Supernormal Review – IGN

Has any other demo had the impact of Hideo Kojima’s genre-defining PT? This stunning teaser for the scrapped Silent Hills may be a decade old (sorry, yes, that made me feel old too), but its legacy is still undeniably shaping the games we play today. One of the latest to pay tribute, Supernormal, says he is the spiritual successor to Allison Road, not PT itself, another an unreleased game that was heavily influenced by Kojima’s discontinued horror project. But doing the one thing that Silent Hills and Allison Road couldn’t, Supernormal actually made its way into our hands — and while it doesn’t leave quite the same impact as its inspirations, it certainly has a few moments worthy of them… as long as you’re willing to wade through its lackluster first half to see them.

Like PT, Supernormal takes place in just one location – Mr. Sakamoto’s stylish Japanese home – and it’s your job as an investigator named Wyatt to uncover exactly what happened to his daughter, Sophia. Although the home is clean and tidy, there are many signs that something is wrong. There is blood splattered on the piano. Bloody handprints are stamped all over the downstairs bathroom. Flies swarm around a pile of unwashed clothes in the laundry room, where a gun happens to be lying idle next to the washing machine. Although we’re spared the horror of another hallway extravaganza, Supernormal requires you to get to know Sakamoto’s home well, and as you move around – investigating unexplained sounds and following eerie blood trails – the true horror of what happened here begins to emerge.

This can create a suitably tense atmosphere, but it is often ruined by some odd decisions, especially in the first half. For starters, Supernormal’s boring opening cinematic is just your character and Mr. Sakamoto sitting in front of each other for three minutes while the sound effects and music get louder and louder until you can barely hear the conversation; a real problem considering the automatic subtitles just stop working too. Before long, you’ll be craving more I could not listen to Wyatt as they let you into the house and he talks you through every idiotic thought that enters his head.

“Bloody handprints in a piano-loving environment,” he inexplicably whispers when he discovers blood on the piano. “It’s disturbing to think what might have happened to Sofia. I will leave no stone unturned in my search for answers.”

yes He actually said that out loud.

The uniformly awful dialogue is presented in an unconvincing manner.

“An unexpected sight,” Wyatt adds when he encounters the gun. “The gun in this case raises serious concerns. I have to be cautious and determine its relevance to the missing person investigation.”

It’s uniformly terrible dialogue delivered in a rather unconvincing way, but once you’ve taken your first tour of the house, Wyatt falls mercifully quiet. That’s great, because it’s here—when Wyatt goes silent and all you can hear are the sounds of the house being set up and what may or may not be the moans of the undead—that things take a turn for the terrifying.

Nothing Supernormal’s attempts feel particularly unique, but the scares are beautifully done, especially if you’re playing alone in a dark room with headphones (as all horror games should be enjoyed). The first time I realized how the lingering spirit in this house was trying to communicate with me, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. When a disembodied voice firmly told me to turn off the light, you better believe I did.

The entire 90-minute playtime is essentially one giant scavenger hunt as you search for clues, and you’ll never quite a lot be sure what you need to do to trigger the next event – ​​but the ghostly interactions you’ll encounter are truly unsettling, with randomized events significantly more terrifying than scripted ones. There’s one where the ghost crawls down the wall like a cockroach. Another where he slides around the place with his back arched, a pure homage to the deleted crawling spider scene from The Exorcist. Other times, he’s stomping around the kitchen, just a few feet from where you’re sitting, staring at your laptop. But only through regular interaction with the laptop will you be able to progress, which adds a delicious rhythm of tension every time you sit down.

The ghostly interactions you will encounter are truly unsettling.

Undoubtedly one of the more intriguing features of Supernormal is the voice recognition system, although it never worked properly for me. If you have a live mic, you could theoretically ask the spirit where it is or if it can see you. Unfortunately, even though my mic was up, I wasn’t able to pull off any of the awesome TV announcements shown in the teaser trailers. I guess it’s nice that this feature is optional, since I managed to finish three games without using my microphone, but it’s a shame that such a key feature didn’t work for me during them, even after realizing that the red the microphone icon meant a ghost i can hears you, not that it can’t (surely green would be a more recognizable visual indicator?).

Eventually, though, not only will you learn that being killed by this ghost is entirely out of your hands—it’ll somewhat arbitrarily decide whether or not you’ll make it through a sequence alive—but it’s also without consequence. If it decides to take you out (whether you “look behind you” or not), you’ll wake up back on the couch without having lost any progress. This isn’t exactly a complaint, as few things reduce the impact of horror more than making you repeat things over and over again, but it does take some of the fear away. Also, you’ll eventually find that the pulsing of your flashlight (which you’re never explicitly told you have, by the way) is also pointless.

Supernormal looks and sounds great though – the visual style of Sakamoto’s home and especially its lighting are really well designed, even if they borrowed a lot of ideas from PT. Most of the time you’ll also move through the story smoothly, rarely getting stuck in annoying ways, which – unpopular opinion warning – is a step up from PT’s sometimes super confusing puzzles.

I can’t be as complimentary about Supernormal’s clunky story, though. “Something, something untreated mental health is bad” is as lazy as it is stereotypical, and I expected an inevitable “twist” the moment Wyatt made an offhand comment about a certain item he found lying around. I know Supernormal isn’t the only game guilty of these crimes, but it’s the latest of many, long series of psychological thrillers that by default have this kind of stupid plot, and we need horror designers to try a little harder than falling back on harmful stereotypes.

Aside from the quest for a second ending, there isn’t much replayability here either. Most scares seem to be randomized, so while you may see some new encounters on the second playthrough, nothing else changes – including the password you spend the second half trying to find. This means you can speed up your game by entering the password the moment you access the laptop and bypass thirty minutes of searching for clues. Yes, you may see some new spikes, but nothing else of note will change, including the default “bad” ending.

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