Being left adrift is scary enough; adding monsters doesn’t make the situation any better.
Horror films and games have had a resurgence of late thanks to new ideas and experiences emerging in both art forms. Better technology leads to more convincing situations and scares, and now with the advent of virtual reality another medium has arrived to facilitate involuntary toilet sessions in our pants. It’s because of VR that I realised I never want to play Team Junkfish’s Monstrum ever again, unless it’s on a TV in a brightly lit room.
Monstrum replaces the well-worn horror setting of an abandoned asylum, mansion or town and casts you adrift on an old ship lost at sea. As you explore the rusting ship solving puzzles, you begin to discover just how you ended up in such a grim situation. While Monstrum’s procedurally-generated ship of tight corridors and dark staircases is already creepy enough, Junkfish has ramped up the tension and added monsters to stalk the ship. Crossing paths with one is sign enough that you won’t survive for much longer, with one red-eyed beast instilling enough fear to prove that running away doesn’t solve the problem.
Daylight may have attempted the procedurally-generated level design for repeated play, but its environments failed to inspire. Monstrum conveniently sidesteps such issues due to its ship hull setting, after all how varied can ship hulls be?
It’s certainly a scary experience when played using a monitor, but when your vision’s encased inside Oculus Rift, Monstrum becomes an entirely different beast.
Suddenly walking through the ship with the lights off isn’t a smart decision. You’ll approach each corner with trepidation, peeking round to check ahead for the monsters you hear stalking the corridors nearby. In fact, playing with a Rift strapped to your head is such a different experience I realised I’m just not cut out for the life of virtual reality horror games.
Don’t take that to mean the standard version of Monstrum is bad, it’s not. Team Junkfish has accomplished something pretty great with its survival horror title. It may not have the coverage and media hype that Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs or Outlast benefited from, but from my short time scaring myself silly it’s clear this is something special – even without VR activated.