STAFF REVIEW of Anthology of Fear (Xbox One)

Monday, February 5, 2024.
by Adam Dileva

Anthology of Fear  Box art Anthology of Fear is the latest horror game on console, but it’s not quite what I expected. In most horror games you’re given tools or skills to fight against or avoid your enemy, here though, you simply walk from point A to B for the most part, unraveling a twisted story along the way. A horror walking sim with light puzzle elements, Anthology of Fear may not have been what I was expecting, as I certainly didn’t pay much attention to the minor and brief trigger warning message at the start of the game, though I probably should have.

If you have automatonophobia (fear of mannequins) or find it hard to deal with suicide topics, this may be difficult for you to play. The later section even deals with child harm, which as a parent is hard to stomach, especially when it’s a cutscene you can’t intervene in. With some heavy topics being dealt with here, you can also expect some messed up themes, blood, supernatural events and more. The atmosphere is set in place quite quickly and had an uneasy tone throughout until the credits rolled.

Your brother has gone missing, and after months of no leads or findings, you decide to go search for yourself. Naturally in a horror game, this leads you to a dark and creepy alleyway with someone on the other end of a radio guiding you. You of course then up in some sort of abandoned hospital, because where else would it lead you right? Of course this is when the radio stops working also. With a quite short runtime of around two hours, I can’t delve much more into the story without spoiling the main plot points or twists.

Search from room to room and you’ll eventually come across some VHS tapes that are somehow linked, acting like a new chapter or different perspective. I did find it a little hard to follow along at times, but what starts as a missing person mystery, a much darker tale starts to emerge. While the tropes may be overused, I was intrigued to see if my assumptions were correct once I think I had the plot figured out, but rest assured, there’s a few twists and turns I even I didn’t see coming, especially in the last few sections that takes quite a dark turn.

Before you begin your journey though I’d highly suggest checking out the options, as I had to turn off the head bobble and film grain. Yeah, the film grain can make it look grittier and like that of a found footage film, but the environments are so dark already, and the head bob was way too emphasized that I’m sure it may make some people nauseous. Thankfully these can be toggled to your preferences.

Each chapter, or section, has a distinct theme or objective. Some will have you searching the abandoned halls of a hospital looking for certain patient records or finding the breakers to turn on the power so you can use the elevator. Maybe you’re reliving a memory, though things may not be quite as you remember. Sometimes you reach the end of a hallway only to turn around and it’s completely rearranged from the way you just came. Doors will slam shut or lock on you once entered, making for a tense atmosphere.

Then there’s the mannequins. These start out innocent enough, but can be quite creepy once they start to move as you walk by or rearrange themselves. Later on there are paranormal events that occur as well. Is this real? Is this just something you’re imaging in your head? Can you survive the horror? The tale comes together from multiple viewpoints that’s a little difficult to piece together, as it’s not always blatantly expressed who or where you are until later.

A good horror game has multiple layers to try and scare the player. You have mood, music, atmosphere, enemies and of course jumps scares. While jump scares are present in Anthology of Fear, it does become a little overused, as there’s not much else here to scare you aside from your automatonophobia. That said, while it’s not outright scary once you realize this is mostly a walking simulator with a horror theme, you won’t really have much in the way of combat aside from a single section and maybe three enemies. You eventually get this odd looking ‘weapon’ that helps you in a single section, only to drop it and never use it again.

Aside from being able to interact with almost anything, the only other actions you can do is slightly walk faster by holding Left Trigger and the odd QTE event where you’ll need to mash the ‘A’ button to open a door with a crowbar for example. There’s one section near the end that involves some self dental work, but I had no UI to tell me what or how to do so, eventually fumbling my way through it.

Visuals are a mixed bag. The atmosphere and lighting are absolutely on point. Hallways looked creepy and the lights really set a realistic tone and uneasiness. It’s a shame that everything else had incredibly low resolution textures, completely breaking the immersion at times. Even the keyboard on an old school computer you need to interact with had blurry textures. It also doesn’t help that important objects you need, like keys and other things, don’t glow or anything to indicate they are to be picked up unless you happen to have your cursor exactly over the item.

Hallways not only appear visually creepy, but sound the part as well. You’ll hear creaks on the wooden floors, though not always aligned with your footsteps, and things from afar or on the other side of a doorway you hope that you don’t find out what it actually is. The audio sets a tone that makes you tense as you peak around each corner, but again, once you realize there’s no actual danger per-se, you lose some of the horror aspect. The voice acting is passable at best, making it difficult to empathize with what they are thinking or going through.

While Anthology of Fear might not outright scare you, it’s supposed to make you feel uneasy and tense, which is does in certain sections. With some very heavy themes and shocking scenes, I was hoping for more of a build up to these climax, but instead the ending felt as though it came abruptly out of nowhere and not all that satisfying tying up loose ends. If you’re a fan of the P.T. demo, this may be worth a look, just expect a short runtime with a story that will be forgotten aside from a scene or two.

**Anthology of Fear was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.3 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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