As a big fan of short-form horror experiences, it’s always nice to see ones that stand out a little from the crowd. I’m a huge fan of the usual horror publishers, with Puppet Combo standing out as a particular favourite, but I get more excited when I see someone new on the scene. New blood makes for new experiences, after all.
Needless to say, after seeing 911: Cannibal appear on the eshop for less than four euros, I was intrigued. It was no doubt going to be a relatively brief experience for that price, but is it going to be a good one?
Many thanks to 17Studio for the review code.
(M)EATING NEW PEOPLE
During a freak blizzard, your horny teenage protagonist (aren’t they all?) ends up getting picked up by some dude in a Chevy who offers him a lift. The guy seems pleasant enough, and even offers him a cup of tea to help fight off the cold. Shame it’s laced with drugs that sends him straight to sleep, complete with the fading realisation that he is going to be in for a bad time.
That becomes even more apparent after waking up in the locked cage of a grubby basement. This tea-making tosser has some dinner plans – with a tender meaty main course!
After a poorly translated opening blurb, you take control of the boy inside his cage. The situation seems hopeless at first as your cage contains nothing of use, but there’s something just outside of reach that will prove to be your lifeline. With the cage open, all that’s left is for you to find a way out of the house alive.
There’s very little to the story outside of that initial setup, particularly as the only objective and thus the end of the story is escaping the house; however, the simplicity is also to the game’s benefit as it leaves you with a very clear idea of what you need to be doing. The simplicity also extends to the game’s presentation, which offers that low poly look of the late 90s that doesn’t look all that fancy, but still has its own charm.
As a teenager, you’re obviously not much match against your cannibal captor; but, on the flip side, he’s busy preparing lunch so will only be distracted by any particularly loud noises that you make. It’s actually a far more lenient system than you would expect from a game like this, and feels far more realistic as a result. Simply walking too fast or opening doors won’t alert him, but setting off an alarm or noisy steam valve will.
As your objective implies, the game acts as an escape room style title of sorts, with you acquiring items and solving basic puzzles in order to find a way out of the room, then the basement, and finally the house. Items, and even some puzzles, are randomised with each playthrough thus preventing you from simply memorising the solutions on subsequent playthroughs. Those rubber gloves you found lying around on a shelf? Maybe next time they’re strapped to the bottom of a table instead. It’s a nice way to keep the game feeling fresh during those early moments where you’ll inevitably die until you learn what you need to do to survive.
Should you alert your captor, he’ll come down to investigate what’s up. Obviously, if he sees you wandering about then he’ll kill you on the spot. If he sees you missing, he’ll come hunting for you. Heck, even if he sees you in your cage with the padlock fastened, he’ll still kill you should he notice any signs that you’ve managed to wander outside of your cell. If you want to survive, you’ll need to put everything back how you found it – it’s a really nice gimmick, and I enjoyed covering up my tracks to ensure that I could make a safe retreat should I need to.
The puzzles themselves are mostly pretty decent, even if a lot of them are quite simple. The randomisation really helps to make them more entertaining, with items normally found later even having a chance of turning up right at the start. There was only ever one puzzle that I didn’t care much for, and that involved a puzzle box that turned out to be entirely optional. It does lead you towards some extra lore and guide you towards the best rating at the end, but absolutely is not worth doing more than once.
All in all, a successful playthrough will probably end up taking around ten minutes to get through, although this will be extended by multiple failed attempts as you work out what to do and where to go. Given that getting caught results in failure and a complete restart, the minimal progress loss makes you want to go in for another shot at hopefully escaping the house. It was a good design choice given the premise of the game, and one that is further complemented by the very cheap price point.
911: Cannibal isn’t going to blow the world of short-form horror away, but it still offers a great compact horror escape experience for a really cheap price. The severe price of failure may annoy some, but the brief length makes it far less of a hassle than you’d expect.