with some nice jump scares and brilliant sound effects, but the gameplay lets the experience down; becoming frustrating and boring rather too quickly.
The best way to experience Wick though is to turn down the lights, ramp up the sound and get a couple of people over to scream long into the night.