The Amnesia Collection review, PS4: Essential for console gamers who love horror

£24 - Frictional Games

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The Independent Tech

When cult horror game Amnesia was released in 2010, console owners were left wondering what all the fuss was about as PC gamers lost their collective minds and a thousand YouTube personalities were born overnight, streaming their terrifying playthroughs and even more terrifying ‘reactions’ to the game. Fast forward six years, and PS4 owners finally have a chance to find out what this game is all about, as well as its sequels.

The Amnesia collection consists of the original game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Amnesia: Justine, a short stand-alone expansion to the first game, and Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, an indirect sequel set in the same world but with a new story and characters.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent pitches you as Daniel, a man who wakes up in a strange castle with no memory of how he got there. Armed with nothing more than a lantern and limited supply of tinderboxes to light it, it’s up to you to find your way through the castle and piece together what has happened. To help you, you’ll find notes that you have previously left that flesh out the story.

The castle and its inhabitants are a Lovecraftian fever-dream made flesh, and during your time there you’ll be pursued by monsters who don’t much like having their personal space invaded. With no weapons, you’re forced to creep your way past enemies and hide from pursuers, snuffing out your lamp to avoid detection. It’s a simple mechanic but it sure as hell works, leaving you feeling utterly helpless whenever you run into one of the castle’s creatures, and praying they don’t spot you.

The atmosphere is pitch perfect, with distant clanking and whispers making you second guess your surroundings at every turn. Spend too long in the dark, or stare directly at one of your stalkers, and Daniel’s sanity starts to slip, with paintings turning into ghastly visages, and your vision slowly clouding. It’s claustrophobic, eerie and unsettling, and one of the most tense experiences you can have with a video game.

Amnesia: Justine is less a full game, and more a standalone addition to the first title. The experience lasts about an hour, and is a Saw-esque series of trials in a murky dungeon that sees you save or condemn prisoners by solving puzzles or simply walking away. It adds a new element to the series gameplay, but it’s a slight experience overall.

2013’s Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, is the last installment and centres around new characters and locales, but set in the same universe. This time around you play as Oswald, implied to be a descendant of Daniel from the original game, who wakes up in a large abandoned home in Victorian London, and is forced to follow the ghostly voices of his children through several nightmarish locations while being pursued by anthropomorphic pig men. It marks a notable departure in mechanics from the previous titles. With developer Frictional Games handing over the reigns to Chinese Room, makers of Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, A Machine For Pigs makes a significant shift to the ‘walking simulator’ style game that the studio is famous for.

There’s a lot more downtime in this game, and gameplay has been simplified, losing the inventory system, and with regenerating health replacing the frantic search for the medicine vials of the first game. There’s also no sanity effect this time around either, meaning you can merrily gawp at the lumbering enemies while whistling the Peppa Pig theme tune to yourself with no repercussions. The enemy encounters are sparse in A Machine For Pigs, which might not please everyone, but it’s an effective way to ratchet up the tension. It’s a shame then that when you do stumble across an enemy, the design isn’t a patch on that of the previous games, being more Scooby Doo than Cthulhu. It’s a tighter game overall and a more linear experience, but it doesn’t quite have the lightning in a bottle that the first game was able to capture.

Across all three games, the graphics are serviceable but far from stunning. The series crafts its environments more through tone and excellent sound design than graphical prowess, and as most of the game is spent with you nervously fumbling your way through dimly lit corridors, the visual aspect is justified in taking a back seat. As you’d expect from older games like these, they run smoothly on the PS4.

Horror fans will be beside themselves to have the acclaimed Amnesia on a console, even if it’s been a six-year wait. It could be argued that the sneak and creep formula has been refined with more recent games, such as Alien: Isolation, and SOMA (also from Frictional games), but there’s no doubt that this collection is essential for anyone who appreciates the genre. Those with a weak heart or nervous disposition will want to steer clear, though, or at least make sure their will is up to date.