Few indie horror titles have a presence as strong as Amnesia. The series has been terrifying audiences for a decade now and each release has been met with pretty favourable reviews from both fans and critics. The latest entry into the series, Rebirth, landed earlier this week, and without going into too much detail here, I think it holds up as some of the series' best work.
Rebirth starts in a rather dramatic fashion. The plane that you are boarding with your partner plummets into the scorching sands of the Algerian desert, and after searching the wreckage, there is no one to be found. It's then up to you to set out in search of the missing passengers and uncover the horrific mysteries that are surrounding the new locale you find yourself in. You play as a researcher known as Tasi Trianon, who has lost many of her memories after this traumatic incident, and as you progress, her forgotten past begins to unravel.
Something that struck me right off the bat is how varied Rebirth feels compared to other modern horror games. Instead of despising our existence in a haunted house or a cabin in the woods, Rebirth opts for a less than conventional approach to its locales. You find yourself crossing blisteringly-hot deserts, alien-like underground laboratories, and many other strange dimensions using a curious device on your wrist. As a result, things feel much more fresh, and it shows that these tired settings don't need to be depended on again and again to deliver the big scares.
Just like in previous Amnesia instalments, your sanity will start to cascade if you are consumed by darkness for too long. Much of Rebirth is spent trailing through blackened hallways, caves, and passageways, so you'll find yourself in the darkness a whole lot. The sense of terror felt by Tasi as she stumbles through the unknown is something that Rebirth effectively conveys. The more time you spend in the pitch black, the more that haunting images will flash into your consciousness and unpleasant sounds will start to chew away at your eardrums. Seriously, at points, it sounds like your eardrums have been stuffed with popping candy, and it's physically uncomfortable to endure.
To help navigate your way around and to prevent the darkness from taking a hold of you, you'll need to make sure that you are appropriately stocked up on matches and lighter fluid. Lighting a match or flicking on your lantern can illuminate your path for a fleeting amount of time, but resources are scarce, and you'll need to carefully consider when to use them. A hefty percentage of my playthrough was spent fumbling around in the dark not knowing where to go or what was watching me from the shadows. Removing this primary sense left me feeling vulnerable, and for me, it was the creepiest aspect that Rebirth had to offer.
That's not to say its chase sequences aren't bone-chilling, however. In the title's latter half, you'll realise that you're not always alone in the shadows and will have to escape the clutches of some pretty harrowing looking creatures. During these moments you'll find yourself dashing into the pitch black and feeling awfully claustrophobic, as you're tasked with running down narrow corridors and squeezing through some pretty tight spaces. My pulse was certainly racing, but I do wish there was more of a consequence here for dying, as if you get caught or turn insane, the game just flashes back to a few moments earlier. Receiving some sort of penalty for this, I feel, would have added a greater sense of panic and urgency.
Possibly to prevent players from suffering a heart attack, moments of exploration are broken up with several puzzles. For the most part, I found the puzzles here to be intelligently designed, and they crept up just frequently enough to feel like a refreshing change of pace. One puzzle, for example, had me crafting ammunition for an abandoned tank and another tasked me with triggering pressure switches in the darkness to navigate through a maze. What I should mention though, is that the game doesn't hold your hand, and you'll likely find yourself stumped on more than one occasion as you desperately try to find a solution. This, of course, is positive as they aren't often straightforward and require concentration.
The story can be stormed through in six to eight hours, which is pretty ample for a linear horror game, but I wish that a chapter selection system was implemented. Having a chance to go back and grab all the missing collectibles would have been a nice touch for completionists and it would have helped to aid the replay ability. These scraps of paper help to add to the lore and can be easily overlooked when you're fumbling around in the dark. The save system is...well, pretty sketchy too, and I do wish the title opted for several different save slots instead of just handing you a messy list of recent autosaves to sift through.
During my time with Rebirth, I didn't encounter any glitches or frame rate problems, but I did happen to stumble upon one pretty significant technical issue. After returning to my save around the midway point, I found that it had become corrupted and had to repeat the last three areas just to be able to catch up. Luckily, this was only a one time issue, but it was still a minor annoyance, and I was worried that it may have happened again before the credits. This game was pretty scary enough without having to worry about losing my progress!
If you couldn't tell already, I had an absolute blast playing through Amnesia: Rebirth. I found it masterfully conveyed fear with its use of sound design and harrowing visuals, and its puzzles felt well-crafted and appropriately paced. I do wish, however, that death felt more punishing and that a chapter select system was implemented to make backtracking simple. That said, Rebirth should absolutely be on your radar this Halloween if you're seeking a puzzle-focused horror that isn't afraid to play things a little differently.