If, like me, you were an avid reader when you were younger then you’ll probably remember R.L Stine’s horror series Goosebumps, a collection of weird and spooky tales with some scarring the minds of its fans (I’m looking at you Night Of The Living Dummy) and some just coming across as a bit absurd (It Came From Beneath The Sink anyone?).
If you are one of the millions of folk who read and enjoyed these books then you’ll likely be aware of the Choose Your Own Adventure spin off series, something that I found both entertaining and frustrating in equal measure. One wrong move would result in the death of the protagonist and if you were a bad loser like me, you’d “pretend” you didn’t mean to choose that option and turned to the previous page, even though no one was watching.
Unfortunately PlayStation exclusive title Until Dawn doesn’t allow you to do such a thing. The game follows 8 teenagers meeting up to reminisce and celebrate(?) the lives of one of the character’s sisters who both died the year before. So far, so good you’re probably thinking to yourself. Until you find out that they’re all meeting up in a secluded cabin, miles and miles away from the outside world and can only be reached by cable car which, if you’ve watched any horror movie ever, you’ll know have a bad track record of conveniently not working when you want them. Of course nothing bad at all could happen.
Before you call this off as being a highly clichéd mess of a game, it seems like the perfect time to explain that mess of a intro I gave to give myself some justification to be nostalgic. The game uses a mechanic known as the Butterfly Effect (apologies if you’re triggered by the awful Ashton Kutcher film) which, to put chaos theory short and simple, means that every decision you make will drastically change the game.
Didn’t press quickly enough while running away from a masked villain? Hope you like a face full of snow and didn’t grow too attached to any of your limbs. Arms start shaking while the game gives you a prompt not to move? Best say your final goodbyes to the character you’re playing as.
Whether or not saying goodbye to said character will be sad is down to how you like the cast. Naming and describing all the characters would both be a waste of time and unnecessary as most of the fun is finding out how they all act with one another and all their dirty little secrets. Not all of them are likeable but what can be said is that they’re all very memorable. My personal favourite was probably Mike as he brought a lot of the comedic relief and had a lot of the better scenes, playing almost like Nathan Drake from the Uncharted Series.
Unfortunately, just like the story itself, the characters are all cliches themselves. There’s the shy and geeky girl, the outspoken popular girl, the jock, you could probably guess them all long before the game boots up. However this doesn’t work against the game as it has a long enough running time to make some great character development and most of my prejudices were proven wrong. Although there was some characters I down right detested, the game gave me the chance to get rid of them if I wanted to but it was very smart about this and made a serious effort to make me like them.
This was all thanks to the scenes between you and a shrink who asks you questions in-between the chapters of the game before you’re giving a little run-down of what happened. The questions will range from “what are you most scared of?” to “what character do you hate the most?”. This approach definitely made the game feel a lot more personal and scary as I foolishly said I hated gore and a few minutes later, my character found the corpse of a pig. David Cameron would be having all his Christmases at once if he was there.
Although I said the story was clichéd, there was some very good pacing, never feeling too sluggish and constantly keeping me entertained. As well as this it kept me constantly guessing with some great plot twists as well as some in game lore that you could totally miss out on if you don’t pick up the clues and other collectibles scattered around the place.
It’s more difficult than ever to find a decent horror film that isn’t plagued by jump scares and awful story-writing. Thankfully Until Dawn has perfectly filled the horror hole in my heart that cinema has failed to do so, bringing a great story that gets a bit weaker in the second half and an amazing atmosphere that ultimately makes you more scared than any half assed jump scare. I’d definitely recommend picking this game up if you haven’t watched the countless letsplays that are all over YouTube.
So what are your thoughts on Until Dawn? Have you played it yet or are you gonna leave it? What was your favourite moment? Leave your thoughts in the comments below since I’d love to see what you thought of it. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @blinkclyro for some more fanboying.