When the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill began to fall off their horror pedestal, it left a vacancy for a new kind of horror to emerge. In their […]
When the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill began to fall off their horror pedestal, it left a vacancy for a new kind of horror to emerge. In their place came what some call immersive horror, or horror sims — jokingly, I’ve called it hide-and-seek horror.
Whatever its name, Frictional Games’ Amnesia series is one of its proudest progenitors. Now nine years after the launch of the series’ original title, The Dark Descent, that debut plus its DLC and sequel have come packaged to Nintendo Switch for the first time ever.
Just in time for Halloween, this trilogy of terrors still holds up and is well worth your time — especially if it’s your first time.
While each portion of the three-part Amnesia Collection earns its keep, they aren’t nearly created equal. The original game, The Dark Descent, is by far the best. Its mansion setting is still today one of the most atmospheric in genre history. The tall echoey hallways adorned with monolithic pillars, dusty bookshelves, and eerie candles are supplemented by audio design that somehow still feels like its some of the best, now nearly a decade post-launch.
It’s a world that feels lived in, or at least it once was. Now its sense of abandonment permeates through every corridor, leaving only you and the creeping monstrosities left to work out sleeping arrangements.
Few games elicit a tone as overwhelming as The Dark Descent, and through every chase sequence, and creeping around every corner, that pervasive sense of pitch-perfect dread will stay with you, revealing why it’s garnered so much praise since 2010. Hiding in corners while monsters linger just out of sight while you’re too afraid to peek and too worried to light a candle is the stuff of horror gaming all over today, but it rose to power with Amnesia, and few have replicated the experience better since then.
With its early evocations of a classic period piece ghost story, you could find few games better suited for a Halloween playthrough than The Dark Descent. Dizzying puzzles and an unsettling soundtrack complete the experience as one that is consistently unnerving and sometimes downright horrifying.
The standalone DLC, Justine, takes place in a new area and toys with the game’s own design principles by ditching the linear one-off story in favor of a one-hour roguelite experience meant to be replayed several times to see its different endings. It offers moral quandaries and decision-making akin to the Saw movie franchise, though it thankfully knows better than to get its kicks on the same excessive gore.
Justine’s best bits come in this new and strange design, leaving it feeling totally unlike The Dark Descent in most ways, though it still maintains a strong sense of atmosphere. Too few panicked moments make it more forgettable, but the branching narrative was an interesting twist at the time and remains one today as a palette cleanser following The Dark Descent’s masterful chase scenes.
A Machine for Pigs was merely published by Frictional and instead developed by The Chinese Room, who would one day go on to make Everybody Has Gone to the Rapture. Their roots as a “walking sim” studio can be seen in A Machine for Pigs as it contains fewer scares than The Dark Descent, and those it does contain often feel like they are without fail states, like you’re meant to succeed. That feeling was never present in the original so it hurts the effectiveness of A Machine for Pigs.
Where it stands out is its story, though. While The Dark Descent’s final scene is a bit absurd and nearly hurts some of its earlier goodwill, A Machine for Pigs deliver on its creepy setup right through to the end credits. A more personal story, focusing on the characters more than The Dark Descent’s spotlight of its setting, this change makes A Machine for Pigs feel like it stands well, and like Justine, differently, on its own even as it’s not the highlight in the trilogy.
Fortunately, I found no issues with the game’s Switch port, having played the original on PC years ago and this same collection last Halloween on Xbox One. It’s not a remaster, so you can’t expect visuals better than the 2010 indie this still is today, but it runs just as well on the excitingly portable format as it does anywhere else it’s playable.
When played in order of release dates, you’ll witness a downward slide in overall quality in this three-part collection, but where it ends is still higher than many other horror efforts since these games originally arrived. The Dark Descent is forever a classic horror story, dripping with unforgettable atmosphere and an instant classic monster lurking in the everpresent shadows.
Justine is a brief standalone story that rewards multiple playthroughs with branching narratives and moral quandaries galore. It lacks the staying power of its predecessor, but its daring design is still commendable.
A Machine for Pigs offers the fewest scares per hour of all three games, but with more intoxicating atmosphere and a series-best narrative at its heart, it too pulls its weight.
Final Score: 8.5
If you’re looking for a Halloween stream or your next game to curl up with in bed, Amnesia Collection should be at the top of your list, especially if you haven’t played it before. With one masterpiece of a game and two good ones tagging along, Amnesia Collection on Switch is a whole new way to lose sleep playing video games.