Visage is a first person horror developed and published by SadSquare Studio. You are trapped in a house you can’t seem to escape from, and need to work your way through the tragic stories of each of the houses former denizens. But be warned; they wont make it easy. Lets play the tape on our Visage PC Review. THIS REVIEW IS NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN OR PEOPLE WITH A NERVOUS DISPOSITION, VISAGE IS GRAPHIC AND THIS REVIEW WILL REFLECT THAT.
The game opens up with a graphic cutscene, showing a family tied to chairs in a basement and a man, presumably the player character, loading a revolver. One by one, you shoot the wife and two children in the head, before blowing your own brains out. Cut to black. You wake up in a strange house, with no other people or indication of what’s going on, and I suppose you’ll start wondering around then.
The game is broken into three chapters, each of which will see you walking around a heavily altered version of the house featuring portals and space time bending, all the while trying to avoid the family member of that chapter hunting you down and killing you. Each chapter tells the tragic backstory of the family member hunting you down. It wont take long before you start to realise you might be connected to these family members differently to what you think, but you’ll have to find that out for yourself.
The stories of each chapter are brutal and raw, showing you an uncomfortable reality that you now relive in a twisted way. One chapter see’s you visiting a mental hospital, whilst another deals with a little girls ‘imaginary friend’, and each of the stories unravels as you solve clues. Whole picture is disjointed, something that you slowly piece together that gets you interested in the stories of the ghosts chasing you, not your own involvement in it (until towards the end)
Overall the story is as gruesome as the horrors you experience in game; which when you consider some of the horrors you’ll see as you go through, is no easy feat to match.
The gameplay of visage is fairly simply on the surface. Solve puzzles by investigating the house and deciphering the cryptic intent of the ghosts and their stories, along with good ol fashioned ‘insert the round block into the round hole’ item finding/fetching. On top of this is a sanity system, which see’s you losing your sanity in the dark and regain it in the light. If your sanity drops low then spooky shit starts to happen, such as lights breaking, radios and TV’s randomly turning on, doors slamming, etc. Each of these, when witnessed, will further reduce your sanity, so the problem can quickly sky rocket if you aren’t quick to restore your mental health by staring into a bulb like a mothman. When your sanity gets too low, the chapters ghost will outright kill you, meaning you can go from 0-100 real damn fast, so you need to always be vigilant for creepy shit.
Each time you begin a chapter the house will seemingly morph around you, new items will appear and some areas and doors will become outright inaccessible to you until you complete the chapter. Most of the time success relies on you finding a key item that you use to navigate this twisted house, leading you to a revelation about the ghost that lets you complete that chapter. The puzzles are often very outright logical, to the point where conventional ‘gaming’ logic wont help you much. This is great for a horror game where your brain is often in constant fight of flight monkey mode, so what you’d do with an object in real life translating into the game is perfect for the state of mind you’ll be in during play.
Outside of your objectives the ghosts will appear sometimes in set areas, or sometimes an indicator like flashing lights or a creepy laugh will let you know they’re coming right now, you need to get ready. Sometimes you need to hide, sometimes you run, sometimes you need to confront them. It’s all up to your judgement, but god help you if you get it wrong.
The real joy of Visage comes from the sections where reality bends; doors opening into impossible areas like a child’s playground or a sudden hospital ward instead of the basement, seemingly normal objects turning into portals with impossible geometries, there’s even one section that was almost straight out of an M. C. Escher painting. It’s the perfect blend of recognizable locales and impossible terrain, something that feels like you’re completely trapped but somewhere you’ve already been. All of these gameplay choices come together to form something truly special in Visage, with a good series of peaks and troughs to keep you guessing the whole way through.
Visage lives and dies by the way it lights up the intricate layout of the house, and the realistic art style and lighting are what bring this game to the forefront of horror; there’s no sense of disconnect between you and the events on screen with the houses aesthetic making you feel like you’re right there in a real living room being haunted. Also, there’s a VR option for even more immersion if you’re just not quite done wetting yourself.
The facial models can suffer at times though as the game is best to look at when it’s furniture and creepy areas rather than actual people, but this can be a common criticism for most games that attempt a realistic artistic style. Visage however isn’t sparing on the amount of times you’ll get up close and personal with a face, and in those moments it can feel a little dated in the graphical department.
The sound design for Visage is polished and crisp, with great voice acting provided for all the characters that carry weight and emotion to it, along with some truly jarring sound effects in the right place. The trick though is not to make the sound effects the scare, and visage pulls this off really well. I can’t recall a single time I was hit with a jump scare that was just a loud noise and something inconsequential happening in game, they only happened when you were in genuine danger to ramp up the fear in game.
Unfortunately the only notable piece of music in the game was the title screen with its soft opening melody before you start the game, but this is actually beneficial to a horror game. An uncomfortable silence for most of Visage works wonders and allows for not only feelings of tension to build, but silence in a safe spot can let that tension flow out as well, so the apprehension feels very organic as you go around the empty house. You’re not scared going up that same set of stairs five times due to some cheap backing horror music, you’re scared of the door you haven’t been through yet because the game gives you no indication of what to expect.
Visage PC Review – Verdict
Visage is an absolute gem of a horror game, a game with a clearly defined progression path like so many other classic horror games, in a sea of seemingly continuous run away collect a thons that have about ten playthroughs on youtube. My entire gameplay was streamed and it was phenomenal that not only did it scare me and my viewers, it got us talking about the plot the whole way through which actually helped us solve some of the puzzles as well. The scares never felt cheap or predictable, and it leaves you with a sense of dread, not just a quick hit adrenaline rush. Visage is an excellent horror game, and if you can handle strong themes and constant nerves, I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone old enough to play it.
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