INSiGHT: Kraken Screamfest IV: The Kraken’s Revenge

By Chris Leebody 11.11.2020

When an offer comes along on Halloween night to control Game of Thrones star Iwan Rheon and lead him around a creepy abandoned ocean fortress through onscreen prompts, potentially even to his death - suffice to say it is an enticing prospect that is intriguing to say the least. Screamfest IV: The Kraken's Revenge, which is written and directed by John Zurhellen of GTA and Red Dead Redemption fame, is a sort of mix of escape room / real-life videogame. Controlling Iwan, who wakes up in an empty cell, a mini controller on the screen feeds him prompts in real time. Forward, backward, left, right and also open and hide. In a way, it is the perfect solution for these difficult times with Covid-19, with this rather unique experience scratching the itch of real world Halloween horror, without having to leave the house.
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The participant takes control of one of The Beast's chosen humans, with just ten minutes to escape the abandoned ocean fortress of The Balthazoid- a monster created as a result of a botched chemical dump. While this terrifying foe has been subdued in his prison, he has captured a team of reef divers who now wander the halls having lost their minds. With only ten minutes of control for each user however, there's no time at all to stand and take in the surroundings- as wonderfully cryptic as they are. While the adventure is organic in the sense that the location of items needed can change and the cast of characters and the way they react can change- the overall goal is to find the way out of The Balthazoid's lair. 

In Cubed3's playthrough, poor Iwan woke up and began by searching for a key to get into the next area. Big props to him for his acting. He really got into character the whole way through, in fact, all the cast do their bit wonderfully in making things really immersive. Initially, being thrown into this maze of rooms and tunnels is a frightening prospect. Where to go, what to do. Prompting you somewhat with choices between the door on the left or the door on the right, the experience very soon transforms into what it would feel like to actually be controlling a video game character, while having them speak back to you and hurry you along, which really does pile on the pressure. The clock ticking down, death growing ever closer. Things got pretty intense pretty quickly. 

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Go into the room with a creepy broken toilet- no key in there. Try the room next door? Nope no key, only a series of childish drawings that would grace any horror flick. A woman with a doll roaming the halls speaking in riddles- certainly ticking the macabre vibes. Meanwhile the only thought that is constantly zooming around is, "hurry". 

Nothing she was saying was making sense. While the key was nowhere to be found, Iwan kept asking her if she could help. Like any good NPC of course, she was unable to break out of her predetermined role and sadly her madness kept her from being any real use. With screams and horrible noises in the background and Iwan complaining of the walls shaking more and more, time was running out. Every room seemingly searched and no key to be found, no way to get to the next section. It must be somewhere- and it was. Right under Iwan's nose and held by a skeleton arm, but missed by Cubed3. The curtain disastrously drawn on our escape before even managing to clear the first section. 

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While the delay in actions sometimes made things a tad frustrating, especially when working against the rapidly ticking clock, overall, it was impressive how easy it was to control the action and the onscreen controller graphic made the whole thing super intuitive. Searching drawers in rooms. Interacting with a pile of broken mannequins. Throwing dishes around. The improvisation from Iwan was fantastic and having watched other people attempt the experience and see and do different things, made Screamfest IV: The Kraken's Revenge feel almost like a real-life procedural adventure. 

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While Cubed3 didn't get to see the fiendish Balthazoid roaming the halls, watching other participants make their way through the experience was brilliant to watch. Some parts were genuinely scary too. There are more than a few jump scare opportunities, with one of the cast being seized by The Balthazoid unexpectedly shortly after the initial section. The Balthazoid cannot see, so ordering Iwan to hide is the main defense. Some choose the approach of trying to make a dash for it (with differing levels of success), while others took their time and snuck through (with definitely more success). Exhilarating is definitely the word for it, especially in the later sections which very much felt like the Amnesia games, with The Balthazoid stalking the ruined corridors and the player having to run and hide to escape. 

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The whole experience was of course helped by the fantastic atmosphere created. This was a real success of director John Zurhellen and his cast of characters. It was also a testament to the set they created, which felt incredibly real and utilised some fantastic real-life visual effects and camera tricks, such as the simple use of dimly lit corridors and a torch, or red lighting in rooms. Equally, the ambient noises of wails and moans or banging alongside the increasingly desperate commentary by Iwan, added much to the immersion. Of course, with The Kraken Black Spiced Rum behind it, participants also received a delightful tin box contained a delicious spiced rum cocktail to enjoy. After such a thrilling experience and having failed to escape so spectacularly, it is a cocktail that will very much be savoured.

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