As I sit here with my food looking at the opening screen of this game, I wonder why I am doing this. I never (ever) play horror games and when I do I am the worlds biggest baby. Immersion is easy for me to achieve, so I scare easily even in “bad” games that are not really scary. Today is a different day. I will finish my chicken and green beans and take this monster head on. I will try not to cry (unsuccessfully), I will not scream (unsuccessfully), nor will I whine about playing more (unsuccessfully). Today I will be a man!!! (unsuccessfully)
Inmates is a psychological horror game based in a prison, Developed by Davit Andreasyan and published by Iceberg Interactive. You’ve awoken from a nightmare, Jonathan, but did it truly end? You are in a run-down prison cell and have no clue how you got there. You’re terrified and confused, but you also feel something else: a painful sense of familiarity.
At least, this is what the game intends to do. With the janky way it pulls you out of your movement every time the ground shakes or an animation occurs, it pulls me out of the immersion when I have to click just to continue moving again. The music is good until it hits the point where it loops back to the beginning and goes silent for periods of time at random. The other sounds are well made and keep you in the game when the music fails. Another thing that is bothering me about this game, however, it never seems to pull into focus. I don’t know if that’s part of the design, but it makes your head hurt after a while because your eyes try to adjust.
This game starts off well. It kicks off with your standard horror character (cant run, jump, or do anything really useful other than convert oxygen to carbon dioxide and walk in the slowest fashion). The gameplay is slow and blurry, your character can never focus on anything visually. This makes it hard to see what is going on and read the small print that can be scattered around the game. This blurry feature could be a good thing, but I can’t stand playing a game that gives me a headache. Whenever something of “interest” appears your head snaps toward it like lightning with no pan animation or anything to let you know that you moved other than your character saying “looks like something useful”. I got discombobulated so many times because of this feature.
When enemies are introduced it’s hard to want to run away from them because you cant escape them. This makes it hard to have hope, which is a big part when it comes to getting scared. There has to be hope of escape for you to fear what comes next. The “mindbending” puzzles that this game gloats about are not hard. The only trouble I had was the first puzzle. Granted there was a bit of a learning curve involved, but the rest were pretty simple and easy. This game after the first 30 minutes becomes more of a walking simulator that has jumpscares every now and then. I know this was a one-person developer game and all, but this game actually became a little boring in the middle. After walking back and forth across this prison with no real threat of enemies being around the corner or anywhere for that matter. All I could do was get scared by the ambient noise that left something to be desired after the first few minutes.
The story of this game is great. Waking up in a prison, you spend the majority of it walking around gathering clues that don’t really help you in your endeavor and finally get hit with a sensory overload in the last hour of this game. The story development really doesn’t start until the very end. You get a little character development here and there, but nothing really keeps you thinking until you get to the last part of the story. This game could have been fantastic if it gave the story more time to develop and spread it out throughout the game. The story could have been a great head spinner, but when you get almost all of it in one sitting with almost no context it becomes more of a head jumbler then mind bender. There was something else I couldn’t make sense of either. There are bible scriptures all around the prison, with heavenly and satanic imagery in different parts of the prison. I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt and say that this is one of the “characters” that is doing this which leads up to a certain plot point later in the game.
The tracks are not bad, but they end very abruptly and it kicks you out of the experience. Then all the sound loops start over by cutting instantly and starting from the beginning. This would throw you off at first and make you think something was about to happen. Nothing ever happened and I eventually stopped caring when it cut off. This could have been a feature that was great if it added to the experience whenever the music cut. There was no payoff at the end, no enemies or anything that made you jump, just nothing. The scary sounds, though, are good and make you jump even without seeing what it is that cues it.
All in all the game is not bad. It is made by one man and any aspect of a game is hard to cover by yourself. Davit does a good job as a one-man developer. This game could have been a great game if the story was spread throughout the game longer, the ambient noise didn’t cut off randomly, the biblical messages had context to the story, your character could actually run and jump like a human, and if there was actually any danger throughout most of the game. I give this game a 6.5 out of 10 because it has potential but fails to deliver this potential in a good way. I love the idea of this game, it just needs fine tuning to become the game I know it could be.