Those Who Remain is creepy as f&*k. I’m not the guy who normally takes on horror games, and I’m never the one to suggest a horror movie when it comes to Netflix-and-stay-away-from-the-rest-of-the-world-because-of-a-nasty-virus. I like bright colour, bad jokes, and heartwarming stories. Instead, Those Who Remain gave me the chills and had me turning every light and lamp on in my living room.
Edward is Those Who Remain’s playable character. It’s obvious from the off that Edward isn’t a happy man; he’s on his way to some hinkydink motel to break up with his girlfriend. He’s not having the best of times, and his constant moaning let me know that. Not that it ever got to be too much; Edward’s voice is basically the only story exposition you get, so every word is appreciated, even if he is being a moaning Mike.
Pulling up to the classic horror-movie motel to find nobody there was unnerving. I checked reception, expecting to at least have some sassy lady who can’t be arsed with her job to give me a nod of the head. I got nothing. There was nobody there. I mooched around, found a key, and let myself into the soon-to-be-ex girlfriend’s rented room. Nobody there, but there was a phone call.
“Stay in the light. Stay in the light,” whispers a young girl’s voice.
Turning around to check the dark corners, I felt the goose pimples on my arms and neck. What is this game trying to do to me?!?! I legged it outside to find my car had been nicked. That’s what you get for leaving the keys in the ignition, I suppose.
There’s only one thing left to do, and that’s to follow the road and see if I can find someone. I don’t really expect to find the sheriff with a pot of fresh tea, nor do I expect this creepiness to come to a sudden end as everything is revealed. Still, I hoped against hope there would at least be someone to explain what’s going on. But this is a game and I know I’m being an idiot.
The next area has a few buildings – a couple of houses, a barn – and I let myself into the first house. The door isn’t locked and nobody is inside. Well, nobody that you’d want to get close to, anyway. Standing in the entrance hall of the house and looking into the kitchen, tall, dark, shadowy figures with bright white specs of light for eyes stood before me. They don’t move and they don’t make any noise, and that makes everything all the more creepy. Who are these people? Are they people? Are they the occupants of the house? How did they turn into shadow people and how will that affect their social lives? Do they need to get new shadow people passports? Oh, and why are some of them holding weapons?
I flip the light switch and they disappear as the light turns on. But there are more. The kitchen has a glass sliding door, and outside in the darkness, the shadow people lurk. I turn on another light and they disappear. I have a mooch around the abandoned house and find nobody. I stood at the bottom of the stairs looking upwards. Shadow people. I need to go upstairs and have a look at what’s going on and if there’s anything for me to steal. I’m a gamer, of course, and these are my natural instincts. Us gamers are also curious folk, so on behalf of our kind, I ran straight up the stairs towards the shadow people to see if there was any chance we couldn’t just have a good old-fashioned video-game fight. Nope. Edward collapses, the screen goes black, and I’m back at the bottom of the stairs. Fair enough. But I will find a way to kill you, you creepy sods.
Between this house and the next area, I had to complete a basic puzzle that involved finding a key and turning on a generator to get the lights going. It wasn’t difficult, but it was tense. Every step towards the darkness had me feeling uneasy, and every time those shadow people made an appearance, I felt myself squirm a little in my seat.
It’s soon obvious that not all is well with the world, or at least Edward’s world. A gas station further up the way turns into a Stranger Things-like upside-down, topsy turvy world. Walk through the bright light doorway and the regular looking gas station become’s a cold and dead world with overgrown foliage wrapping itself around the nearby car. It’s unnerving, and that’s the point, I guess.
Those Who Remain is a creepy, creepy game. When I play a game for preview purposes and enjoy it, I normally sign off by saying that I’m looking forward to the full release. Not this time, or at least not completely. I’m intrigued by Edward’s situation and the world he’s found himself in, but I’m equally creeped-out by those shadow folk. I like my dreams to be full of lovely things, not weird, featureless silhouettes and monsters! Regardless, I’ll play it and most likely enjoy it, but I’ll definitely hate myself.
If you’re looking for a thriller with a creep-factor of 10, Those Who Remain is shaping up to be a special little game.
Those Who Remain will release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on May 15th, 2020, with a Nintendo Switch release coming at a late date.
Disclaimer: This preview was carried out using preview code for the PC version of the game, provided by the publisher.