Penumbra: Overture (PC) Review

By Thomas Wrobel 05.12.2015

Review for Penumbra: Overture on PC

Amongst video game genres, there's one that stands out a bit different from the rest. FPS, platformer, point-and-click adventure, etc; most describe the gameplay mechanics. When talking about horror titles, however, the description deals with the setting, and, therefore, there are horror themed games, the ones filled with monsters and demons, abandoned facilities and gruesome visuals. These would often inundate the player with a certain horror theme, but the gameplay would remain all about empowering him/her - normally with high explosive weaponry. These might still be fun, but the only fear they give tends to be just the relatively shallow fear of a jump scare - and then comes the Penumbra series, which is not fundamentally about the horrors themselves, but rather the dread that they inspire; the fear of what's around the next corner, and the feeling of being unable to do anything about it; the constant potential for doom, rather than the doom itself.

Penumbra inspires dread in a variety of ways. Firstly, it gives an atmospheric, slow-paced build up, with just a few hints of what's going on provided. Secondly, it gives gamers the time to make their own way forward, without ever rushing them - they have to open that scary door themselves.

The sense of immersion is also helped by the puzzles; puzzles that all have a very "real" feeling to them, being mostly based around physics or motion. It all feels very natural, and when things don't work, it somehow feels more acceptable because everything is in the context of a real world. If hitting the axe to make sparks to light a fuse doesn't work, well, maybe it just doesn't light that easily. This isn't about point-and-click-like puzzles where it all normally comes down to item mixing; these are real problems, logically with a few solutions or ways of getting past something.

Screenshot for Penumbra: Overture on PC

Sadly not all is quite perfect. In the most enclosed spaces, for instance, it can sometimes get a bit glitchy, and around half way into the adventure there are some dogs that respawn after carefully being taken out - counting the dogs, and carefully dealing with each of them is no good, if some new ones can pop into existence at any time. Given the realism of everything else, these respawning enemies slightly wreck the atmosphere. It would have been much better if the - hard to kill - enemies would remain dead, thus rewarding the player with being enabling a less cautious exploration of an area. In fact, given the way the area and the game presented the situation, it seemed almost like a glitch that they reappeared.

That being said, this is a minor negative in an otherwise pretty perfect horror experience. Despite Penumbra: Overture's age, the graphics hold out pretty good and complement its great writing and pacing, resulting in one of the most dread-inspiring atmospheres it's possible to experience in a video game.

Screenshot for Penumbra: Overture on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Penumbra: Overture is a heart-poundingly atmospheric thriller, superb in almost all areas. A must-buy for fans of horror, or those looking for a smart first-person adventure with lots of puzzles, and without much direct combat, yet is still nail-bitingly exciting. Furthermore, it's also very cheap, with a bundle pack including its sequels available for about £6.60.

Developer

Frictional Games

Publisher

Frictional Games

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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