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Amnesia: The Dark Descent: Feeling Your Way to Sanity

Company: Frictional Games

Coming to the PC once again is developer Frictional Games with another black tale meant to be played in the dark. Amnesia: The Dark Descent will have you creeping around in the dark looking for puzzle-solving clues. Stricken with a case of amnesia (go figure), you'll have to work your way feeling around in the dark for a way out. Equipped with a lantern and your wits -- at least for the time being -- you'll need to find a way around and out of the darkness.

With the same style of play as the developer's other titles (like The Penumbra Collection), Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a first-person game focused more on the solving of puzzles, both in the physical world and by mentally getting through a challenge.

The hook for the game is that you'll always need to keep your sanity in check, and the longer you go through the darkness, the faster you begin to lose your mind. To keep your wits about you, use of the lantern or lighting the way when you find unlit candles, torches, or fireplaces is key. To do so, you'll have to always be on the lookout for different items found in the environment, including Tinderboxes (used to light environmental objects) and Oil (used to keep your lantern lit). Playing the game the way it was meant to be played also means that use of these lighting devices will be the only way to see what is going on in the world (except for the occasional natural lighting that occurs from windows and holes in the environment that lead to the outside. It is also possible to take pills that keep you thinking more clearly, but if you avoid all of the above, the game does a wonderful job of simulating the progression of your sanity slipping away. By distorting the screen progressively more and more, as well as amplifying the creepy audio effects, Amnesia may be enough to make you truly go batty.

As you go through the game, you'll also encounter enemies that, like other games from the company, are usually better left alone. This avoidance is typically the key to survival. While you can certainly recover your health after an attack, aid is somewhat few and far between. Sitting in the dark is usually the best way to go unnoticed and let them pass, but sitting there too long will, of course, cause you to go insane. As an enemy approaches, the game also does an outstanding job of giving the player a feeling of anxiety. The audio cues get louder and more intense, and the visuals of sitting in the dark with a silhouette coming at you amplify the experience. All the while, you'll have to keep in mind that any little noise or distraction may cause the baddies to see you.

Given the similarities between Amnesia: The Dark Descent and games from the Penumbra series, it should be safe to say that if you've liked one, you'll love the other. For those who have not experienced either, many of the objects in the environment are fully interactable, which allows not only for physics-based puzzles to solve but also allows for access to otherwise unattainable parts of the game (one example may be stacking boxes to reach a higher place).

At first glance, the game's graphics may not be the most appealing, and with the gameplay focused more on exploration than combat, Amnesia will certainly not appeal to everyone. However, if you can find a dark room and a good set of headphones to isolate yourself from other distractions, Amnesia: The Dark Descent will certainly play with your emotions in a dark way.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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