I walk into a bathroom. There’s a suitably dirty bathtub, a sink with a mirror on the wall above it and a wardrobe next to it. I walk over and click on the mirror. The game takes over, the lights dim, the camera pans down, bloody footprints made by an invisible force stomp out of the bath tub towards me before splatting a bloody hand print on the mirror. The door behind me locks and voxel tendrils rise out of the bath tub. Chilling music kicks in. The bloody strands start to spit things at me. Each one that hit takes away a chunk of my health. I click on everything. Nothing works. I panic. I move around as much as possible to avoid the projectiles but it’s to no avail. I die. I start it up again. Same exact outcome. And again. And again. Eventually, I managed to overcome the room but for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you how. I just clicked and clicked and clicked so more until I was able move on. This section of ‘The Pedre’ perfectly demonstrates the best and worst parts of the game – old school scares akin to the original Alone In the Dark games but often too obtuse, confusing and directionless.
The Padre has you play as a priest on the hunt for a missing cardinal. Your search brings you to a spooky mansion which is suitably haunted with all manner of evils. It’s your job to discover the fate of your fellow priest while trying to survive the monsters, demons and other spooky stuff that are standing in your way. The game is played in a classical fixed camera angle view (although each room can be rotated to see everything it contains) and on PC, it’s akin to the point and click adventures of yore.
While that might sound like a gripping premise, The Padre is a conflicted creation because the game shoe horns in a tonne of pop culture references which are often at odds with the tension the game is trying to build up. When picking up a crowbar, the Padre, in his gruff “smoked-60-Benson-&-Hedges-a-day-for-30-years” voice makes an offhanded Half-Life reference. Later, when you light the cigarette of a man who’s randomly stood outside, the man says “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this” and hands you a pistol. The Padre’s tonal shift between pop culture references and horror tropes can be enough to give you whiplash.
That’s not the only issue with The Padre. As I mentioned above, some of the rooms have solutions which are nonsensical. At one point, a shadowy beast blocks your progress in a hallway. I’d tried every logical solution I could think of to pass this animal but had failed multiple times. I eventually hit upon the solution by randomly using items from my inventory on it and the solution had at no point been hinted towards. The only way I can see anyone being able to hit upon that solution is via a guide or by blind trial-and-error luck. Throughout the game, you can refer to a holy book (one of the most interesting aspects of the game but to say more would spoil it) that offers hints and tips but this was of no help here. This is an aspect of 90’s gaming – poor signposting and obtuse puzzle solutions – that has been replicated here that probably should have been left in the past.
Then there’s the combat. The Padre can equip a hand full of weapons to fight off some, but not all, of the devilish things you’ll come across. While ranged weapons work as expected, the melee weapons are clunky and difficult to use. At one point in a library, a trio of books spring to life and fly around the room using their covers as wings. These books need to be defeated to progress the story line but the fixed camera angle, their speed of movement as they dive bomb you and the clunky, delayed swipe with a melee weapon meant it took a full 10 minutes for me to kill the last of them that was fluttering away above me. Constant swings and a miss.
The Padre’s overall design swings between the aforementioned messes and some pretty interesting puzzles. In the aforementioned library, you have to snuff out candles to find the path forward in darkness and the audio clues and level design here are actually quite good. There are some enjoyable moments when the mechanics and the narrative to this game meet with an excellent symmetry too. Elsewhere, the game builds huge amount of tension by putting you in dangerous situations which are difficult to escape from.
When you fail to escape these evils, the most interesting aspect of The Padre comes into play. Whenever your priest bites the dust, he’s rescued by the tears of his Guardian Angel. These tears are stored in a flask which you carry with you and each subsequent death, fills the flask a little more. Once the flask is full, it triggers the actual game over scenario. This is a fresh mechanic which ties the thematic and mechanical aspects of the game together very tidily.
The visual presentation of The Padre is also very pleasing on the eye. A combination of low poly environments and 3D voxel art with a high resolution gives this game a Minecraft-esque appeal, combining what was so appealing about old school Resident Evil with the benefits of modern day art styles. The sound track, too, is well crafted and well utilised, Hitchcock-esque rising strings and low key piano building the tension to the right scenes. It’s a shame then that the sound effects and vocal performances don’t match this standard, often sounding like they were recorded on a mobile phone.
Unfortunately, while The Padre does an admirable job of resurrecting the survival horror tropes of the 90’s, it brings with it a number of the flaws those games had too. If you’re itching for those retro Alone In The Dark vibes, The Padre delivers them alongside an odd side salad of pop culture references – but compared to the modern day peers, there’s aspects of this game feel like they should have been left in the grave.
The Padre is available now on PC (reviewed version) , Xbox One, PS4 and Switch.
Developer: Glitter With Shotguns
In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.
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