Sometimes, psychological horror games are subtle, relying on sounds and small tension-building moments as well as setting to scare you. Others, like developer Caustic Reality’s Infliction throw as much as they can at you and test your ability to stay calm. Published by Blowfish Studios, Infliction explores the darkness haunting the remnants of a suburban family after a tragedy.
The PAX West 2019 demo only scratched the surface of what Infliction has to offer. As the trailer featured at the bottom of this article shows, there are elements of a horrific world that reveal itself to you as you take Polaroids or move through the levels. For the demo, it was much slower as we wandered through the interactive nightmare set in a once-happy home. Starting off in a room, then moving to a hallway, then to a basement where the darkness of the home reveals itself in blood.
The goal of Infliction is to piece together the mystery behind a harrowing series of events that have befallen a family while struggling to survive encounters with an entity that relentlessly stands in the way.
As you move through the home, the tragedy is ever-present. The crime scene and darkness create an atmosphere that is backed by a score that welcomes you into an immersive horror environment. While some investigative games limit your interaction to important items, Infliction allows you open every drawer, read the back of every VHS tape, open every book, and even inspect the smallest of objects including pens to get a full sense of the home.
This type of immersive world-building and free-movement through the world is not an easy task for a developer and it’s clear that the folks at Caustic Reality have put great care into every detail. Most impressive of which come from the synopsis on the back of VHS tapes fit with references to existing horror, journal entries, and passages from books. They have painstakingly created a world for Infliction to exist in with its own media and identity that lends to the immersive nature of the game.
As you click through rooms and read through stories or examine pills, it’s easy to forget that you’re playing a horror game. Then, you’re snapped back into it with flickering lights, a chained door, and a score that makes opening every door a moment where you wait to jump back from something behind it. But, looking through every part of the house allows you to uncover the heartbreaking secrets hidden within messages, artwork, household objects, and other areas of mundane life.
Every item may be a clue. In the full game, you will use items to unlock new paths and make discoveries while doing everything possible to avoid the malevolent presence inhabiting the residence. In the demo, this presence comes smashing in as you uncover the dark secret in the basement.
While the mechanic wasn’t present in the PAX West demo, you will be able to hide under tables or beneath beds and harness light sources like camera flashes to stun the spirit to getaway. My only problem with the demo is that I didn’t get to play with the horror. While the atmosphere is perfect for the genre, I wanted to actually engage with the big bad in the house. That being said, the jump scare the eventual encounter provides was well executed and far from cheap.
As shown in the trailer, there are sure to be many other jump scares in the game. While I can’t speak to their frequency or execution outside the ones I witnessed, I do have hope that they are well done. Given Caustic Reality’s eye for detail and pacing in the demo, I’m certain that hope will be met. Granted, Infliction is anything but subtle.
The game uses ominous warnings written in blood, blood spatter, and the traditional scare inducers like magic circles around pentagrams to allude to dark magic as well as upside-down crosses. It will also feature different manifestations of the darkness in the house utilizing disturbing imagery like giant butchers with huge cleavers and distortion effects. There is a world of horror waiting for gamers in the full version of Infliction.
Infliction is coming to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation4, and Xbox One for $19.99 USD in the last quarter of 2019. The game also features support for English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese language options.