Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Indie Horror: Paranormal

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 17, 2014

Paranormal6In a couple of the games I’ve covered (and will be covering) for the Halloween season, I’ve mentioned how the games are often pretty linear. Like it’s a bad thing. And – well, okay, I’m not the biggest fan. But if you want to draw a comparison, Paranormal by Matt Cohen is … well, not exactly a polar opposite, but certainly a different approach to the genre.

Inspired by the Paranormal Activity movies, Paranormal offers a “found footage” style of experience… except that (at least in the main game) you get to control the cameraman. Most of the time. You play an artist who is certain his house is haunted. He has set up cameras in his house, and is wandering around the house late at night with a handheld (“shakeycam”) camera to get evidence. He gets more than he bargained for. And you, the player, get treated to some fun, spooky, creepy, and sometimes deadly events.

There is no save-game – each play-through is short and unique, with different events. Each night, you get up, and walk through the house, looking for… well, proof that the house is haunted, to capture on-camera. Other than walking through the house, opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, and occasionally finding old clues about what happened in the past that precipitated the hauntings. But unlike an adventure game, there’s not really a goal or a series of obstacles to overcome. You simply record the events taking place in the house. You have only a few minutes of power to your camera before you are forced to go back to bed and let the camera’s batteries recharge.

During the night, the static cameras may pick up weird events happening in the house. Again, if you have seen the Paranormal Activity movies, you have some idea of what these might be. It’s not always stuff happening directly on camera – sometimes its strange noises, particularly the sound of footsteps.

Paranormal2Each night is another exploration of the house. Things do escalate a bit over time, but there’s not a strict progression. At first, it’s weird noises or flickering lights, or things moving behind your back. But then the haunts get bolder. Sometimes you are able to react and somewhat interact with what’s going on, but other times you are frozen in place. Sometimes you may be looking in the wrong direction, but you know from audio cues that something scary is happening somewhere nearby. The documents to be discovered are randomized as well, although I don’t know if reading them has any impact on the events that occur afterwards.

The game maintains a pretty creepy flavor throughout, and there are some good scares. It feels lower-intensity to me than some of the others, but that’s perhaps because there’s not really much of an illusion of escape.  You do not leave the house. Your interactivity is limited. You are an explorer only, and the house will eventually win, no matter what you do. But like a roller-coaster, you can just settle in and enjoy the ride.

Paranormal5There’s a second mode – “The Room” – that seems to be based on the little cut-scene-like footage that is shown every time you sleep. A static camera is on during the night, and stuff happens in the room. Honestly, with no characters to be impacted or threatened by it, it’s not really scary – just kind of amusing to see what the ghost does next. It might make a good screensaver.

A third option – for DLC currently in development – is listed but unavailable. Entitled, “The Town,” it looks like the horror gets to spread to other locations. It had a successful kickstarter campaign last year, so we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, if you ever wanted to try out a “haunted house simulator,” Paranormal is it. It’s different, certainly. I’m not entirely certain I’d call it a “game,” but if nothing else, it’s a cool, creepy interactive toy.


Paranormal – Story Trailer 1 – Indie DB

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