The night of Halloween may be over, but the pumpkins on your front door step haven’t rotted, and there’s still enough candy in your house to sink the Bismarck, so there’s still more time to play some scary horror games. Heliophobia developed by Glass Knuckle Games is a visual chill fest, relying on slow building fear of being hunted and not simple jump-out-on-you scares.
Heliophobia starts with you waking up on a plane. The plane is empty, you find a note telling you to kill J. R. It’s not your writing, and you have no idea who this J.R. is. You’re not given long to contemplate this, because before long your vision starts to distort and you see a weird figure standing at the other end of the plane, glitching. It sees you and you are advised, rather hastily to get the hell out.
It was at this point that I found out that when under pressure, I personally find keyboard and mouse synchronisation rather difficult. As this glitched person screamed and ran towards me, I turned around and run, just getting enough hand-to-eye coordination together to open the bathroom door and close it behind me. For a few seconds afterwards, I stayed completely still in there, hearing the thing eventually go away, but more importantly letting myself calm down a bit.
As you play through the game, there are other things designed to unnerve you. Doors that rattle, televisions playing weird repetitious images, tape recorders playing old music. There’s also broken crystalline people, some of which make emotional sounds when you’re near them. Yep, there’s some freaky stuff in here.
Yeah, so I’m a big giant baby when it comes to horror games, though in this case it is somewhat justified. The things that are after you are quick, sound pretty freaky, and much more importantly can kill you in one hit. There are no internal save points other than the progression through the game.
So, with both the horror of the game and my pitiful ability to deal with it explained, let’s move on to the gameplay of Heliophobia itself.
An important thing to explain first is that the gameplay is non-linear. Once you’re off the plane, and have finished the tutorial-like initial areas, you end up on a corridor filled with doors, each one has a photo which takes you to the level you must get through. Each level has a different location, but they all have one thing in common, they’ll all have some glitching predator like hunters trying to find you.
So, we’ve discussed that they’re quicker than you, very freaky and can kill you instantly, but they are terrible in the darkness which is something so keeping the lights off where possible helps your survival. Also, your screen glitches with increasing intensity as they gets closer, so you don’t need to stick your head out of cover to know if they’re close to you. Oh, you can’t kill them either, you can throw a few objects at them if it will make you feel better, but this tends to end badly for you.
Glass Knuckle Games have kept things simple when it comes to controls. Keyboard for basic movement (Including space for jump and ctrl to crawl) mouse to look around, while the mouse buttons allow you to interact with the world. This simplicity is not a bad thing, it allows the player to focus on what’s important, namely staying alive and finding out just who the hell is J.R.
Graphically, not the sharpest pencil in the set but again, this is not a game that needs to rely on fancy graphics. They wouldn’t have added anything to the game. Slightly more detailed cupboards would add absolutely nothing to this game.
Heliophobia is available on Steam for around £7 / £10, check out the official page here.