April 13, 2024
Derivative and full of cliche elements, Anthology of Fear is more likely to be a short story of tears. The Finger Guns review:

Every now and then, you’ll stumble across a little-known gem that’ll surprise you. Anthology of Fear is unfortunately not one of those games. In fact, the only surprise you’d have when playing would be how it manages to be so derivative while also being completely uninteresting. A rehashed premise that’s been done much better before, delivered with horror “scares” that would fail to freeze a goat.

That’s not to say there’s nothing of value here, or that it’s poorly made. Anthology of Fear is a decently constructed game, with some competent aspects. Sadly, that’s about as far as the compliments can go, as the overall package is just so forgettable. When all was said and done, my lasting thought of Anthology of Fear is that I can at least move on to play something else.

Silent Nil

In and of itself, the title of Anthology of Fear is slightly misleading. Usually, it’s a collection of stories or writings, creating the impression of multiple short stories. Realistically, this game is comprised of two stories, three at a push. You start out investigating the disappearance of your brother at a (you guessed it) mental health treatment centre.

So far, so droll. As you explore the now-deserted facility, you’ll find tapes and files that uncover the mystery. The two tapes allow the other stories to unfold. The first is a haunted hallway/house type, akin to Madison or PT. The second is a bit more interesting, as you unfurl a mother’s worst nightmare happening before her eyes.

Eventually, the stories culminate in a sort of cohesive narrative where the threads come together and it all intertwines. If it wasn’t for the fact the game rips off every story element from almost every horror cliche ever, it would actually be pretty okay. Unfortunately, it’s literally an amalgamation of tropes we’ve seen dozens of times before, and it’s not handled well.

Depictions of mental health are bare-bones at best and offensive at worst. Trauma is a staple of the genre and Anthology of Fear does a poor job of justifying its inclusion. Actually, it barely tries to justify it at all. It falls apart in multiple places and for the most part, it was largely forgettable. Never mind the typos in the written notes and the bland voice acting.

Anthology of Fear review

Fight, Flight or Fail?

So the story isn’t much to write home about, but what about the scares? This is called Anthology of Fear after all, so what clever, intricate means does it employ to tickle your amygdala with terror? None. Literally, this might be one of the least scary horror games I’ve played. I’m even shocked it’s listed as “survival horror”, as there are virtually no survival elements present at all. Unless you count just “surviving” playing it.

You walk down hallways, press X on items, occasionally solve a brain-numbing puzzle and walk around some more. You can expect the usual rigmarole of spooky happenings – walls suddenly appearing, mannequins being mutilated and objects moving out of sight. The slight problem is, they’re all terribly predictable. I’m by no means a horror expert, but Anthology of Fear barely made me flinch.

It isn’t helped by the fact that you can literally move faster through the environment than the game plans for, allowing you to circumvent the so-called scare moments. It all feels so lacking as a consequence. At no point did I feel overwhelmed, intimidated, or even on edge. The horror is so run of the mill it might as well have been factory-produced and called “scary 101”.

I also ran into an issue on two occasions where either a draw that should open, wouldn’t. Incredibly, this stalled progress entirely. Couldn’t crack the case of the spooky hospital not because of the horrific entities, just a jammed draw. Truly terrifying. The other issue was a mini-game which was so poorly communicated and obtuse I thought it had glitched. It hadn’t, it just wasn’t implemented properly.

Anthology of Fear review

Anthology of Tears

Were there any redeeming qualities for Anthology of Fear? Well, on a visual level, there are some interesting ideas here. A cute kid’s teddy mutilated with human eyes and teeth? Recipe for a creepy atmosphere indeed. The use of colour and creative setups within particular rooms do a lot of lifting to try and elevate this otherwise sub-par experience.

Which only applies to the mother section of the game. The institute you wander around as the detective is as sterile as a medicinal needle. The house you explore is also literally a single hallway rinse repeated half a dozen times. However, there are some visually arresting set pieces involving the mannequins infrequently.

If this was a haunted house, it would be a rollercoaster of mildly exciting peaks and desperately depressing lows. The style is also handicapped by the fact that interacting with objects is awkward and fiddly far too often. Your camera naturally sways even when you’re not moving, presumably a side-effect of all the “fear” going on.

All this does, however, is slowly antagonise you more and more as you desperately try to flip a fuse switch but can’t, because the camera won’t detect you’re hovering over it. Never mind supernatural entities or surreal nightmares, the true agony is coping with this insufferable interface.

Anthology of Fear review

Head Trauma

There’s little else I can really tell you about Anthology of Fear, such is its failure to invoke any real kind of reaction. This is a sub-two-hour game built on overtly linear walking gameplay, little to no scare factor and a derivative, uninspired story. There are some decent visual set pieces, which break up the otherwise dull atmosphere.

In theory, there is replayability value in collectables and documents. However, the trophy for collectables is glitched, as dying and re-gathering the same one pops the trophy anyway. The documents one also appears to be glitched as no one has even found them all. Which, given this game can be finished in less time than it takes for me to do the dishes, is unlikely due to human inability.

Doing the dishes would probably be preferable to replaying the game too, so there’s that. Anthology of Fear works. It’s a competent game that’s been built by people who clearly have some expertise in developing a stable title. Unfortunately, there’s little else here to really recommend. If you’re massively into horror and want to try everything… play the Luto demo instead.

All you’ll find here is the worn-out husk of every better horror game that’s come before. Leave this institution to be consigned to history, where it belongs.

Failing to trigger even a basic form of tension, Anthology of Fear neglects to live up to its name. The exploitative use of mental health themes, boring gameplay and technical frustrations culminate in a case simply not worth wasting your time solving. Exorcise your demons by playing one of the many better predecessors that this title rips so egregiously from.

Anthology of Fear is available now on PlayStation 5 (review platform), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series S|X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.

Developer: OhDeer Studio, 100 GAMES

Publisher: Ultimate Games S.A.

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy from the publisher.

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