It’s taken me a long time to get through Stifled. Even though it’s a relatively short game, I had to play it in short bursts. There are two reasons why.
Firstly, it is just way too scary.
Secondly, playing games in VR makes me feel beyond queasy. Which sucks, because that’s the best way to play Stifled.
So, with a combination of fear and illness forcing me to play in spits and spats, I finally managed to get through the nightmarish dreamscape of Stifled and see the credits.
I’m incredibly thankful that I didn’t give up. Stifled, in spite of its appearance, has a story to tell. A pretty great one at that too.
The fear is just another way to get the player to connect with the narrative and the character. It works a treat and makes Stifled a must-play PSVR title.
They Mostly Come Out at Night…mostly
Stifled is part of the new-wave of survival horror. Kicked off by the likes of Amnesia and Outlast, Stifled features a helpless protagonist in a hostile world. You have no weapons, no way to defend yourself and no chance if an enemy spots you.
You can walk, crouch, interact with objects and make noise to use echolocation. Without making noise, the world is largely pitch black and unnavigable. When you press R2 the character will make a small sound that radiates outwards and draws an outline of the world. The longer you hold R2, the louder the noise and the further you can see.
The problem with making sounds is that when you do, the enemies can hear you. They’re attracted to the sound and will come to investigate. There are no second chances in Stifled. If you make too much noise and an enemy finds you, you’re dead. The checkpoint system is fairly generous, though you still don’t want to come face-to-face with any of the awful creatures in the game.
Time for a Rest
Stifled alternates between flashbacks and present-day. In the flashbacks, you’re taken back to the protagonist’s home and get to experience that led to where he is today. These scenes are calmer affairs. They’re fully lit and you aren’t required to make noise to see. There’s also nothing that can hurt or kill you.
Somehow, they’re still incredibly creepy and offputting though. As you explore different locations and events in the past you’ll slowly gain an understanding of the narrative and its heartbreaking conclusion. It’s best to go into Stifled with no prior knowledge so as to get the full effect.
As you draw closer to the end, both the flashback and real-time sequences become more and more confused, off-putting and scary. Which only made me want to keep going even more. Stifled is certainly totally playable without PSVR, but it’s a much better experience with it.
Don’t Turn Out the Light
If you’re like me and you get motion-sickness, play in short bursts. The PSVR makes everything ten times as scary, just watch out that your housemates don’t tap you on the shoulder while you’re playing.
The only real problem with Stifled is that once you’ve finished, there’s no real reason to go back and play it again. It’s fun to pull out and get your friends to play, but once you know the story and its ending you’re pretty much done.
Thankfully, the price point for it is bang on then. At $29.95 AUD you’re getting about 5-6 hours of quality content that is a must play for horror fans and PSVR fans alike. Gattai Games has created a really great example of how to use PSVR to enhance an experience and I look forward to seeing what the come up with next.
Stifled was reviewed on PS4 and PSVR using a digital code provided to PowerUp! by Sony.
Game title: Stifled
Absolutely Terrifying - 9/10
No need to play a second time - 4/10
Best played in VR - 8/10