It doesn’t take much to make a big, old, empty house feel creepy. Indeed, the more actual, overt threat you add to such a setting, the less fear it inspires – better to let your visitor wander undisturbed, drinking in the silence of the hallways and spotting goblin faces in the contours of broken plaster. This is one thing the creators of The Suicide of Rachel Foster grasp well, though their workmanlike blend of Firewatch and Gone Home is ultimately tripped up by a half-baked story.
A three-hour, first-person psychodrama with a gossamer-thin dusting of puzzles, the game is set in the Timberline Lodge, an abandoned mountainside hotel in 1990s Montana. You can roam about freely from the outset, though chapter breaks teleport you from room to room, and to do so is to be gently assaulted by the peculiarities of a structure that wouldn’t seem out of place in Silent Hill. Floorboards creak, window-frames rattle, beams shift under a mounting weight of snow. Photographs stare from the ends of corridors, shrouded objects tempt you to look beneath them, and stainless steel kitchens tease your fight-or-flight circuits with their abundance of gleaming points and angles.
Spread over three storeys plus a basement and carpark, the Timberline is closer to a Comfort Inn than some Gothic resort, but in the absence of holidaymakers and staff, its spaces loom. It’s also a not-so-discreet homage to The Shining’s Overlook Hotel, which means that the sightlines and decor feel vaguely predatory, like they’re trying to get into your head. You’ll find those legendary geometric carpet patterns, a mountain diorama akin to the Overlook’s model maze, and bathrooms painted a diabolical red.
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