“F#%! you, David.”
This is the first thought that explodes into my head as I watch the creaky old door slowly open before me; and it is a refrain that will continue bouncing around my mind for the next hour.
David Jagneaux, for those of you who don’t know, is the Games Editor here at UploadVR. I used to consider him a friend but that was before he assigned me to review this nightmare of a game, a task I was now attempting to complete.
The door fully opens, and the expletives in my mind increase exponentially as the voice of a small child chillingly whispers the name of this waking nightmare directly into my ear: Affected: The Manor.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Affected: The Manor is completely terrifying and will be an absolute blast for fans of thrills, chills, and trouser moistening fright fests. Let’s get another thing straight as well: Affected: The Manor is not really what I would consider a “game.” If we understand those two points, then the rest of this review should go just fine for everybody. Sound good? Okay, let’s go.
After completing my playthrough of Affected: The Manor, I questioned for a moment whether or not I was qualified to review it since I spent probably 80 percent of the time with my eyes closed. This is an exaggeration of course, but I don’t mind telling you that my own eyelids became something of a meta-mechanic to me as I made my way through the titular haunted house: Can I close them in time to avoid destroying my wife’s favorite rug? Talk about twitch gaming.
Affected: The Manor is the scariest mobile VR game I’ve ever played — and before you ask, yes I’ve played Dreadhalls. The two titles are very similar in concept, but a crisp gothic art style, brilliant use of sound, and bundles of creative scares give Affected the edge over Dreadhalls‘ relatively straightforward monster-in-a-maze setup.
The Manor‘s best tactic for inducing fear comes before the experience has even fully loaded. As you’re booting it up in your Gear VR (and repeating whatever bravery mantra helps you most. I personally go with “Batman wouldn’t be scared. Batman wouldn’t be scared…”) you will be treated to a warning screen that contains what I consider to be the most terrifying phrase in VR gaming: “Contains jump scares.”
There are some VR horror titles that pride themselves on being unsettling from a subtle, psychological standpoint and not using the immersive power of the medium to terrify you with sudden and nearby scares. Fallen Planet Studios, however, says, “Screw that, let’s really freak these plebes out!”
Knowing that Affected is capable of going full “Paranormal Activity 3” on you at any moment turns every step in the game into a test of mettle. I won’t be spoiling any of those moments here, but trust me when I say that the studio makes good on its promise.
The “What’s behind that scary door?” or “What’s in that dark corner?” struggle you experience navigating this manor from hell is primarily what makes this title scary, but it’s also what makes it fun. I am absolutely terrified by experiences like this, but that rush is also addictive and leads to a masochistically enjoyable time. Unfortunately, Affected’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.
Affected will certainly scare you but that’s all you’ll really be able to do as you go through this experience: be scared. There aren’t any puzzles of note or any real strategy besides choosing which door to walk through next. This is why I’ve been exclusively referring to this title as an experience, not a game.
I know that not every game requires guns and combat, and yes Firewatch and Gone Home are amazing. Stop yelling at me. But Affected fails to rise above the floor of even an FPX in terms of actual strategy, interactivity, and your overall agency as a player.
The only controls in the game are the button that makes you walk (tapping the touchpad) and your gaze (which triggers events and opens doors). That finger making you move may be trembling from fear as you progress, but it will also be getting a bit worn out from pure repetition.
Gaze triggers are clearly the mechanic of choice employed here by Fallen Planet. You’re aware you’re using it when you open doors, for example, but you’ll also be unwillingly triggering scares as you look around and explore the mansion as well. Looking at a painting, for example, tells the game it’s time for that painting to completely freak out and make you cry in front of your wife (and I already ruined her rug for crying out loud).
All of these terrifying elements boil down to one piece of advice that every person planning to step through that dark door should keep in mind: don’t look behind you. Ever.
Seriously: “F#%! you, David.”
If you want to be terrified or, better yet, you want to terrify a friend while you watch safely from the couch, Affected: The Manor is an excellent choice. It’s use of sound and clever scripting are superb for any VR horror title, mobile or not, and its visuals are another example of just how good a Gear VR title can look. However, its lack of actual gameplay, short playtime, and lack of replayability keep this one from being a truly stand out title.
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