Like many Steamers, I have a forever growing list of games cultivated for my minor addiction for purchasing video games. So in the perpetual sea of Steam deals and "Humble Bundles" I am quick to ignore the freebies offered in my Steam library without a second glance.
The only reason I happened upon Serena was because I was flipping through my list looking for another game and noticed this indie adventure horror title. I dig horror especially when it's heavily reliant on the story. When I first ran Serena it reminded me of walking through the alleyways and rooms in Amnesia minus the scariness and evil things lurking around each corner. Created via the same game engine (Dagon) as the upcoming Asylum, Serena is a positive preview of what's to come this year when Asylum is released. As it's based in one cabin with minimal room to roam, it doesn't expect much from you and is a practically zero stress game. If you like watching horror films but dislike partaking in gory FPS games, you'll enjoy the ambiance in Serena. It has sinister context set in a mildly soothing atmosphere which is the best formula for an entertaining but laid back experience. You don't do anything but click random objects and read/listen to plenty of text. It's a fun change of pace for horror gamers and easy to sample for those less inclined towards the genre. Just sit back, and enjoy the story. It's like those interactive flash games back in the day that just gave you a wicked storybook with sounds and moving pictures and that was it.
What's more, the game has no control menu so once you start you should aim to finish as it hasn't got a save mode either. It doesn't require one as it isn't challenging to finish and relatively short to play. There are specific places you can click with your cursor to hear snippets of memories and clues to what has happened in that cabin which has a intense atmosphere of "something gravely wrong" from the get go.
After a few minutes wondering about, clicking all you can, in turn collecting an abundance of information on the couple introduced in Serena, you may get stuck. If you do you always have the option of pressing SPACE BAR to toggle hot spots. That way you can scan any object you haven't checked out and move on with the story.
Personally, after 20 minutes I looked up and read llewellynator's
play-through (no plot spoilers) on Steam's community hub and breezed to the end, finishing Serena in half an hour. It would have been even more entertaining had I saved myself from previously Googling the game and noticing a huge spoiler in the search results (basically the ending and what I'd find somewhere in the cabin). I suggest making sure you have an hour to spare just "wasting time" clicking stuff and seeing if you can get through the story on your own. If progression is slow, then use a simple run-through like the link above so you know which actions to take but nothing of what will occur.
Using a guide for my last ten minutes of Serena is a probable culprit but it wasn't a rewarding game and I could see why it's free (on PC). My review is a positive one only because it's free and quick, it is well made and finished the simple task it was meant to do which is tell a short horror story in the likeness of Edgar Allan Poe's literary creations.
The game itself has a bit of IRL drama behind it that wasn't too interesting to me as an outsider so I'll skip that and move onto the story. Serena is fantastically narrated by Josh Mandel which makes the repeated clicking, reading and listening more enjoyable. He plays Serena's husband, the character the gamer will play in first person. Your memory is foggy and you're extremely disorientated as you move around the dusty, abandoned log cabin you seem to reside at with your "better half". But she's nowhere to be seen so you look around the cabin, thinking back to distant moments that seem somehow distorted now. Your goal is to reach the end of the story by clicking certain objects in a somewhat set order and releasing a change in your perception, the truth of what happened to you and Serena and why.