michaelenger's Anna - Extended Edition (PC) review

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An atmospheric and intriguing game held back by technical limitations and unrefinement.

Anna is a first-person psychological horror game wherein you play as a professor who has come to a sawmill in the woods in search of "Anna", a person who seems more of a mystery than a memory. The game takes place entirely within and around the cabin and requires you to complete typical adventure game puzzles while piecing together the story from events and lore found throughout the game.

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The atmosphere in the game is by far its greatest strength, which is important for a game that sets out to scare the pants off you. The visuals and sounds come together very well to pull you into the world and the game has none of the typical jump scares that are a steadfast feature of most horror games, instead the game becomes increasingly unsettling as you venture deeper into the story. However, the biggest problem with Anna is that the technical execution doesn't quite live up to the premise. Despite the game taking place in a relatively small space, with few rooms to discover, there are loading screens between rooms, which breaks the atmosphere and comes as a frustration when you're walking around trying to solve the obscure puzzles. The music is also sometimes out of place and starts and stops seemingly randomly throughout the game, with the most interesting parts being those where you're only accompanied by the sounds of your surroundings.

As for gameplay, it's a rather straightforward adventure game fare, with items to pick up and clues to discover. The game has a surprising amount of books to read, none of which take very long, but are required reading to receive any clues as to what to do. As with most mystical or fantasy adventure games the puzzles sometimes don't make any sense outside the context of the world you're in and there are way too many items to pick up and carry, some of which you use once and then clutter up your inventory until you complete the game.

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Together with the inventory you also have "instincts" or thoughts which your character has made about his surroundings. These can be combined to create more thoughts about what's happening and are linked to the exposition you receive when you reach the end, but without knowing much about the game beforehand it becomes a matter of combining every new thought with all the others in your inventory to see if something new pops up.

The game has multiple endings, some of which occur before you reach the final location and all of which have their own achievement if you're playing the Steam release of the game. Anna has taken a hint from the likes of Eternal Darkness and features supernatural events that have no bearing on the story, but drain your sanity and can potentially lead to a "bad" ending, but they are always fascinating to encounter and are preceeded by a tell-tale rumbling sound which will prevent you from leaving the room you're in: "I can't leave now, something's about to happen." Despite the steady frequency of these events you have plenty of sanity to take from and receive more if you complete puzzles, so the game is never in any danger of "killing you" unless you mean for it to.

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Anna is a fascinating game with a surprisingly thorough lore surrounding it, but is in the end hampered by a sense of unrefinement. Some aspects of the game feel unfinished, but if you're a fan of supernatural horror games that rely more on creeping you out than startling spooks you'll get some enjoyment out of Anna. Depending on how you understand the cryptic clues it provides, the game may be finished within an hour or two, but there is some replayability when it comes to uncovering all the endings, books or supernatural events.

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