The team behind the sleeper-hit, atmospheric horror game Scratches is back with their next big project: Asylum. Buenos-Aires-based developer Senscape Interactive has chipped away at their new release for a decade, making its development truly a labor of love…and boy does it show! But during that time, the industry has witnessed other releases related to asylums and their hospital mistreatment of patients. So what does Senscape have in store for players in a post-Outlast-and-Fran-Bow world? Well judging by its brand-new page in the Steam store: a lot. Check out the most recent gameplay footage here!
After finding success with point-and-click masterpiece Scratches, Augustín Cordes launched Senscape Interactive in his home-country of Argentina in 2010. Since then they have created their own game engine known as Dagon, and with it has built Asylum painstakingly over the past ten years, which little to no budget. Taking that into account, this game looks even more fantastic. Asylum aptly takes place in the Hanwell Mental Institute, a singular building featuring over a hundred rooms that the player is free to explore.
Cordes’ style is that of a more atmospheric horror, instilling a sense of dread by a nuanced environment rather than a series of jump-scares or blood and gore (however they have promised a little bit of that here and there). Because Cordes and his team rely so heavily on atmosphere, fans of his work can attest to the extreme level of detail within his environments…which might explain why this game has taken ten years to make! According to Senscape on their 2013 Kickstarter page, “the deeper you go and the more attention you pay to your surroundings, the more Hanwell Mental Institute will reveal about its true nature.” So this is definitely a game where you might want to settle in to your favorite chair with a hot (or cold) beverage of your choice, and take your time moseying through the halls.
Those following the development of the project have noted that the game has undergone a series of cosmetic incarnations, the most recent being the final selection: an old-school 1980s horror vibe. Providing a more vintage, almost kitschy feel with more dynamic lighting and use of pops of color. Typically the words “horror,” “kitschy,” and “pops of color” don’t usually coincide, but it definitely works, here. Check out these screenshots you’ll see what we mean:
This new art direction a bold move, but it has clearly payed off, as it further distinguishes Asylum from other grey-tinged survival horror games of late (no offense, Resident Evil 7). However this cosmetic overhaul could have proven detrimental to the atmospheric focus of the design, since changing the image intrinsically changes the generated atmosphere. But this risk appears to have been well worth it, because we are loving the new look, and so is Senscape. In response to a comment I posted on their Facebook page, Senscape said: “the project did suffer from an identity crisis, even if the original design/script has remained unchanged since 2011. But we’re also mega-convinced this was the right call.”
It is also an interesting choice to stick with the point-and-click style of game play that Scratches utilized, although at this point it feels intentional. With the rise of VR and mobile gaming, point-and-click adventure games sometimes are left in the dust in favor of more advanced forms of interaction; however when it comes to non-open-world games that hinge on exploration, point-and-click is actually a simple, elegant way to do it. And it’s a throwback to older styles of games, which goes with the vintage theme. Having a major release in this style may very well shake things up in the gaming world.
But what about the story?
Cordes has admitted that even he is surprised by how well they were able to keep the story a secret for all this time. Because of that, we have little evidence to go on, except that there is something that Hanwell is hiding. In their announcement video on their Kickstarter, Cordes said “By combining thrilling storytelling highly influenced by the legendary H.P Lovecraft and some of the most breathtaking visuals ever seen in a video game, Asylum promises to deliver an experience unlike any other. Horrifying, and totally engaging.”
So fans of Lovecraft and his mythos will surely be interested in what this game has to offer, and we here at Silver Soul are definitely going to watch the development on this one. To connect with Senscape, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and their online forums, and don’t forget to add Asylum to your Steam wish list!
Images used with permission of Senscape Interactive.