Indie game development has been around since the 90′s, but it wasn’t until fairly recently with the surge of popularity of digital distribution where indie developers were really given the tools to create fantastic, high quality games as well as the means to distribute their work all over the world. It’s not uncommon to see a successful game that was developed by a small team of people (Limbo, Castle Crashers) or even a single person (Braid, the upcoming Shadow of a Soul), and as digital distribution continues to become more popular and new tools like the Ouya see mainstream acceptance, we’ll continue to see incredible indie games. This is why I’ve decided to take a look at some of the more notable indie horror games in a brand new series I affectionately refer to as Indie Horror Spotlight. On tonight’s menu is the chilling new source mod, Grey. More after the break.
Just so this is clear, this series isn’t about reviewing indie horror games. This is just about me stumbling across an exciting new game, playing it for awhile and telling you about my chilling adventure once the trembling in my hands has subsided enough for me to type something up.
For the unfamiliar, Grey is a Half-Life 2: Episode 2 source mod developed by the Deppresick Team. Because it uses a heavily modified version of what runs HL: Episode 2, the game is more than a little easy on the eyes. The engine only gets partial credit however, because it’s obvious the Deppresick team invested a lot of love and creativity into the environments as well. You can divide its world into the exteriors, which are very reminiscent of my time wandering the grimy streets of Condemned, and the interiors, which are all dark, claustrophobic, and decidedly Silent Hill in flavor.
Throughout Grey’s impressive 3-4 hour long campaign you’ll come across a few puzzles that are reminiscient of the survival horror games of old. You’ll search for keys in secluded locations teased by cryptic notes, follow hidden passageways hinted on maps, and if you’re anything like me, some of the more labyrinthine areas will absolutely ruin your already weak sense of direction.
See that thing above? Yeah, get a real good look at it, because it’s crazy shit like that that’ll be jumping out at you from around corners and blocked off doors. When it comes to the monsters, the selection here is delightfully creepy. You’ll fight faster (and killable) versions of the ghosts from Silent Hill 4 — only this time they’re flying at you with knife in hand — freaky half-mannequin things on those wagons kids play with, and killer baby dolls. Yeah, you read that right: psycho killer baby dolls that make unnerving baby noises before they try to cut you open and crawl inside you like a goddamned Tauntaun.
Each monster has a unique sound it likes to freak you out with before it reveals itself, usually from a pocket of shadows at the far end of the room or from a door that you could’ve sworn was locked just a few seconds earlier. Unfortunately, some of the time, and usually out of a reaction I have when something jumps out at me that sends my entire body into a spastic fit where I somehow manage to unload an entire clip into a nearby wall while simultaneously finding myself on top of the thing that was trying to skin me alive. This usually happened with the smaller enemies, but it does remind you it’s just a game, and one that can be broken.
There are a few annoying issues, like a lack of health items that can make the final fight very frustrating, but if I had one major complaint about the game, it’d be that there are too few puzzles. There are plenty of shit-out-your-spine scary moments and an equally as intense selection of areas where you just know something is going to jump out at you but never does. There are a few puzzles and some pretty damn clever ones at that, but they’re also few and far between. Really, that’s a small complaint, because overall, Grey is an outstanding horror game that had me constantly on edge.
Grey has a terrifying mix of unsettling enemies, creepy environments, a few great puzzles and a ton of crazy psychological horrors like hallucinations, and trippy environments that move and change dynamically. It’s also free, though you do need the Source SDK that comes with Half-Life 2 to play it, so you really don’t have anything to lose in checking it out.