Title: Eyes Without A Face
Program: RPGMaker VX
Eyes Without A Face (French: Les Yeux Sans Visage) is a short-game based on Georges Franju's critically acclaimed, French horror movie of the same name. However, despite being a horror game, it isn't a game that plays in a similar vain to other horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. In fact, there is very little in the way of "traditional gameplay" involved: You don't get to shoot hordes of monsters, you don't have to manage an array of items and ammo and you don't even have to solve a load of puzzles in order to escape. In simple terms, this game is nothing more than exploring a house and interacting with objects in the right order. However, to leave it at that would do this game a great disservice because this game doesn't try to focus on "traditional gameplay". Instead, this game focuses squarely on creeping you out. It certainly succeeds.
How does it do that? I think it's the fact that you never really know what's important that makes everything so creepy. By playing out a rather innocent opening over such an obvious horror staple, that staple being an isolated mansion, the game forces you to acknowledge that something bad is going to happen; it just doesn't give you any sort of clue as to what. It's the perfect introduction as, frankly, waiting for something to happen when you know it is going to be bad is the worst (or should that be best?) kind of fear.
The game builds on this cleverly once you take control of the main character, doing so by presenting you with a series of objects that have seemingly innocent explanations associated with them, such as roses that are dusty because the housekeeper isn't good at her job. The game builds these "innocent" things up in such a way that you end up thinking you have a good idea of what the people in the house are like, before it then brings everything you thought you understood crashing down in a single scene. This throws you off so much that it makes you question everything from that point onward, extended the creepiness of the opening sequence beyond the point of realisation in a beautiful manner.
Unfortunately, although the story and the setting manage to be creepy, their effects on the main character aren't portrayed so well. She will go from scenes where she sees people with their eyes brutally removed to scenes where she is nonchalantly commenting on record collections; this is understandably jarring and is certainly something for the developers to think about in the future. If anything is intended to affect your audience psychologically then it should affect the character they're playing as, too. It doesn't manage to ruin the game because the story and the setting are so well executed, but it's definitely a distraction.
From an audio/visual viewpoint, there is little (if anything) this game does wrong. The score is beautiful and well chosen. The sound effects are suitably creepy, especially for that one death animation (anyone who has played the game will know which one I mean). As for the graphics, they're just amazing. Furthermore, the game doesn't resort to any cheap sound effect/image based "screamers", something that never turns out good and that all aspiring horror developers should avoid. I said recently that "it's no real surprise to see a Team Cascade project looking and sounding so good" and this still applies, but it's a statement that doesn't take anything away from how well crafted this game is.
Scary enough to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the whole experience; it's just a shame the main character isn't as creeped out by her situation as you will be. 6/10