November 22, 2016

Andreas Betsche

Microphone-enabled horror game ‘Stifled’ – Can they hear you scream in the dark?

November 22, 2016 | Andreas Betsche

Darkness is one of human’s greatest fears. Darkness can mean insecurity, disorientation or simple panic. Most horror video games use the element of darkness to keep the player from knowing what is going on around them and use it as a surprise element to confuse and scare. What’s making that sound in this dark corner? Can it see me? Will it kill me? How can I get away?

Not all is dark in “Stifled” – The welcoming security of illuminated areas

Overcoming the darkness or using it to your own advantage are key elements for survival in common horror games. Usually, darkness is chased away with very common tools such as flashlights, torches or some supernatural night-vision ability. The horror game “Stifled” takes a more innovative approach. Instead of fighting the darkness with light, the players are equipped with an echoing system. This system visualizes the game world as a reflection of sounds. Suddenly, the use of a microphone becomes relevant. While players make noises, scream, shout or whimper in fear, the surroundings materialize on the screen for a few seconds. In silence, everything is pitch black. Other sources of sound provide some orientation too: dripping pipes or the sound of walking on hard materials. It is also possible to throw a stone or force the game’s character to make generic noises for those who prefer not to shout into their microphone all the time.

Echoing system in action – The sound of throwing a stone creates the player’s surroundings

You might ask: Why not just make a lot of racket and never get lost in this world of darkness again? Well, this wouldn’t be a horror game without some creepy encounters of the third kind. Monsters roam the levels of “Stifled” and are attracted by the player’s noises. So, it’s either getting lost or being eaten by some horrible creature. None of that is truly enjoyable and creates a very simple but effective fear of darkness.

Those who aren’t afraid of the dark can try out a short demo. “Stifled” is currently developed in Singapore by Gattai Games. The release date is December 13th 2016 for PCs and consoles. Let’s hope the developers can keep up the pace of the demo through the rest of the game. Despite such a promising game mechanic, the game’s story background is still unclear as we don’t know the origin of this echo-locating ability yet. If all the game’s elements will work together, “Stifled” could become Southeast Asia’s horror game of the year.

Andreas Betsche

Andreas Betsche founded Virtual SEA in early 2016 after researching Cambodian mobile games for his Master’s thesis. He has a background in Southeast Asia studies and has worked and lived in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Since he has been actively playing games since the early 90s, combing both worlds in Virtual SEA brought together both of his passions.

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