Back in 2021, Puppet Combo published their first title on the Switch: Murder House. A fantastic little horror game that had you exploring a house under threat of death from a murderous Easter Bunny. I really clicked with the game, but I criticized the default third person control mode as the tank controls just felt slightly off. Thankfully, the first person mode worked a treat and made the game more enjoyable as a result.
Cannibal Abduction, developed by Tomás Esconjaureguy and published by Puppet Combo, feels very similar to Murder House in many ways. You’re trapped in a house solving basic puzzles as a sole killer hunts you down, and this game also defaults to a third person control scheme – although with no other alternative to choose from.
Is this another great horror game to feast upon?
Many thanks to Puppet Combo for the review code.
Henry has planned a weekend getaway from his parents, but a spanner gets thrown into the works as he breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, a friendly local known as ‘Uncle Bob’ passes by and gives him a hand. After seeing a toolbox in the car, Uncle Bob finds out that Henry is the son of a carpenter and suggests that Henry could fix his broken wardrobe while he is busy repairing his motor. Sounds like a pretty reasonable way to pay a stranger back for their help.
Unfortunately Uncle Bob isn’t quite as friendly as he first appears. As Henry is busy hammering away, Bob locks the door and seals you in. Breaking out isn’t all that hard to do due to Henry’s ability to lockpick with a bobby pin, but leaving his room makes him realise the depth of his situation: he’s completely sealed inside the house, and there’s someone hungry who wants a taste of his meat.
It’s a premise inspired by many classic horror films, particularly The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the killers sharing the same bag-faced fashion style. There’s not a huge amount of extra plot beyond that initial premise, but there are still notes dotted around to help give you some extra depth on the family’s history.
As with most of Puppet Combo published titles, the game features the same PS1 style visuals with a VHS overlay that you’d come to expect at this point. It’s still as effective as always, and there’s an impressive level of detail to the house too that help make it feel lived in – even if it is by psychopathic cannibals. The main hallway is a particularly standout with its draping flags, and occasional blood splatter that help provide you with what you need to know about this place that you’re stuck in.
The VHS overlay isn’t for show either, as that makes up the game’s HUD. Like with Nun Massacre, the static will start going haywire as the killer approaches, and will settle down a bit when things are relatively safe.. It’s a solid enough system, even if it’s intentionally vague. The main problem with this approach is due to how narrow the passageways are and enclosed the house is; unlike Nun Massacre where you could take another path, you’re far more limited here as to how you can traverse from A to B. It’s not necessarily a huge issue as it does feel like a real house, but when the static goes wild there’s often nothing much more you can do other than keep pushing forward.
The game doesn’t play all that differently to most of Puppet Combo’s titles, so any fans of the publisher will already have a fair idea of what to expect. The ultimate goal is to escape, but to do so you’ll have to solve various survival horror style puzzles to allow you to progress. Locked doors will require keys (or bobby pins to pick the locks), and a limited inventory space and save points will force you to backtrack to certain locations – thus increasing your odds of getting caught.
The titular killer will wander the house randomly and can turn up when you least expect it. Annoyingly he has a habit of appearing as you open the door to a room, making it a bit of a pain getting away using the game’s awkward tank controls since you’ll need to rotate on the spot and run away whilst he’s inches away from your face. He’s pretty slow, which gives you a good chance to get away and find a hiding spot, but the controls will mean you’ll be bumping into doorways quite frequently as you attempt to escape.
And that leads me to my biggest issue with the game. The tank controls just feel off. As someone who grew up on Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Deep Fear, and the like, tank controls are my bread and butter. However, they just feel unwieldly here. I can’t put my finger on whether its the characters turn speed or how the controls work in relation to the static camera changes, but I never really got used to it. I checked on reviews for the PC version, and nobody seemed to mention this issue, so it may very well be to do with the transition to consoles.
And it’s a shame too as the game does quite a lot right. There’s a lot of neat little mechanics here that make the game stand apart a little from all the other PS1 style horror games, but the awkward controls made me enjoy this a lot less than others I’ve played. Circling back to the start I mentioned that Murder House had a similar issue (although those weren’t quite as bad as Cannibal Abduction), but it was ultimately saved by the ability to switch to first person. I feel like having that option here would also have worked wonders, as in the game’s present state its honestly quite hard to recommend.
It’s also worth noting that the game comes bundled with the developer’s previous title: The Night of the Scissors. Set in an abandoned post office, Adam goes in for some looting but finds himself face to face with The Snipper. Will he be able to make it out alive? As an even more bite-sized experience, this one offers a more unique storyline but a rather duller environment. There’s nowhere near as much detail as the redneck house, and it’s incredibly dark to boot. Finding my way around was a bit of a nightmare between the darkness and the equally fiddly controls, leaving me to feel a little underwhelmed by the overall experience. It’s good as an added bonus, just don’t expect too much from it.
Cannibal Abduction has some really neat ideas, but is ultimately let down by wonky tank controls that never feel right. I wanted to like the game so much, and there is a whole lot here to like, but I was fighting frustration my entire time with it.