It’s that time of year again. It’s time for some spooky scary skeletons. Well, it’s time for some horror. This year, a small developer sends me a mail inviting me to look at Stygian. It’s a short horror game just in time for the spooky season. Today, I’m going to take a look at it and talk about my own opinions on it. It’s free on Itch.io, but the developer accepts donations if you want to see more from them. In any case, in this review I’m taking a look at v1.01. I also have to give a content warning. Since this is a horror game, there will be some scenes that can trigger certain people especially when you aren’t good with anything related to gore and/or death. So, with that said, let’s dive right into this game quicky and let’s see what this game has to offer. But, one thing before that. I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.
Editorial note: this is a rather short game, so I only took screenshots of the first few minutes.
This game takes place in the late 1980s in England. A friend group of girls is doing a creepy sleepover at an abounded church. You play as Katherine, a young girl who arrives a bit late from work but is right in time to hear the creepy backstory. But, when Katherine goes back to her bike to pick up her sleeping bag and enters the church again… Things go horribly wrong.
The voice acting in this game is rather charming. The line delivery is a bit off from time to time but overall, solid performance of the voice actors.
Since this game is rather short by design, I’m not going to go more in depth about the story. Otherwise, I might spoil the experience and the story is best experienced as blind as possible.
Overall, the camera system works pretty well. I adore the Resident Evil – early Fatal Frame static camera shots at weird angles. It really takes you back to the early style of gameplay on the PlayStation and early PS2. Sadly, there are a few instances where the camera angles are a bit janky. For example, in one room you can walk through a door with some draped cloth over it. But, the camera switches a bit too soon, making it a pain when you missed entering the door and trying to get out of the corner, so you can attempt back going into the door. Thankfully, these issues happen far and few between.
Now, this game is a complete throwback since this game also sports some early PS1 3D visuals. This visual style can be a turn off for some people but not for me. I adore the visual style of this game. It fits the story and atmosphere like a glove in my eyes. There are a few minor things I’d have tweaked like making it a bit more clear who is talking, but more on that later.
And the throwback continues with the controls. Do we get tank controls? Yes sir, we do! And I love it. It takes me back when I was playing games like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame and Resident Evil on my PlayStation 1 & 2. Now, sadly this game doesn’t know that other keyboard lay-outs like AZERTY exist… or do they? Since the arrow keys also move. I quickly got used to the controls, and I was able to explore this game pretty fast.
Running around in this creepy church, reading various clues and discovering what really happened is a blast. The game gives you small sparkling hints to most objects you can interact with. So, this is no game of mashing the use key while going over every area to find one or two items.
The music in this game is great. While playing this game, the music reminded me a lot of Silent Hill. The more quote unquote strange ambiance sounds that strange form a melody that’s interesting to listen too but also puts you on edge. This is helped by the silent moments and the excellent sound design with the sound effects to make the game even more creepy.
Something else I want to mention is that this game is available for Windows & MAC. So, if you are a MAC user… You can also play this game.
There are certain things that this game lacks that make this game a small chore to play. And these are small things that can help make the game more enjoyable to play.
Let me get the biggest problem out of the way first. You can’t skip dialogue at all. Now why is this an issue? Well, in one playthrough I got the wrong ending. Without any game over screen, I got booted back to the main menu. I thought that was it, but then I decided to play through it again, and I found another route and got to experience more. But, that isn’t communicated well enough.
And the opening dialogue is runs on for a bit. But the intro cutscene has a few shots too many and that can’t be skipped either. Other horror games like the Zero Escape series did this a lot better. There you can skip through dialogue you already experienced, and it automatically stops when you encounter new dialogue.
There is something about the visuals I want to mention. The animation in certain cutscenes is a bit lacking. For example, in the opening cutscene, I thought I did something wrong since we see the same scene of Katherine riding her bike twice. It’s a bit confusing and pads out the opening scene too much. But a better example is when we get to meet the other characters for the first time. We are sitting in a circle, and they start talking. Yet, it’s not too clear who is who. A bit later this is better since you can speak to the girls one by one but still, this shouldn’t have been an issue. Just a bit more character animation when somebody is talking would go a long way. It’d also give some scenes a bit more pazzaz, if you understand what I mean.
The final negative I want to mention is that the screen to toggle full screen on and off only works in certain places. Do yourself a favor and toggle full screen on at the main menu. The keybind is F.
This game is an amazing indie game to play at Halloween night. It’s a charming throwback to the early PS1 games that might make you nostalgic to that area.
While this game is a bit rough especially when it’s missing some more modern innovations like skipable text/cutscenes or even a sort of save system, I was able to put those negatives to the side and enjoy my time.
This game isn’t for everyone, especially since some people can be turned off by the visual presentation and/or the control scheme of this game. But I think this game is developed for that niche audience that loves old school horror games and want to experience something like that again.
I think it’s clear if I recommend this game or not. Even with its shortcomings, that might be fixed or improved upon in a patch, this game an enjoyable horror story to play through. It’s charming, and I feel that it’s clearly a passion project done right.
Ant that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. A short article about a short game. I hope you enjoy playing this game and also enjoyed reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Likewise, I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.