Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel, from the relatively unknown developer Pulsatrix Studios, it out now through Maximum Games. It’s available for PC, Xbox and PlayStation – we played the console version of the game.
When we first saw footage of St. Dinfna Hotel, we were immediately interested. Not because it promised to do something radically new in the horror genre, but because it appeared to combine a ton of elements that we generally enjoy. A “The Shining”-like creepy hotel, a first person perspective to immerse you in the setting, a sense of dread and the occasional jump scare. It also features gunplay, which you don’t see too often in games that are set in and around a single location.
Unfortunately said gunplay is one of the least successful bits of St. Dinfna Hotel as it mostly just feels awkward and rarely exciting. If you’re looking for something like the F.E.A.R. games, this isn’t it. Perhaps that’s partly intentional though, as you’re not playing as someone who’s part of an elite squad of specialists here. You’re a low profile journalist, hoping to do a story on a hotel that’s been rumoured to be involved with a series of mysterious occurrences, people vanishing and paranormal happenings.
With a setting like that, not much good can come of protagonist Roberto Leite Lopes’ trip to the St. Dinfna Hotel, and once he finds a strange camera things turn a little Fatal Frame-like. The camera turns out to be a gateway to other not-so-pleasant timelines and dimensions, causing him to witness terrible and grotesque things at times.
This is where the game’s excellent sense of atmosphere comes into play. The often empty hallways and ominous lighting don’t instill a sense of calm in you, and this is a great title to play with headphones (or a surround sound speaker system with the volume turned up). Even when nothing’s going on, you always have the sense that something creepy could be around the next corner – even if that something can be as cliche as a scary little girl roaming the halls.
With a good length campaign (we completed the game in just under ten hours) and a budget price point, this is a solid recommendation for horror fans. It doesn’t do anything particularly original and the combat is a bit underwhelming, but it delivers where it should.