If you’re like me and often let out a yelp or two when startled in horror games, then Stifled is hoping to be your worst nightmare. Mainly because its monsters are actively listening out for your in-real-life squeals.
The indie horror title, developed by Singapore-based studio Gattai Games, is designed around the player seeing via echolocation, similar to what was seen earlier this year in Perception. As you explore the environments, you can press a button to make your character cough to illuminate their surroundings with an eerie white outline against the darkness.
Other techniques include throwing objects to reveal more distant areas, and your footsteps also emanate sound in your immediate vicinity.
As an added twist, players who have a microphone attached, which the developers strongly recommend they do, are able to engage their echolocation with their own voices. The danger here is that there are monsters lurking in the darkness who respond to sound. So not only will players need to be cautious with their audio signals, any accidental coughs, yelps in terror or housemates barging into your living room will draw them to your location.
So I guess any Let’s Play Youtubers are going to have a rough time streaming this one.
Unfortunately, the demo I got to try out on PSVR on the PAX Rising floor wasn’t ideally set up for this kind of game. The level of background noise coming from the expo meant there was a constant pulse revealing the environment. So it wasn’t quite like I was using echolocation as it was I just wasn’t able to see more than a couple metres in front of me.
But having said that, I could still use my own voice to create bigger pulses, so I can see that the tech appears to work quite well. Playing it in VR certainly added a new level of immersion to what was achieved in Perception, simulating the claustrophobic feeling of being blind.
Although in Stifled it is unclear if your character really is blind, as initially they can see perfectly fine, before their vision changes as they start to walk. Hopefully the full story can clear that particular issue up.
The one aspect I really wanted to test was what encountering an enemy would be like, because it was this area that Perception really let me down. Sadly this PAX demo didn’t allow me to do that. A monster does turn up towards the end, its cries casting a red tinge against the white visuals, but the demo ends when you find yourself in its path. The danger of alerting the enemies is what will keep players from just spamming their echolocation, so it’s a crucial element Stifled will need to pull off if it wants to maintain the terror.
Speaking to one of the developers, they assured me the enemies will be persistent foes to contend with, often leading to situations where players will have to choose between their sight or their safety. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens when the game launches.
Thankfully we won’t have to wait too long, as Stifled launches for Playstation 4 tomorrow, October 31.