17 October 2012

[SquareGo] Review: SCP-087-B

SCP-087-B follows a recent trend of short indie horror games that are so focused on their primary goal – TERROR – that they easily rival titles from big-name studios trying to elicit the same reaction. SCP-087-B is no exception.

Read the full review over at SquareGo or click below to read more!

There are a few different versions of the game: SCP-087 (by Haversine) and SCP-087-B (by Regalis). Playing both is definitely recommended – they each have their own merits – but this review is concerned with SCP-087-B.

SCP-087-B is based on an entry from “The SCP Foundation”, a collaborative horror microfiction site where writers create and document bizarre entities, objects, people and places that have otherworldly attributes. The specimen codenamed “SCP-087” is a staircase that is permanently wreathed in darkness and seems to go on forever – and the protagonist must explore it.

The gameplay mechanics of SCP-087-B are as simple as simple can be – walk using W,A,S and D, and adjust your camera with the mouse. The protagonist has no gun, no trusty rusty pipe, not so much as a fleck of lint in their pockets with which to defend themselves. It's a terrifying position to be in, especially once you take your tentative first steps on the Staircase.

SCP-087-B takes place in a series of staircases, corridors and rooms that lead the protagonist down into the dark. The corridors are narrow and claustrophobic - if something happens, there's nowhere to run, and the entire area is veiled in near-impermeable darkness, with only four or five feet of each area visible at any one time: but because most of the game takes place in the narrow corridors, all you can do is look into the darkness ahead – and that's where the pareidolia kicks in. Just as in real life, staring into the darkness of those hallways for so long plays tricks on the mind: the player will often be wondering, “Did I just see...?”, never quite sure if there really was a pair of eyes staring at them through the dark or if they merely imagined it. It's not all pareidolia, though: there are plenty scares throughout the game, and most, if not all of them are randomly generated, so that every person's experience on the Staircase is different. Some may reach floor 21 and be greeted with an... “entity”, for lack of a better word; some may travel for so long the numbers on the wall indicating the floor level are replaced by odd symbols, but the end result is always the same: it's not about whether you die or not, it's about when you die.

The ambient background music of SCP-087-B is unintrusive, if unsettling, and fosters the paranoid feeling that there is literally something just around the next corner. And, in the cases where that's actually true, there are audio cues associated with odd phenomena happening in the Staircase – from slight, gentle chimes accompanying a quick, subliminal face in the darkness, all the way to the distorted voices of some of the Staircase's most disturbing denizens.

All in all, SCP-087-B is a fantastic, low-fi indie horror: those who liked Slender: The Eight Pages will love it, as might those who have read and enjoyed Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves or other Borgesian fiction. SCP: Containment Breach, also by Regalis, features other entries from the SCP Foundation.

The experience of walking the Staircase may take all of two minutes, maybe even twenty – but the feeling remains much longer than that, long enough to give you pause when you look out from your room into the dark hallway beyond and wonder,

“Did I just see...?”

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