Hideo Kojima said in an interview last year that the most effective way to scare people is to show them something that’s slightly out of the ordinary. “Slightly off, but at first glance, they don’t know what it is about it that is unusual. When you do something like this, it confuses the mind, and that becomes unnerving for the person who sees it,”
That about sums up the essence of Stifled.
Set in the dolphin world of echolocation, you play as David Ridley a man whose mind is about to snap. As you’re thrust into a world of complete and encapsulating darkness each step you take erupts in waves of white light around you, highlighting the world in fine lines. But as those lines ripple across the screen you begin to see shapes of terrible monsters listening out for you. Running is no help and more often than not it’ll end with a massive outline in red smacking into you. You have to be sneaky and quiet to get around these beasts.
The worst part of this game? It has you hooked up to a microphone so that with every breath you take and with every noise you make it draws the monsters closer to your location. But you have to keep moving right and not scream when something jumps at you? And therein lies the genius of Stifled. I have to say the worst part was the sound of my footsteps that no matter how lightly I tapped the controller seemed like a bright beacon to everyone around me. Damn you Ridley and your elephant gait!
What makes Stifled infinitely more horrifying is being trapped in the world of virtual reality. It’s not like being a bird and flying high in the sky, it’s like being in a coffin. Putting on the headset gives you the true immersion of darkness but if you think it’s the jump scares that are going to get you, although I have to say they definitely do. It’s the quiet moments of anticipation standing and listening that really had me rooted to the spot for fear of taking another step forward.
I think it’s safe to say after this experience I’m not cut out to be Daredevil. Gattai Games has done with so little what so many big budget AAA zombie chasing horror games have failed to do. It’s a twisted game mechanic and it ultimately just works.
Stifled is not a long or a deep game, don’t expect Resident Evil 7 here or anything. What the game does have is an extremely strong core premise that just works and it’s by far one of the better VR games out now on the PlayStation.