A horror adventure game that brings players to the dark and mysterious Cold Winter Farm. What's the worst that can happen?
February 15, 2012
Viperante Creative Media
Release Date: February 9, 2012
"It's what you don't see that frightens you, what your mind fills in, the implicit usually being more terrifying than the explicit." - Alfred Hitchcock
"...the story's internal nature gave me the idea that nothing should be visual; all the scary parts should be suggested in the audience's mind...I wanted the audience to see the horrors in their imaginations, not on the screen." - Nelson Gidding, Screenwriter, The Haunting (1963)
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." - H.P. Lovecraft
As some of you already know, I love a good scare. But I don't scare easily. After all, I was raised on a steady diet of sci-fi/horror movies and books. I saw my first horror film at the age of three. The rest, as they say, is history.
I approach horror adventure games by saying, "Okay, here I am, please scare me! I'll just sit here and let you have your way with me! Go ahead! Do it! I want to be terrified! What are you waiting for?" Instead, I usually end up bored, annoyed and/or unintentionally amused. It's a rare thing indeed for me to be genuinely scared by an adventure game that's supposed to be scary.
Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting scared the crap out of me. It's only the second horror adventure to have done so. The first is Scratches. It's been a long wait.
Corrosion does something I consider essential to the process of invoking fear. Rather than throwing a stream of "gotchas" at the player, it slowly builds feelings of anxiety and dread that increase in intensity until they become almost intolerable.
Don't get me wrong; I have no problem with a gotcha or two. But for me, this sort of thing tends to startle rather than scare. As such, one gotcha goes a long way.
If too many things jump out at me, I get aggravated. I don't consider nerve-twanging to be horror. "BOO!" is not scary. It can become quite irritating, in fact.
Try feeling irritated and afraid at the same time. I don't think it can be done.
Referring to the quotes at the beginning of this review, I think one of the best ways to gradually build a feeling of fear in a horror adventure is to show just enough to engage the players mind, then let it take things from there. If something scary is around, I think seeing/hearing things that result from the actions of the scary thing can generate much more fear than actually seeing the scary thing itself.
This is where I feel let down by many horror adventures. They not only reveal too much too quickly; what they show can be laughable, silly or downright dumb.
What's more effective? Seeing unexplained destruction and hearing weird sounds, loud footsteps and/or heavy breathing, or seeing a monster that resembles a 10-foot tall Daffy Duck with fake fangs and claws?
Try laughing and feeling afraid at the same time. I don't think it can be done.
Hmmm...I seem to have gotten a bit sidetracked here. I'm supposed to be reviewing a game, not writing a treatise on the nature of what I think is scary and how silly Daffy Duck can look. So lets get on with things.
Corrosion begins with a non-interactive introduction. The local sheriff, whom you'll be playing, is confronted by a mystery: while in his patrol car, he hits a man who's wandering around in the road. Although the man survives, he can't be identified and either can't or won't speak.
A couple of months later, the stranger begins repeating three words: "Cold Winter Farm." This happens to be the name of a nearby country estate. The sheriff decides to pay it a visit. The Farm is deserted and the sheriff ends up trapped in the basement after a terrible snowstorm hits the area. No rescue can be attempted until the following day.
At this point you step into the shoes of the sheriff, and what started out as a mystery gradually devolves into a horror show. Fasten your seat belts.
Before I go any further, I feel I must offer one caveat. The game's first major puzzle is an absolute doozie. The good news is that it's the only one of its kind. None of the other puzzles in this game come even close to its complexity.
It's possible that other players won't have as much trouble with it as I did. But if the puzzle has you really snagged, I hope you won't be too proud to consult a walkthrough. If you're unable or unwilling to solve this puzzle, you'll miss an exquisite, hair-raising roller coaster ride through Hell. You wouldn't want that to happen, would you?
I don't want to be too specific about the plot of Corrosion so as not to spoil the game for others. Let's just say that you discover a secret facility beneath Cold Winter Farm's basement. Some disgusting and repulsive things have taken place there courtesy of demented doctors, strange theories and experiments, weird drugs, a team of gullible, alienated misfits and...wait for it...demons.
When you discover the driving force behind the vile activities of these people, it might sound preposterous or completely off-the-wall. Or...it might not. I think this will pretty much depend on what you're willing to believe.
Being as suffused as I am with all things horror, I'm prepared to believe just about anything. For those of you who are predisposed to skepticism, I suggest suspension of disbelief. It will make the game considerably creepier and more enjoyable.
While the game makes it clear that Cold Winter Farm itself is deserted, no information is provided about the occupancy status of the facility. This is likely due to its secret nature. Presented mostly in black, white, various shades of gray and muted colors, it feels cold, dreary, uninviting, even sinister. As I start to explore the facility's maze of rooms, I feel increasingly vulnerable.
I hear doors being opened and closed, locked and unlocked. Someone or something pounds on the walls. A ringing phone goes unanswered. I hear a baby crying. I think I hear someone or something moving around in other parts of the facility.
Hey! What's that unsavory-looking thing over there in the shadows? Wait...it's not there now. Where did it go? Was anything there in the first place? Maybe it was nothing. Or maybe something really was there. It might even be waiting for me right now, elsewhere in this hellhole...
This kind of thing, at least to me, is the essence of psychological horror. It had me not wanting to see what might be behind the next door and feeling compelled to open it anyway. It made me afraid to turn a corner for fear I'd run into something hideous, and feel an irresistible need to know if anything was there.
Corrosion propelled me into this agitated state of mind without showing me anything overtly frightening. It got me into a struggle with my fear of the unknown and left me that way. A game that accomplishes such a feat as effectively as this one does is quite rare indeed.
You may have noticed that earlier, I referred to the facility as a maze of rooms. Well, I'm pleased to say that a floor plan is made available early in the game.
Floor plans and maps are always a tremendous help to this directionally-challenged gamer. I was unable to take this particular floor plan with me, but knowing I'd be needing to refer to it frequently, I made a screenshot of it to keep handy.
Corrosion's music is, by turns, creepy, dissonant, jarring and almost melancholy. It's never obtrusive and adds a great deal to the game's ominous atmosphere.
The game is played in first-person and uses slideshow node-to-node navigation. I typically have trouble keeping my bearings in this kind of setup. I had no such trouble in Corrosion.
At this point, I'd like to address some of the game's mechanics. Certain scenes proceed automatically, although this wasn't obvious to me at first. They aren't exactly cutscenes; they're more like non-interactive plot-advancing sequences that the player experiences.
When such sequences begin, the player's pointer disappears and there's a lag during which nothing happens. At first, this made it seem as though I'd done something wrong or possibly hit a glitch of some sort. Further, these sequences proceed slowly, and there is a second lag between the end of a sequence and control being returned to the player.
Combining inventory items causes one's entire inventory to disappear. After a brief interval, it reappears and reflects the combined items. The first time this happened, I thought everything in my inventory had permanently vanished. That was really scary.
Some actions trigger occurrences elsewhere in the facility. If I found myself unable to figure out what to do next, I sometimes found it helpful to reconnoiter the place.
There's a fair amount of reading in this game. Considerable information about the secret facility, its strange denizens and their activities is obtained by reading journals, papers, notes and computer screens. The game also offers some audio files for your listening pleasure.
Other games I've played in which a lot of reading has been required have eventually inspired me to say, upon discovering yet another new thing to read, "Oh, no, not again!" This has mainly been due to material I found tedious, boring or poorly-written.
Well, not so in Corrosion. This game has such a bizarre plot that I was eager to read everything I could get my hands on in order to discover more about what had been going on in that sick and twisted underground facility. And each thing I read increased my feelings of apprehension and foreboding.
Some areas of the game are quite dark. I suggest playing Corrosion at night, preferably alone, with all the lights turned off. This will enable you to both see and be freaked out more effectively. Just don't expect to sleep well.
Unless you have a strong stomach, I also suggest not eating while you play. Parts of the game have definite barf-bag potential. I consider this a plus, BTW.
I'm quite impressed by the amount of genuine horror that's been successfully captured in Corrosion. Developer Daniel Lee Peach of Viperante really knows what he's doing when it comes to this sort of thing.
Corrosion is the kind of game that shouldn't be rushed. Taking your time will enable you to savor every dreadful morsel it has to offer.
Were it not for the game's first puzzle, I'd award Corrosion an A+. However, both the presence of the puzzle and the fact that players are hit with it right off the bat knocks the grade down to a A-. Still, that's not too shabby.
System Requirements : OS: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP/Vista CPU: 1 GHz (1.6 GHz recommended) RAM: 256 MB (512 MB recommended) Video/Graphics: 128 MB Direct X 8.0 compatible Sound: Direct X 8.0 compatible Hard disk space: 1.5 GB CD-Rom: DVD drive DirectX version: 8.0+ Peripheral hardware: Mouse/Keyboard