I am currently unemployed, and sometimes worry that others may be "right" when they opine that I should NOT be waking up as late as 3 or 4pm in the afternoon. I am glad to see that this game has cured me of any such concerns, as our main protagonist, in spite of having set himself a task of exploring a spooky haunted mansion over the course of thirty days, seemingly elects to get up no earlier than 5-5.30pm each and every day (judging by how quickly the sun goes down). And considering how low he is on flashlight batteries and matches - indeed, did not even think to bring any with him, but as luck would have it, they are intermittently dispersed throughout said mansion - this is perhaps not the wisest of strategies. Alas, a work ethic is a work ethic, and if he feels he is most efficient at night, I can only empathise. Like a male ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, it would seem both myself and the hero of Pineview Drive do our best work after dark. (It's a burden sometimes, but someone must be up to the task.)
It would also appear that our protagonist is either an avid horror gamer himself, or failing that, someone aspiring to join the team of the Most Haunted TV series. Because for whatever reason - "searching for clues" which have something to do with his wife, apparently - he gets up every evening, at the crack of sunset, and wanders around the house just HOPING something spooky will happen. He searches the same rooms, over and over again, night after night, to see what spooky tricks the mansion might have to throw at him THIS time...as sooner or later, one of these spooky events is destined to lead to the finding of yet another KEY.
Yes...sigh...it's one of THOSE games.
In fact, whereas other horror and/or first-person games intersperse door-locking "puzzles" with slight variations on the theme, such as turning cranks or, well, actually solving PUZZLES perhaps, this one pretty much operates on the principle of forever looking for a key which wasn't there five seconds before said spookiness occurred. Well, okay, sometimes it takes a smidgen longer than five seconds to acquire the key...for example, you might be standing near some windows and hear some creepy childish laughter, and look out the window to see a ghostly young lady on a set of swings outside. So what does our humble hero do next? Well, like we all would, he decides it's time to venture outside, into a storm, in the middle of a dark and spooky night, and check out the swings...I mean, we'd all do that, right? ♥♥♥♥ waiting 'til the next day, and DAY-LIGHT...let's go outside right this second, at a time of optimum eeriness, just so we can unnecessarily scare ourselves ♥♥♥♥less whilst obtaining yet another key (which would, presumably, still be there in the morning or afternoon if we'd only wait).
This "logic" is by no means the worst of the game's problems, however. Scenarios like the one I just described, while a tad bemusing, are frankly a God-send compared to the numerous bits in the game where you simply HAVE NO ♥♥♥♥ING IDEA WHAT TO DO NEXT. Fortunately, after about ten or so minutes of fruitless wandering about, your character will eventually muse something aloud like, "I don't know why, but I have a feeling I should go and check the children's room again"...which, while a bit LATE in coming, would still be something of a God-send IF WE COULD ACTUALLY REMEMBER WHERE THE CHILDREN'S ROOM IS. If ever a game needed a map...THIS IS THAT GAME; not just to help find a room we know we're specifically looking for, but indeed to save us walking up to almost every single door in the house (which consists of several floors, AND several wings) to see which one our latest key might happen to fit...which is to say, a map could have clearly shown us which doors we HAVEN'T managed to unlock as of yet, narrowing things down a bit. Something as simple as that could have saved THIS particular gamer, at the very least, a good few hours of unnecessary gameplay, and significantly tightened up the pacing and structure of the game while we're at it. Wouldn't that have been nice? Just a thought.
Oh, and I haven't yet mentioned the game's supposedly innovative "fear-detection" system...which basically adds up to you losing a bit of "health" every time you jerk the mouse too suddenly after a scare, or keep the run button held down during such encounters, or...something like that. Personally, I found this little feature to be almost null-and-void for the first twenty-nine chapters, as I barely ever took "damage" anyway. That is, until Day 30, at which point the balance completely flips in the opposite direction and you can barely even MOVE FORWARD without the game interpreting said "violent" motion as sheer-and-utter-horror on your behalf. It's a bit poorly-executed, in other words, and kinda borderline pointless even if it HAD been flawlessly implemented. Still, I'm sure it was a nice idea on paper, a bit like the first Amnesia's almost equally pointless "sanity" system. Full points for trying something different, though...
Now, if it sounds like I'm giving this game a hard rap, don't believe a second of it. I actually really, really liked this game. At least until the bewildering final chapter and the ludicrously baffling final cut-scene which follows it. Sure the game's a tad long (THIRTY DAYS? Was it really necessary for us to endure THIRTY DAYS?!), rather repetitive, and not really all that "scary" ("spooky" is definitely the more appropriate word, as it's ultimately more bark than bite)...but other than this, if you were the kind of kid, like yours truly, who used to enjoy wandering around abandoned schoolyards and empty old houses at night in some attempt to try and scare yourself silly, this is the kind of game you can probably get behind. But be warned: You really DO need to be that kind of person, who enjoys EXPLORING things, and RE-EXPLORING them, and RE-EXPLORING THEM AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN, or else this is gonna bore you stupid in no time; not least of all because the occasional "hints" as to where to go next are generally few and far between.
In all fairness, this IS a tiny bit more than just a "walking simulator" - you can at least add "key-finding simulator", "door-unlocking simulator" and "note-finding simulator" to that list - but there isn't a great deal more to it than that. Like any good horror game, it's really just the vaguest semblance of a "plot", ultimately serving as an excuse for the game to throw a certain number of super-atmospheric and spooky "set-pieces" your way. If this is the kind of thing you consider entertaining, then by all means, come inside...just remember to wear your halo, though, 'cause THAT's the level of patience you're gonna need to make it all the way to the final cut scene (though if you made it all the way through this rather long-winded review, I guess you're part-way to Sainthood already)!