I have to say that I love DreadXP. They only started publishing for the Nintendo Switch recently, but have already delivered some great and varied short-form horror. There’s a Lovecraftian visual novel, a Warioware / Paper Mario hybrid starring skeletons, a submarine adventure, a corpse preparation simulator, and more. Their horror theme and short length are the only real common denominators, with each offering their own thing. They’re also all really good, too.
Amanda the Adventurer is the next of their games to drop, and needless to say I was pretty excited for it. It’s a hard game to review due it relying mainly on surprise, so I’ll be as spoiler free as I possibly can.
CAN I SHARE A SECRET WITH YOU?
After inheriting her late aunt’s house, Riley finds a mysterious letter in the attic requesting that she she investigates the VHS tapes there. Despite the attic being largely full of seemingly discarded objects, an old CRT and a single VHS tape labelled ‘In The Kitchen’ ominously waits on a table begging you to investigate.
Upon loading it up, you’re greeted with a kids show called ‘Amanda the Adventurer’ starring the titular girl, and her sheepish friend Wooly (he’s quite literally a talking sheep). It’s a low budget but innocent affair for the most part, but it somehow just seems a little off. Amanda seems to have a careless disregard for child safety, but she also seems to respond to your answers as if she’s directly speaking to you.
After the tape forces you to sit through it until the conclusion, you soon find that the room has slightly changed in the meantime. Behind you now sits an oven, seemingly wanting to test how much you were paying attention to Amanda’s cookery class. Upon solving the puzzle, you’ll be rewarded with another episode of Amanda to watch and the gameplay loop continues. It’s a puzzle game at heart and all the answers are located within the tape. Each episode gets progressively more sinister in tone, with the final one being especially child-unfriendly as you start to realise what likely happened to your aunt.
The game’s first playthrough is honestly a bit of a disappointment as there are only a handful of VHS tapes to watch before the game reaches its initial ending. It’s not helped by the puzzles being largely rather straightforward once you realise what it is you need to do. Sure, you may need to re-watch a tape to remind yourself of forgotten information, but the clues are so obvious that the Switch’s screenshot button will probably help you gather everything you need the first time around. Worst of all though is just how abruptly the game ends, leaving you with a rather underwhelming feeling as you find yourself back to the main menu again. In fact, I felt so deflated after that first short playthrough that I almost shut the game off and uninstalled it.
… but then I decided to continue playing. Towards the end, I’d discovered a clue hinting at something new to uncover and I was curious as to what pulling that thread would produce. Little did I know how deep that rabbit hole went. The more I delved into the heart of the game’s mystery, the more threads I found I could pull at. There were new tapes, new versions of older tapes, coded messages, and even a pause button for the VHS player. What started as a straightforward game that I could just coast through with the minimum of attention quickly had me looking and listening to everything, just in case I could make use of it. It almost felt like an escape room adventure, with puzzles requiring you to think a little bit more outside the box as you start to interact with other things in the attic around you.
With eight VHS tapes, five additional coloured secret tapes, and five endings, Amanda the Adventurer has a lot to uncover for those intrigued by its mystery. It’s such a shame that the core storyline will probably turn many people off before they even get that far, as it almost did with me. Adding a little more content, challenge, and intrigue during the early-game would have done wonders for helping to keep people invested.
Amanda the Adventurer really does reward you for putting in the effort to delve into its intriguing mystery. Whilst things start out a bit too simple, the challenge comes from finding everything that the game has to offer. Whilst mascot horror may not necessarily be for all horror aficionados, this is definitely one to check out.