Growing up in the early days of PlayStation, I was lucky enough to experience the old styled horror games as they were released. While it all started with Resident Evil for me, my fascination was engulfed once I found the Silent Hill series. The masterpiece that Team Silent put together with the first few games of the franchise shaped my expectations when it comes to classic horror games.
Intricate puzzles that use the full map to complete, story lines that are misguiding and confusing, unknown creatures that are pure polygonal nightmare fuel, and leaving the player in an atmosphere that feels like anything could happen at any moment. This is the classic experience that I enjoyed and when I heard about the indie development team Prymordium working on a game not only inspired by the classic Silent Hill series, but set up to be played like one; I was ready to hear them out. I ended up having an interview with them on the game they were working on and found it is called Simulacrum.
They recently invited a handful of people to test the game out in a closed beta and I was one of those chosen players. The game is planned to be launched on Gamejolt in chapters. After playing this closed beta, which pertained of the entire first chapter, I have to say… Bravo guys. Bravo.
Bringing back the ole tank controls, they took the reinvention of the classic horror games down to the D-pad. The movement is styled and feels as smooth as tank controls can possibly feel, which for some can be an issue. There was only one thing missing when it came to the movement for me, someone who doesn’t have trouble using tank controls after playing through classic games countless times, and that is the ability to quickly turn your character around. You have to slow turn yourself if you need to turn around, but otherwise the controls feels just as they did back in the early 2000’s.
The main focus of the game is making progress by completing puzzles. If you know the answers, it doesn’t take long to get through the first Chapter, but solving these puzzles ended up taking me a few hours. They did an amazing job at bringing back the strange puzzles in a strange atmosphere. These ranged from a few different types of puzzles. My favorite of these puzzles were the ones I have nicknamed the Seeds, the Clocks, and the Repeating Rooms. Very few of the puzzles were easy, so be prepared to be using some brain power on this one and I do strongly suggest taking notes just like we did back in the days of Silent Hill puzzle solving (without the help of the internet).
There are a couple creature encounters in this chapter, but sadly there is no combat system set up just yet. I did talk to the developers about this and they stated,
“This chapter wasn't designed with combat in mind. It was a creative choice and a time-saving one. Before Christopher joined the team I was working on this thing alone - to be a web game that wasn't more than 20mb. So combat was cut because of my lack of modelling and animation skills, to save space and to save development time.
When the plugin that supported that idea was no longer supported the game grew into a standalone game - but by then the thing had already been fully designed and somewhat fully programmed and modeled. And while the systems got refactored there was never time or desire to add combat into this chapter. It didn't feel right to shoe-horn it.
But in the second chapter we are planning... well, maybe you might just find that lead pipe.”
The view itself is how it was in the classic horror games as well. You are given a series of stationary cameras with the occasional one that follows you slightly. The goal is to let you see what you need to see and control the players view which, as classic horror players know, can give you an eerie or uncomfortable sensation on its own. Don’t expect to be able to control the camera angles yourself as you tank your way through the map.
Graphics and Sounds
I don’t usually mention this section on a first impression, but I feel it is worth noting in this case. The entire scenery and art style they chose to go with for Simulacrum is literally on par with the classic Team Silent versions of Silent Hill. They kept the old polygon style with graphics looking like a game that belongs in the 2000’s era, if that, but using it seems incredibly fitting for their overall goal.
The sound effects used for creatures, the silence when nothing dangerous or eerie was around, the sudden music that gradually increases as the creatures appear, and the ambiance noises that you occasionally hear to let you know you aren’t alone. Everything came together to bring the atmosphere together and, combined with the graphics, made it feel like a classic horror title.
Simulacrum is looking like it will be a very solid horror game that brings back classic horror games back to the time when they didn’t know what was coming. The puzzles were pretty intricate in the first chapter and if this game is going to truly be anything like the old games we used to play, it is only going to get harder from here.
I’m interested to see what type of creatures they are going to create for us to fight as the couple that you see in this chapter are both pretty intense. Even the death scene from the creature isn’t what you would expect and caught me off guard the first time I failed. I even found a spot where the camera angle was closer and purposely died just so I could watch the animation up close.
Simulacrum has a very solid start and really gets it off the ground running. The game itself is a simulacrum of the games that inspired the developers to make it. This is the first game to get me feeling like I was playing a new game from the classic Silent Hill series. I would have liked to have had some combat, but at least we know it will be in the future chapters. I can see this game gaining popularity with fans of classic horror looking to scratch their nostalgic itch while experience something new.