I really want to like horror games, but since I never enjoy them as much as I want to, Humble Choice is a great way to check them out. Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel was the horror offering in February’s Humble Choice, and I volunteered to take a look at it for our group review. This survival horror / walking sim / puzzle game is an interesting mashup of genres that retails for $29.99, and has a playtime of around 12 hours according to How Long To Beat.
I’m not sure what it is about hotels that make them such a popular setting for horror (and horror-adjacent games), but yet again, I find myself playing a rousing game of “where’s the next key” in Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel. The protagonist is a journalist named Roberto, who has come to the St. Dinfna Hotel to investigate a series of strange events plaguing the town. After a week of getting absolutely nowhere, you wake up one morning to find your room has been ransacked, and there’s a strange note from someone you don’t remember, but who seems to know you.
I played for just under an hour, and would have liked to continue, but I got seriously motion sick from playing, and probably stuck it out longer than I should have looking for a save point that didn’t require epic amounts of backtracking. Oh, did I not mention that this – like many games in this genre – operates on a save point system? Because of course it does. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend diving in unless you have at least 20 to 30 minutes to commit; there’s a prologue and a some story bits before the save system even becomes available. This is probably fine for most people, but I wish it had been clearer, I almost quit out shortly before this assuming it was a checkpoint system.
Anyway, motion sickness issues notwithstanding, the atmosphere and sound design is really great. Inventory management originally looked like it was going to be a pain, but it soon became clear that it was well handled here. Items disappear when used if they’re no longer necessary, and you can find bags as you explore that increase the number of inventory slots you have available. Documents & other notes don’t take up space you’ll need for usable objects, and although some items need to be combined before they can be used, it didn’t feel like you needed to wait too long to find all the parts you need to make a complete item.
Now I’m not a survival horror aficionado, but the mechanic of looking through the camera to see into another time felt fresh to me, but some may find it irritating because it does slow the pace of the game somewhat. But I don’t think Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is meant in any way to be fast-paced. You’re expected to look at every piece of paper, and open every drawer and cabinet, and the longer you linger, the creepier it all feels, but there’s nothing rushing you along other than your own fear.
While there aren’t standard difficulty settings, there are some pretty robust accessibility options, but I didn’t manage to get to the parts of the game where most of them would apply. I was particularly interested in the ammo assistance – when it comes time for the shooting to start, I tend to subscribe to the “spray and pray” method of dealing with whatever awful things are trying to murder me. Unfortunately, changing around the graphical settings to try to ameliorate the queasiness didn’t do much for me, but they might work better for others.
Maybe it doesn’t all pan out further in, but if you’re picking up the February Humble Choice, and you like horror games (and aren’t prone to motion sickness from first person perspective), I’d say it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s a cool concept that seems to be mechanically sound, if a little bit plodding, and the story was shaping up to be pretty interesting as well.
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