I have a certain fondness for indie titles that do things a bit different. Games that take the risk to experiment with new ideas have a certain charm to them that allow for a certain degree of leniency when judging them. When combined with a budget price tag, such titles can offer a surprising burst of fun that makes them memorable experiences regardless.
The Creepy Syndrome is one such title.
The game opens up with you sat in front of a psychiatrist. He’s rather calm gent, who tells you about the need to focus and also reminds you that you are in control of the therapy session. He’s not wrong either, as this opener nicely leads into the menu screen where you can tweak the game settings and select which of the four available games you wish to play.
You see, his session involves analysing you as you navigate through the different videogames on offer. They’re all low-bit, but offer very different styles of gameplay. There’s first person dungeon crawling, third person adventuring, and so on. It’s an interesting approach to gameplay, even if the mini stories contained within have very little connection to the overarching story.
Despite each game in the anthology taking only between 5 minutes and 20 minutes to beat, they’re still unique enough to worth treating in their own right rather than reviewing the game as a whole. As such, I’ll be treating this game as I do with collections and looking at each one separately. As mentioned previously, even the stories are pretty much unconnected with the eventual ‘payoff’ being so underwhelmingly bad that it’s a far better idea to just focus on the entries on their own merits instead.
Many thanks to JanduSoft for the review code.
A WATCHFUL GAZE
The first game presents itself as a first person dungeon crawler, except you’re only crawling through a single seemingly never-ending corridor. Along the way you’ll encounter various puzzles to solve and pick up notes regarding a family that seems familiar to you, yet you’re unable to recall.
Whilst the story is pretty minimal, and also pretty predictable, it works well enough given the format of the game. The real meat will be the puzzles you solve and the action sequence that ties everything off at the end. None of it is particularly tough (but then this is the first game), but the simplicity of the everything is quite charming. I grew especially fond of the visual style, whose pixels you can count on one hand, that works surprisingly well at giving you the impression that you’re continually venturing forward into the unknown.
LORD OF THE ROAD
The next title really throws you off-kilter by just how unlike the previous game it is. Gone is the first person perspective, replaced by a simple sprite in a very basic world. There’s far more freedom here than before, with a small little world for you to explore as you solve rather rudimentary adventure puzzles in order to progress the story.
Gameplay-wise, there’s not strictly too much here as you go between obtaining basic key items and a couple of minigame segments; however the superb pacing between the story elements and the puzzles makes it feel like there is. There’s rarely a dull moment, with only one small misstep towards the end that doesn’t make it quite clear that you shouldn’t be entering an unwinnable situation. Saving is very lenient, so any failure results in negligible loss thus allowing you to very easily see the end of this story.
And the story! Whilst all the tales in the collection are creepy, this one has straight-out horror vibes that hit so hard. Right from the opening as soon as you leave your car and head into the woods, the atmosphere is spot on. Shapes briefly appearing and disappearing, mysterious texts, mutilated corpses. It’s so well done, and the story feels the most cohesive of the four as the ending ties off everything else quite nicely.
This game ended up being my pick of the bunch, and would love the developers to expand this style into a full experience!
THE RED BUTTON
Sticking with the adventure mode format, the next title is pretty much a straight-up point and click adventure set in first person. Tasked with taking charge of the red button, the game is centred around doing all the necessary steps leading up to that final world-ending press. Naturally things go wrong along the way, meaning it’s more than just the simple press of a button as you deal with all the issues that so happen to crop up at this very inconvenient time.
With three options to choose from – observe, interact, and use – the gameplay is relatively straightforward to get to grips with, if a little clunky. Selecting items must be done with the Y button rather than just straight up clicking them, resulting in some moments that felt just a tad faffier than they probably should be. There’s also the reliance on overly specific solutions too, including the need for a pencil and paper to be combined and used with the phone just so you can take notes. It feels a little counter intuitive, but the smaller scale of the game means that you’ll probably work it out sooner or later.
Regardless of these gameplay hiccups I had, it’s quite an endearing game that doesn’t really do a great deal with either the gameplay or the narrative, but is still fun regardless.
With three fun little experiences preceding it, I went into the last one with a great deal of enthusiasm – especially as it boasted a far more detailed visual style than the ones that came before. Unfortunately Nocturne just ended up feeling a little bit half baked. It may look like the most polished game of the anthology, but both the gameplay and overall story ended up feeling a little rushed and and let down the rest of the package.
The story starts out with a young girl chatting to her mother over the computer, and then deciding to invoke a ritual to ensure that her mother stays by her side every day. It’s a promising set-up that could have been so much more than it is, but unfortunately the game pretty much consists of turning all the lights on, making your wish, and then turning all the lights off again on the way back to bed. There’s a slight twist in the second half that ties into the plot, but very little happens with it and just left me feeling rather unfulfilled.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but it’s a terrible way to end an otherwise strong package since it replaces all the previous fun with a rather underwhelming feeling.
I had no idea what to expect when going into The Creepy Syndrome. However, it’s a rather pleasing set of four tiny games that mostly offer a nice degree of unsettling entertainment. Whilst the final game is a bit of a flop, and the accompanying psychiatry plotline goes nowhere, it’s still a great title for a very cheap price!