Damned
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2015-02-05 PC Survival/Horror T (Teen) 9heads Game Studio

The first time I played Damned I felt incredibly lost. I had nothing but a flashlight, I was placed alone in a room, and I had no idea what was going on, except that there was a monster and other people trying to survive. Needless to say, I was dead within a couple of minutes without knowing what the hell had just happened in the darkness.

This situation repeated itself several times, usually being caught off guard and never even seeing what killed me. Just when I started to think Michael had wasted his money on giving me Damned as a gift, something magical happened: I jumped in my chair and screamed in fear at my first face to face with a monster!

Damned took me some time to get into, but now I can't get enough of it. Once you have a couple of friends to play it with, it's even more fun. And just because it is fun, it doesn't mean it's not scary.

The premise of the game places up to four survivors against one monster. The survivors begin in different parts of the map, armed with nothing but their wits and a flashlight. The goal is to avoid the monster as you search around for clues to help you find the exit. There is no map so you need to rely on your sense of direction (in my case, mostly non-existent), and it's pretty confusing when it's usually so dark.

You move around using AWSD, SHIFT to sprint (but only in short bursts), CTRL to crouch, left mouse button to interact with things and right button to use the flashlight.

You look around for keys to open locked doors, but you never know which key fits in what door, so it's a trial and error process unless the key specifically states the room it belongs to. You can pick up batteries to extend the life of your flashlight. There are also boarded up doors which you can only pry lose if you find a hammer or crowbar, and chained gates that require cutters to unlock. On rare occasions, there's will be a safe that needs a code to be opened. Finding these is easier said than done, since they can be anywhere and the location of any item is randomly selected at the start of a game, but anything you can pick up flashes in the dark.

The longer you survive the more the game tries to scare you. You will begin seeing things, hearing things, your flashlight will start turning on and off, you will go into complete darkness for a while, your character will randomly stop moving and hyperventilate as if having a panic attack. It really conveys a good sense of fear when you hear the character freaking out!

For the survivors, the in-game chat system helps coordinate efforts, or if you prefer, use in-game voice chat. Only the survivors can see the text chat, the monster won't be able to.

The monster gameplay is quite interesting. So far, Damned has three available monsters for us to play as. The Lurker can phase out of sight and interact with objects to set traps. As the Lurker, you hunt by sound. When someone is near and sets off said trap, it will make noise so that you know someone is near. This is when should can phase into your physical form and hunt, but you must be quick, or you will phase out again and will have to wait to recover and change back. I have quite a bit of fun playing the Lurker, and I must say that encountering him in the dark is pretty damn creepy, especially since there are some sounds that hint to his presence even when he's not visible.

I'm not fond of playing as the Phantom but he sure is sneaky when hunting you in dark places. The Phantom can't see anyone unless they are moving or have their flashlights turned on, but can also use sound to try and locate players.

The scariest for me has to be Mary. Mary is a weepy girl in a white dress with hair covering her face, much like the girl in The Ring. Mary is incredibly slow, so playing as her is always a game of patience. She needs to be in line of sight with her victims to enrage and be able to kill. The catch is that the game teleports Mary to random locations within the stage at random intervals.

You can also teleport at will if you have enough rage, with luck ending up right in front of an unsuspecting survivor and scare the living crap out of them with that brutal screech.

Mary can't go through locked doors, but can open unlocked ones. Holding a door closed with Mary pushing it on the other side has got to be one of the creepiest experiences ever, especially since the door opening/closing controls are pretty awkward.

And you know that if you see her, she sees you and that rage is ready to go off on you. It's especially creepy - and also hilarious - when she accidentally manages to materialize inside said room and kill you! The Lurker can go through doors when not in physical form. For the Phantom, doors do not matter at all since he goes right through. In fact, when playing as the Phantom, you will notice that the map has no visible doors.

The maps are challenging and some are quite disorienting, ranging from abandoned asylums to decrepit hotels, factory grounds and even an outdoors experience at a camping site by a lake. While the indoor maps are similar in terms of rooms, they still provide us with the appropriate look and feel of a survival-horror experience.

Damned is still a work in progress, and I've just started noticing some improvement in certain textures. Expect to run into bugs and glitches, such as not loading in when everyone has already started the game, not being able to pick up any items or interact with things or seeing duplicates of dead characters do awkward animations.

Regardless of the bugs and glitches, the atmosphere and clever use of music and sound is what makes Damned so much fun to play. It's spooky, it has some really creepy things going on, and it constantly tries to scare you when you're alive for too long.

Playing as the survivor is always stressful, and no matter how many times I've been through the stages or how many encounters I've had with the monsters, Damned still manages to constantly make me nervous and on occasion, downright scare me. And I love it for that.

Special thanks to Michael, Luke, Murphy, Dan and Sexy General Zassho for the fun and scares!

For more gameplay footage of Damned, browse the playlist below. Mind the screaming and occasional swearing!