Dreadout is a Third Person Horror game that takes place in an abandoned Indonesian town. We play as high school student Linda who wakes up in a creepy abandoned house and soon after finds a cell phone that will prove to be her lifeline. Said cellphone can shed light in the thick darkness that you’ll frequently find yourself in as well as be able to destroy ghosts using its camera. One doesn’t have to worry about battery or are limited to how many photographs you can take, your main drawback to having your face pressed up against your phone is that your movement speed is significantly reduced. In a title where most enemies are very agile, it will constantly make you choose whether to hold your ground for a shot at them or lower your phone and put some distance between them.
Some ghosts have weak-points, and brilliantly enough, a couple cannot be seen with the bare eye, making you constantly want to scan your environments through the camera in case you blindly bump into something you really shouldn’t be disturbing if at all possible. The world itself features some secrets that can only be seen through the eyes of a camera lens so in cases where you can not find an exit just point your camera in locations such as walls to reveal a way through. Its last function has you lining up specific objects then taking a picture of it to progress. An example of this is to line up both wings and a statue to make them appear one in the same. Annoyingly enough, it is extremely picky about its angle, so one typically has to spam the snapshot key in order for the chance of getting the photo just as they want it.
The overall goal is to escape whatever messed up situation you now find yourself in and to do so one has to solve all matter of puzzles while fighting off random ghosts. Some of them are quite memorable such as looking through a mirror in order to see what is hunting you, with others just being plain to obscure. In one case one must find out how to get the keys off a boar before being allowed to progress. The solution to this being to line up a random photo on the second floor that somehow causes it to drop a key when you chase it off like you’ve previously done a thousand times. Puzzles, in general, are really hit and miss, not only due to some crazy logic but the previously mentioned finickiness of lining up a photograph just the right way. Dreadout doesn’t hold your hand which is always nice, more so for a horror game though it could have done with some more tightening.
Our character Linda is mute and never says a thing in stark contrast with each of her classmates, teacher and even some ghosts that all have voice actors. Silent protagonists are nothing new but in this case, it just feels bizarre with every other character may as well be speaking to themselves. She expresses concern and other emotions at times via facial expressions though is mostly just a blank slate. The stars of the shows are the malignant spirits themselves. There is some seriously great monster design in Dreadout that will have you hesitating to progress anywhere near them. It isn’t the type of game where a monster is only scary at first either, they wisely spread out encounters and most spirits you’ll only meet a few times throughout the entire game, so you never get the chance to get used to them. There are no trash mob enemies to be found here, every encounter feels unique, and with how rarely a single monster shows up multiple times alongside how frequently new foes are introduced, one never knows what lies ahead or how to handle it.
There are a ton of memorable moments to be had here and no Quick Time Events to boot. From the pictures you’ve seen so far, it is obvious that this isn’t the best looking game out there. Indeed, it looks right out of the PS2 era with animation just as janky as you’d expect from a low budget title. The thing is, that works in its favor. Seeing a fellow classmate suddenly show up down the hall with a blank smile on his/her face and not so much as a molecule of movement without knowing if he’s possessed or that’s how he is supposed to look like is just as terrifying as any ghost. The unnaturally stiff animations and the lack of photo-realistic graphics also add to the overall sense of dread or that you are exploring a world similar to our own but just not there somehow. Not to say the environments are bad, they are quite good in fact with everything having a worn down look and containing an oppressive nature to them.
Unfortunately, the gameplay itself is not all too great. Combat is a chore, and there is no threat of dying. If one bites the dust during a battle, you’ll be taken to limbo in where you have to walk back into the light in order to return right where you perished. How long you have to walk before reaching the light is judged by how many times you’ve died though there is an option to always make it a short walk in the options menu. In the game’s defense, combat in a horror game is not supposed to feel like your John Rambo. My issue is that it does quite a few things to annoy you such as inverting your controls in one instance and stuff like the chase scene where Linda can’t actually outrun him, making the entire scene feel silly as you get pushed down, run until tired then get pushed down again repeatedly. Boss fights are not the best things in the world either. They take so many hits one isn’t sure if damage is being done and in some cases that is actually the case.
During my time with Dreadout, it has crashed twice which is hardly a deal-breaker though a certain glitch I encountered is darn close. In a certain boss fight where you are supposed to die and transition to a new area, it failed to do the latter. I was stuck in an eternal darkness with nothing but my camera and a seriously messed up character model. The kicker here is that since the game only has autosaving, that play-through was essentially over for me and I had to start from the beginning of Act 2. It is a short game with the puzzles being what will take up a large of your time, so it wasn’t too much of a drag getting back to where I was and it did not happen again, but it is still something definitely worth mentioning. Minus some questionable frame-rate drops I did not have any other major issues worth mentioning.
Rather late into the game we will get a new camera that has a handy function that lets us zoom in. It also differs from our original cellphone camera in that it doesn’t have a flashlight function so we’ll have to repeatedly take pictures of to momentarily illuminate our surroundings. We do not have to aim it, it uses replaces the key you’d normally use to activate the flashlight so one can use it while moving around regularly. The only time you actually need to use this feature is in a single particular instance where some vegetation is blocking your path and doing so will disintegrate them. That’s the problem with Dreadout, it has many interesting ideas but does not implement them well. For one thing it does right, another has to bog it down.
Dreadout has quite a few a flaws though it is not a bad game. Its just that with combat being a chore and everything puzzle related being a mixed bag, it is the type of game that is more fun to look at than control. The horror aspect of it they do very well but the game part is hardly what I’d call enjoyable. It will take a bit over two hours to complete so it doesn’t get to the point of being bored or tired of it in general. And in those two hours you’ll experience some amazing creepy events that does motivate you to see it through and see what else is in store. It is really creative with its scares as well, only featuring a few jump-scares. The rest will see the game playing with your head or simply giving you a moment to realize what is wrong before running for sweet life. All throughout my time with Dreadout I felt like I was becoming bipolar, with one moment having me cursing that friggin boar and the next desperately running down an endless hallway with all of its doors seemingly locked, in one of its many moments of horror brilliance. It features a demo for you to try and see if you’ll enjoy it so at the very least give this a shot, you may be pleasantly surprised as to what you discover.