Review | Visage
Horror trends seem to come in waves any time something particularly scary hits the scene. Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro’s horror opus of a demo, P.T., would have been that spark for the genre if the full game had come to fruition. Sadly, only a short demo gave proof of concept to what is one of the most unique and terrifying horror gaming experiences. Nothing had come close to me in matching what I felt when wandering through the endless hallway of P.T.‘s demo, that is, until SadSquare Studio released the final version of Visage. Promised as the spiritual successor to a horror game we would now never pry from the clutches of Konami, Visage wears its inspiration of its sleeve. Everything from the sound and visual design, to the obscure puzzles of Visage screams P.T. and I have finally found myself transported back to the excitement I felt for a truly terrifying horror game.
Taking place entirely inside a three-bedroom single-family home, Visage is a very intimate horror experience. It is not too long into the game before you could draw a floor plan of the Visage house from memory. The game takes you throughout every area of the house, searching for clues as to how to proceed. This setting lends itself to horror extremely well, since as you explore the house, you come to know it very well, only to have unexpected changes and encounters rear their heads as you round a previously safe corner. Visage does take you outside of the walls of the house on occasion, but most of the action expertly uses that primary house to bring the scares.
The main thrust of Visage is guiding you through the experiences of multiple spirits who met a gruesome and untimely end. These spirits are not your friends and you are always being hunted from the moment you wake up inside the dingy empty room and stumble out into the main house. The intensity of the atmosphere in Visage is a bit of double-edged sword. On the one hand, just like in P.T., there is a weight to existing inside this house. There is a constant fear of what could jump out at you if you turn a corner or light up your lighter. Keeping this going is a difficult thing for any game to do, but Visage actually manages to stay scary for the long haul. While P.T. was a shorter experience, Visage is significantly longer and after my first few play sessions I was exhausted from being tense. This can be pretty easily resolved by playing in shorter bursts, but if you are especially sensitive to scary games, this one might be a bit much. Visage comes at you hard with a combination of slow-burn scary moments and even some well-earned jump scares. I am a huge horror fan and even I had a nightmare the first night after playing Visage.
One of the really unique things about P.T. was the puzzle design. It took some true poking and prodding to figure out what that game wanted from its players, and this is something other imitators like Layers of Fear never quite got right. This type of puzzle design makes for a satisfying experience when you manage to crack the code and Visage offers this in spades. Any of the moments where I came to the solution of any of these obscure puzzles naturally felt like I was a great detective solving a difficult case under harrowing circumstances. On the flip side, wandering around aimlessly can feel really frustrating, especially when the threat of getting jump scare killed or running out of pills to heal your sanity are constant concerns. Some of these puzzles rely on a bit of luck to stumble upon and it can occasionally feel a bit like pixel-hunting at times.
Walking into the stairwell hallway of Visage and hearing the groan of the the chain holding up the light immediately sent a shiver down my back. The dusty remnants of whomever lived in this house before litter the floor and shelves render in impressive high-fidelity. Is that laughing, or crying I’m hearing from just around that corner? You would be forgiven for thinking I was talking about P.T. for all of these comments, but that is just how well that Visage has managed to evoke the setting and tone of that demo. If you have been waiting for the game that can make you feel as though you got to play the full version of P.T., then Visage has you covered.
- Expertly-crafted atmosphere that directly injects horror into your veins
- A consistently scary experience from beginning to end
- Pays homage to P.T. while building upon the blueprint that it left
- Puzzles can be obscure at times to the point of frustration
- The constantly scary atmosphere can get a little exhausting at times
The year that it came out, I gave P.T. game of the year, in spite of it just being a demo. I was crushed when the project was cancelled, but I finally feel as though I have gotten the chance to play a full P.T. game with Visage. If you are a horror fan that has been yearning for a truly terrifying horror game, I highly recommend Visage. The problems that P.T. had are even more apparent when bringing it into a full game with Visage, but it is worth diving in if you can handle the puzzles and scares. Visage delivers on a promise to elevate horror video games and if you loved P.T. then you should not miss the chance to play Visage right now. Visage is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars
PlayStation 4 version played on the PlayStation 5 for this review. Review code was provided by Plan of Attack for this review.