Video Game Review: Why Didn’t We Bring Actual Flashlights?

Vanish developed by 3DrunkMen

With Halloween fast approaching, it’s always fun to dive into interactive horror. Mainstream horror releases in the last few years have trended more toward action-oriented, gory gameplay, eschewing atmosphere and dread in favor of cheap thrills.

Exploring the indie PC gaming scene, however, we find plenty of original and varied gaming experiences relating to that oldest and most powerful of mankind’s emotions.

Vanish is a freeware game that looks and feels professional. To tell you too much about it would be to spoil the fun. But I can tell you that you begin the game being dragged into what appears to be a cell in a sewer or tunnel system. You wake up to find a hole in the metal barred door, and crawl out into the tunnels.

The story is told, a la games like Slender, through notes scattered around the dark corridors. The first pieces seem innocent enough, but as you progress, environmental clues and the notes themselves become more and more bizarre.

This is a game without a “shoot” button. You can walk, crawl, run, or pick up objects. That’s about it. The game is more interested in setting up a slow-burn approach to scares. The sound design is fantastic. As you begin the game you may be a bit bored… but as time goes on, your stress level will definitely climb. I’ve only played the game for a few minutes at a time at night, quitting before I got too freaked out… or having my neck snapped. Each playthrough seems to be randomly generated, which is a nice touch. However, I’m not sure that, once you go through the game a few times, there’s much left to return to.

This is a fun, spooky, and *free* game that you should try. Play in the dark with your headphones on and some candles lit. Vanish relies on atmosphere, immersion, and simple techniques to develop honest-to-goodness dread in the player. Do yourself a favor and avoid any “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube before playing.

If you’re looking for something with chainsaws and bullets, you might as well keep moving. Here, the scares come slow and steady, if you’re willing to immerse yourself in the dark and mysterious tunnels of… wherever the hell you are.

4/5 Dying Glowsticks

Vanish is available for free from the developer’s website.

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