A Genuinely Terrifying Experience
Penumbra: Overture is a game that probably not many of you have heard of. I had honestly not heard of the game till about five months ago when I saw the first part of a Let's Play on it. So I thought it looked interesting and I thought I would give it a try. I had no idea what I had bargained for.
The story is of this guy named Philip, who gets a letter from his thought-to-be-long-dead father, telling him to burn the research he has left in a safety deposit box. Phil's curiosity gets the better of him, so he goes off to find out what dear old dad has left for him, and why it is so urgent he destroy what's left of it. You embark on a journey to Northern Greenland, where you find an entrance to a mine shaft at the coordinates in your father's journal. That's when the proverbial defecation hits the oscillation.
I found myself completely immersed in the atmosphere of the game. The true scare start very soon in the game, having you feel like something is always at your back. Whether it be evil spiders or demon dogs, something always feels like it's at your back. It's not as much jump scares, a few of those are in there too, but the entire game has some kind of tense air about it. It keeps you on your toes the whole way through and when something is out to get you, you can feel your heart pounding and the adrenaline start to kick in as you try to find a place to hide. I'm a horror movie fanatic and someone who loves being scared, and I can say I have never been genuinely terrified until I had played this game.
The story also rewards those who look, for in certain drawers and atop certain shelves, you will find journal entries of various denizens of the mine who where there long before you. When reading certain journal entries, the game seems to have a certain musical pace, lining up perfectly with specific lines of text to make you feel even more creeped out by what you just read.
The game is heavy on puzzles, most of them being logical, like stacking boxes to get over an obstacle. But others require more searching, forcing you to find journal entries and books about things from explosives to chemical mixtures. There are multiples of these in the different sections of the game, most having you solve one and backtracking to an area because you forgot to pick something up you didn't need at the time. It can be frustrating, but it makes the game feel all the more real.
Now, on to the more technical stuff. The game controls...differently. It's a nice change of pace from normal computer controls. When your given a hammer or a rock and you have to do something like swing it at a padlock to break it, you actually have to make a swinging motion with the mouse. When you open a door, you have to pull it and step back. It doesn't make running away easy, making you feel like what you should feel like: a normal man thrust into the unknown, not trained in anyway whatsoever, just scared but propelled by curiosity.
The game gives you all the necessary tools to deal with the basic mechanics in the game like low light, breakable objects blocking your way, even the beginning hammer can be used to kill the enemies you face. But then, about a third of the way into the game, they give you the game breaker. It's a pick axe that knocks the enemies down and kills them in three hits. This basically make the game way too easy, as you can just sneak up and pick them off, then run around with out having to worry about them. This ruins the games, dumbing down that amazing atmosphere I had mentioned before.
Overture is the first part in a series, and once you play the first game you'll definitely want more. The story is enthralling, the graphics are good but not intense enough so that almost any computer can play it, the controls are lifelike and don't forget that general feeling of terror around every corner. If you love horror, you cannot pass this up.