Stifled is a horror virtual reality (VR) experience that not only uses fear of the unknown to scare the player, but also attempts to use the player’s own fear against them. I got to try out the game at the very recent PAX Australia and honestly, I still have mixed feeling about what I played.
The game is being developed by Gattai Games and published by Sony for their PSVR console. The demo I got to experience threw me into a world of sensory deprivation where you could only see via echolocation, and even then the detail is limited to black and white outlines. To big horror game fans this premise may sound very familiar to another game, Perception, which I reviewed back in May of this year. And I still remember thinking how Perception’s premise would have worked better in a VR setting. Safe to say Stifled had me a little bit excited.
What Stifled does that makes it quite unique is that it also allows for vocal input. Shouting or making noise creates a ripple of sound that allows you to see around you. There are in-game ways to make noise as well, so no need to feel embarrassed while playing if you don’t want to. The kicker is that noise also draws in foes, which creates a battle between seeing and surviving. It also means that if the game can scare you enough, it may make you scream or squeal and make things a whole lot worse. Well, that’s the idea anyway.
Unfortunately the PAX showroom floor isn’t the best scenario to try out this mechanic. Noise was all around me and my own vocal inputs amounted to a mere drop of water in the loud and lively Ocean that is PAX. Although despite all of this noise, I still didn’t get caught or killed by any monster. I don’t know if it was simply a safe section of game the demo took place in, or if the noise sensitivity was deliberately adjusted for an expo environment, but I never felt like I was battling to survive. What’s worse is I never felt scared either.
“stifling a scream because you can’t let the game know you are scared sounds like one of the most horrifying yet thrilling experiences possible”
That’s the unfortunate part of Stifled’s premise. While the idea of echolocation and balancing vision with safety is interesting, in actuality it can be a very difficult thing to pull off. The idea of stifling a scream because you can’t let the game know you are scared sounds like one of the most horrifying yet thrilling experiences possible. But Stifled didn’t even come close.
Perhaps if it were played in a different environment or played by someone more susceptible to horror then the game’s ideas would have landed. But for me they unfortunately didn’t.
Stifled is set to release onto PlayStation 4 and PSVR October 31st (Halloween) this year. For more information head to the official website.