Reveil Impressions: A psycho-thriller with extra thrill
We've seen Pixelsplit's upcoming horror title in action during our time in Germany for Gamescom 2023.
While 2023 has been quite the big year for horror games, this latter half of the year is a little more lacking in horror experiences, despite the spooky season getting ever closer. While we're still waiting to hear exactly when it will actually debut, one horror game that is planned for sometime later this year is Pixelsplit's Reveil, a first-person psycho-thriller that is looking to tap into some truly terrifying aesthetics. How do I know this? Because during my time at Gamescom 2023, I got to see a hands-off look at Reveil to see how it is shaping up.
This title is a bit of a combination of a puzzle room and a horror game. The environments and their aesthetics and the overarching story are designed to be unsettling and creepy, but the actual gameplay is less about running from monsters and killers, and is more about piecing together a psychological mystery. You move around a level completing smaller puzzles all to unlock access to new areas and zones, and at the same time, you have to pick up narrative clues and hints that look to unpack and explain what is going on in the story.
In terms of how Pixelsplit looks to go about this, Reveil is set in what can best be described as a dreamscape where it's very challenging to determine what is and isn't real. One moment you're wandering around a children's bedroom and then you're in a circus, and while the two environments may seem very different, they are connected and related to the narrative that features some very dark themes. The hands-off presentation only gave a glimpse at the story as the developers didn't want to spoil it too much, but it essentially relates to a man waking up disoriented and struggling to determine what happened to his wife and daughter the night before.
If you've ever felt uncomfortable in the company of clowns and at circuses, then Reveil is going to be terrifying to you. This game has a very creepy nature to it and you always feel unsafe and on-edge when wandering around, all because of the emptiness, lack of life, and derelict level design. Even the most hospitable locations like the house that the protagonist wakes up in has an aura of despair to it, almost in the same way that games like P.T. and Returnal manage to achieve when you're walking around a seemingly normal place that has a very icy atmosphere to it.
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The mini-games and puzzles on the other hand look to ease off the unsettling nature a tad. Reveil isn't a game where you just progress consistently through locations, being jump scared and frightened as you go. No, you have to solve short puzzles to open the way. This could be exploring a room for little interactable objects that each pertain to a wider clue, or even fiddling with a circuit board to power up an area so that you can play with an arcade machine to get a coin necessary for passing through a turnstile. The puzzles remind me a bit of The Room and the escape room challenges that were present in that title.
Pixelsplit told me that Reveil will feature five chapters to work through and that to add to the fear factor, there is no combat in this game. You simply have to run from danger whenever it presents itself. This isn't a Resident Evil or a Dead Space in its horror style, it's more akin to Outlast and The Medium, asking you to flee from threats instead of battling them like an action hero.
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While I've yet to actually go hands-on with Reveil, what I saw during Gamescom did make me excited for this horror title. Hopefully it will be ready to make its debut in time for Halloween, as this could be a prime candidate for a game to spook yourself silly on the most frightening night of the year.