WayForward’s newest game was a bit of a surprise to me. At no point did I expect my first iOS game to be a well-crafted homage to the likes of Resident Evil and the soul of “survival horror” games. You assume the role of Erica Page, who’s lucky enough to be locked in a haunted mansion by her “friends” while in search of her long-lost BFF Angie. At least they give her a flashlight. Erica is immediately greeted by the mansion’s otherworldly element and begins her struggle for survival, which entails breaking the mansion’s curse by sunrise and not dying in the process.
Some areas in the mansion are genuinely creepy.
Maneuvering Erica is simple enough. A tap on the screen and she’ll move to that spot, or drag your finger slightly and she’ll walk in that direction. I won’t lie and say this works better than an analog stick, because it doesn’t, but it is functional and only in rare circumstances was a hindrance. Tapping on applicable objects will initiate interactions such as opening doors, pushing boxes, and pulling levers. Icons for Erica’s inventory, flashlight toggle (which seemingly had no purpose), and map can be found along the right side of the screen. Be prepared to use that map because the mansion is a labyrinth of locked doors and the keys are not universal.
A key for every door and a door for every key.
Each key opens a single locked door much like the GameCube’s Luigi’s Mansion (to which Til Morning’s Light bears a slight resemblance) and you’ll need to engage in a bit of backtracking to enter new rooms. Snuggled in the mansion’s numerous rooms are scattered coins, keys, boxes, switches, a handful of friendly (and some not so friendly) ghosts, and hundreds of monsters. As silly as they look, Erica’s adversaries want to kill her and they will unless she bashes them to pieces with her arsenal comprised entirely of melee weapons.
Combat is possibly the oddest aspect of the experience. Enemies freely wander the mansion hallways and rooms and colliding Erica with them will initiate a battle much like in a JRPG. Erica doesn’t fight her opponents through menu commands though. Battles consist of a series of onscreen input commands based around taps and swipes. The icons for these commands are much like those found in the rhythm games Elite Beat Agents and Theatrhythm and consist of shrinking circles, bouncing dots, and pulsing lines. The combat is rhythmic but not in relation to the music. Every correct command lands a hit on the enemy and perfectly played battles will end without Erica being attacked. The upper echelon of baddies will occasionally block attacks, but as long as you never miss a command, you will beat your opponent until it dies. Though easy initially, combat becomes increasingly difficult as new potential commands are added to the mix and enemies hit harder when commands are whiffed.
Erica's clothes become torn as the story progresses. A detail I've only seen in high budget AAA games like the Batman Arkham series.
Fire axes, shovels, swords, sledgehammers, fire pokers, meat cleavers, and the like can all be found lying around the house. These blunt implements aren’t just used for combat though, as many have functions that aid exploration. The shovel, for example, can be used to dig up dirt mounds and the fire poker can pull items from fire places. Unfortunately, only one weapon can be carried at a time and the need for specific weapons can lead to lengthy treks to reacquire less common ones.
As cool as this room looks, it is solved by pushing boxes.
Puzzle variety is slightly disappointing as there are numerous box pushing puzzles throughout the experience including several during boss fights (which I found infuriating). There are several puzzles that don’t lean on box pushing and they are a highlight that harken back to survival horror puzzles of antiquity. These unique puzzles are never outright stumpers but require much more thought than placing boxes on pressure plates and replacing levers.
Erica resonated with me in a way that few protagonists do.
Erica’s trip is spurred on by her desire to find the truth about her missing friend (the details of that relationship are notably absent from the game and only found in an audio book on Amazon’s Audible service) but what she ends up finding is a healthy dose of self-confidence. The unfortunate residents she meets on her journey begin to modify her character as she gradually grows from fearful to being feared by her captors. Erica’s banter with the villains and ghosts add a substantial charm to the experience that puts me in the mind of Buffy the Vampire Slayer through the veneer of a Saturday morning cartoon. It's fun and playful, even though it is based largely around death and loss.
I enjoyed my stay in this particular haunted house and I encourage fans of “traditional survival horror” to at least take a peek inside. They might just find something that has been missing for a long time.
Images taken using the screenshot function of my iPhone
Game purchased for personal use
Questions or comments?
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