Spooktober 2018 Entry #2 // Previous Entry: Darkest Dungeon // Next Entry: The Long Reach
I mentioned yesterday how Darkest Dungeon was pushing a new form of horror.
I do mean it, as indie developers have a better understanding of what people are spooked by, generally due to not being a committee. “Too many cooks” is the expression, but sometimes a return to the old-school is fine, and can be necessary due to people wanting to innovate all the time. Yeah, a revolutionary mix of caviar and champagne might sound like the new deal, but a pack of Walkers Crisps might do the trick. This metaphor isn’t going anywhere, let’s talk about Rise of Insanity.
This is the sophomore title from developers Red Limb Studio, who have been focusing primarily on VR experiences, with their debut title The Purge Day showing that they still needed to work out the kinks. I haven’t played it, but the reviews range from mild interest to annoyed contempt. Rise of Insanity has etchings of The Purge Day prominent in it, however, and when speaking to the developer about what type of horror game Rise would be, I was told it was “spook”. Fair enough.
You play as Dr. Stephen Dowell, bad voice actor by day, but a psychologist for Saint Jonah Hospital by night. He’s investigating the case of Edward, 41, who’s been having horrible dreams of murdering his family, but Edward, 41, is a bachelor with no family of his own. The plot begins to thicken and the reality around Stephen begins to unravel.
A quick disclaimer before we continue: I watched a Let’s Play of Rise of Insanity before playing it. Not to spoil everything for myself, as we’ll get to that later, but also because I absolutely despise cheap jumpscares. Going back to the Walkers Crisps metaphor, jumpscares are like a green crisp which you throw away, and as tasty as those crisps might be, it’s that wasted green crisp that ruins the experience. That’s one wasted crisp you could’ve experienced if it was made with fresh ingredients, damnit.
You know, I wanted to start off the critique with something nice, but I realised I didn’t have anything nice to say. The blueprint of Rise of Insanity is so poorly designed that you could knock it over by sneezing in a different country. One dash of Outlast, one dash of Silent Hill, a sprinkling of SOMA‘s crap level design, and two heavy doses of Layers of Fear and its awful storytelling. We’ll get to the storytelling in a minute though, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Are there jumpscares in Rise of Insanity? Yes, way too many predictable ones, and Red Limb have executed them in a truly pathetic manner. In some cases, they’ll lock you in place so you have nothing to do but stare at the scary face and loud noise. However, they’ve also edited the sound mixing, meaning that the dialogue is insanely quiet, so when you go to turn it up, you’re privy to loud jumpscares. It’s such a miserable trick that made me hate the game for the first hour… or rather, the only hour.
Gameplay is Layers of Fear. No, seriously, it’s just Layers of Fear, albeit with a smaller budget and a shorter running time. You walk around nice households, and occasionally the environment melts, or explodes, or something arbitrary happens. There are sections where you play as a bird navigating through a blood-red landscape, because… umm… well, I uhh… Birds?
The visual design in Rise is unbelievably drab. It’s like all of the rooms from Alone in The Dark (2008), but with a coat of gloss painted over them, and they’re not on fire. Walking through these nice, if boring environments takes a toll on the mind, and not in the way Red Limb were intending. Their only idea is to drab the walls in blood or destroy the world, which doesn’t fit in with the story.
There was a music track that was prominent for all of 90 seconds near the beginning of the game that was quite interesting. It’s this violin drone that complimented the tone and visuals quite well, but because the audio mixing is designed for YouTubers to scream at like incessant neets, it gets drowned out by a loud noise and is never heard again. Hmm.
Now I’m not going to jump to the usual joke that this game was made by crazy people, but y’know there has to be a meeting halfway right? That’s a problem that a lot of these walking simulators have when it comes to revealing information to the player: Constant strings of red herrings and false leads, in what I want to coin as “Masquerade for Tosspots”. Christ, they can’t even be considered red herrings, most of the moments in the game have no connections to the overarching plot.
See, this is the problem with making a game that’s one to three hours long, one small niggle can ruin the entire experience. Although in Rise of Insanity’s case, that one small niggle happens right at the beginning with the story. Now if you were playing this without a sense of exploration, the twist that happens at the end might come as a surprise to you. I believe Red Limb have a rather effective twist on their hands, and it would still be effective, if they didn’t reveal the fucking twist right at the beginning.
I’m not even joking, there’s one photo in the drawer to the left once you begin playing that spoils the entire story for you if you have an IQ over 40. This isn’t a God of War (2018) case either, because context is given to the player immediately in Rise, and by “context”, I mean the entire bloody plot! If you’re seriously interested in this game… for some insane reason, then I heartily recommend that you do not open that drawer to the left of the door once you begin playing. I’ll put a screenshot below highlighting it.
Now if you still look in the drawer, you might question my complaint, saying that “Oh! Well that’s not too much of a spoiler!”, but the game really does try to ruin it early, in what they believe is smart storytelling. The Edward, 41, character’s surname is never revealed, there’s radio broadcasts that cut out whenever they reveal the name of the culprit. It’s really, really apparent in what they’re trying to do.
Rise of Insanity isn’t scary, nor is it interesting to play. It’s a bad mish-mash of better games and refuses to generate any new ideas with the formula. It’s such a boring, unbelievably expensive waste of time with absolutely no staying power, despite being in a genre that generates flavour-of-the-month titles like I generate excuses not to go outside.
Crap jumpscares, crap storytelling, crap visuals, not a single source of horror outside of said jumpscares, this game is like a vacuum of anything great about horror games. A black hole that sucks out the fear, and turns everything into the most barebones experience imaginable, to the point where Rise of Insanity might just be the worst horror game of 2018. Seriously.
If Rise of Insanity was made four or five years ago, then yeah, it might stand a chance against titles like Daylight, Outlast, Slender, Eyes, and Knock-Knock!, but it’s incredible to see just how stale the formula has gotten. Red Limb came to the races with a horse that was supposed to run in 2012, and they’ve only just realised the poor thing’s only got three legs.
In the end, the nicest thing that can be said about Rise of Insanity is that they tried. There is nothing new, nothing groundbreaking, not a single mechanic executed in the right way. It’s “Making Your First Horror Game For Dummies”, and I’m genuinely surprised that Rise can exist in this day and age. Not even two days into Spooktober and we’ve already got this trash? I’m done.
This review of Rise of Insanity is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
One of the most boring, insipid horror games you'll ever play.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.