Suffer The Night is a first-person horror mystery game that has so much more to it than first appearances would suggest. Having only watched a bit of the launch trailer and checked out a couple of screenshots, I could be forgiven for thinking it was just a stalker and haunted house horror title. To my bewilderment, it’s much more than that. The fact it’s an excellent, retro-inspired horror game that unfolds as effectively as Russian Dolls makes it all the better.
While it starts off akin to the movie The Box, Suffer The Night becomes a much more detailed and enveloping game. I’d actually recommend not watching the trailers and diving straight into it if you want to get the full experience, as surprise is one of its biggest strengths.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s 1989, a storm is descending on Sleepy Woods and a pale man with a terrifying smile has turned up on the doorstep. Are you ready to endure the evening?
Awakening in rather mundane fashion, our protagonist Stacey is going about her regular evening routine. Making eggs and toast, sorting out a busted circuit breaker, listening out for weather alerts, the usual. An ongoing storm is ravaging through the surrounding area and Stacey, alone and isolated in her (obviously) secluded cabin is none the wiser of any danger certainly not a mere moment away.
Taking from the typical tropes of horror entertainment, an envelope arrives through the letterbox. Then lights and electronics start to go awry. Then, the “man” appears. Pale, bright white face, horrendous mouth contortion and dark, brooding trench coat and all. You’d think this is all the set up the game needs – a desperate attempt to keep the figure from entering the house at all costs. You’d be wrong.
I went into Suffer The Night expecting the “don’t let the creepy man in” to be the game. I was wrong, very wrong. As he tries to enter the home, you’re implored to complete his “game”, provided via floppy disc. Complete the game, he goes away. We, and Stacey, must therefore simultaneously stop trench coat creep getting in the house, while completing a text-adventure horror story at the same time.
I’m not going to spoil anything of what comes after. I genuinely think it’s better for you to experience the story for yourself. Just know there’s a lot more to Suffer The Night than the home invasion section. Games within games, meta-commentary on horror and game design, there’s a lot that gets explored. It’s by no means the best horror narrative ever told, but it expands itself in compelling ways, even if Stacey barely seems fazed by any of the horrendous goings-on around her.
The Collector Comes Calling
Across the roughly 4-hour story, you’ll be doing some fairly simple yet well-executed gameplay. Most of your time will be spent working your way through extremely dark environments, only barely seeing a few meters in front of you at a time. You’ll need to complete puzzles, avoid hazards and occasionally fend off enemies to work your way through the game-within-a-game.
While walking simulator gameplay can typically become uninteresting, Suffer The Night uses excessive levels of darkness effectively to keep you on edge at all times. You’ll acquire a special camera part-way through which allows you to see the outline of the environment, interact with objects hidden to the naked eye and later on stun enemies with using its flash.
Much of the game is linear in fashion – there may be 3 routes to go but only one is immediately accessible, which unlocks the next and so on. It’s intuitive and easy-to-follow, something that can be all too rare in horror games. However, there are a couple of places where it’s easy to miss a small item and end up wandering around querying what the hell you’re supposed to be doing.
As Stacey progresses, you can find discs for hints on upcoming sections, items that unlock gates or doors and even weapons to defend yourself. Nothing is ever particularly taxing but it has that certain charm of old-school survival horror games, where you clamor into every door that’s locked to find the open one and then proceed to trial-and-error everything to move on. It’s simple and straightforward, but it works well.
You’re Not Puzzling Anyone
Mechanically, Suffer The Night goes for variety wherever it can. Some elements work great, while others fall a little bit flat. Strangely, I enjoyed almost all of it despite none it being particularly phenomenal. Everything works efficiently and the atmosphere of the game elevates so much of the time you spend within this nightmare.
Puzzles are all very straightforward. Unlike the old Resident Evil’s or PT’s of the world, Suffer The Night goes for the straight up clue = solution approach. A cube with 6 coloured dials with multiple symbols on? Find the symbols in the room and line them up. A gate that needs 4 bits of wire to progress? Follow the arrows to find each piece.
They’re not bad, they’re just very easy to solve and require little brainpower. Some are made more interesting by the additions of environmental hazards and foes that chase you throughout the sections, but these are more distractions than cognitive challenges. Having said that, a couple are quite creative and the environments they take place in are well thought out and varied, making them engaging if not especially challenging.
Finding hidden Tarot Cards (finding all of which is necessary for the good ending, by the way), cursed discs and stowed away items was actually more mentally rewarding. Many are placed amongst the dangers within the game and offer tangible rewards in ammo, health upgrades and audio logs, so they’re fun to seek out.
Shot In The Dark
Suffer The Night also has combat and boss battles, something I very much wasn’t expecting. Stacey will acquire a crowbar, pistol and shotgun as she makes her way through the inception-game, able to down a couple of enemy types. While the gunplay is suitably… lacking, the developers have actually given it some real weight and punch.
Foes can take a few rounds or hits to go down, but a shotgun blast will blow them away with ease. Ammo is dished out infrequently, meaning it never becomes a crutch and thankfully, combat encounters aren’t used too often so as to become a chore. It strikes a good balance of having some limited combat without becoming a bad FPS game.
The boss battles however… yeah, they’re not great. One particular section has you fight three of the same boss but with slightly different variants using environmental objects to succeed. It’s pretty ingenious the first time, but the third just felt unnecessary. The actual section these take place in is amazingly well-realised, but these fights become mandatory bores, undermining the otherwise successful balance.
Suffer The Night’s final encounter also feels a bit at odds with much of the game itself. A section where you can only see enemies through your camera works as it’s in-keeping with the darkness, foreboding atmosphere and sense of desperation. Having a final boss that’s complete with abusable stun animations and frustrating “call in reinforcements” intervals just straight up sucks.
Nevertheless, I again thoroughly enjoyed Suffer The Night’s gameplay despite its flaws. Its got that retro survival-horror quirk of being kind of clunky and messy, but in a fun and satisfying way. The bigger encounters fall flat and are slightly overused, but there’s a genuine attempt at creative game design which I applauded.
Stay-cey For The Night
You might be wondering how I was so positive towards Suffer The Night in my intro given the various flaws I’ve discussed so far, and you’d be right to. I think what comes across most, is the sense of creative love that’s gone into making it. This is a game that’ll surprise you. Whether from its story direction, the fact there’s a fully playable “Necrovania” arcade mini-game you can play, and how well executed its distinct sections are.
There’s some excellent level design and thought that’s been poured into how you engage with this world and overcome its challenges. The game-within-a-game concept is utilised wonderfully well, becoming a central focus rather than an afterthought or briefly-used idea that then gets thrown away. It harkens back to survival-horror of old, even including tape recorders as save points and no checkpoints.
The scenery you’ll descend into is moody and Hellraiser-esque in places, while a Five Nights At Freddy’s inspired section will have you overcoming a host of deviously crafted traps. This isn’t a graphical powerhouse game, but it thrives on using lighting (or lack of) and inventive aesthetics to creep you out and gross you out in equal measure.
Aside from one sequence early in the game where my FPS almost dropped to single digits, Suffer The Night ran very well and had few issues. I had a single instance of the camera refusing to enter “read mode”, while interacting with hidden areas or objects can be fiddly at the best of times. I really enjoyed the horror and slasher-type vibe it imbues, and I was thankful I had few issues playing it.
Don’t (Do) Play His Game
Suffer The Night is a horror game with layers. The further you play, the more of it you slowly unravel and come to appreciate. It tries to do a lot with a simple set of mechanics and a relatively short runtime so as to not burn itself out, and it largely works. Even with its handful of flaws, I had a fantastic time delving into the weird and creepy 1989 universe its created.
If you’re newish to survival-horror, this actually wouldn’t be too bad a place to start. The linear progression format, accessible puzzling and relatively easy combat mean its welcoming in gameplay, even if the looming presence at the door is anything but.
I really, really had fun playing Suffer The Night. It’s one of the best surprises I’ve had playing video games more recently, in fact. It has a concept it executes brilliantly and while I wasn’t especially challenged by its mechanics or terrified by its scares, it has a fantastic art direction and a host of surprises up its sleeve which kept me compelled and invested right up to the end.
Suffer The Night has a hidden depth that’s well worth diving in to explore for yourself. The puzzles are basic and the gameplay is straightforward, but the narrative twists and retro-horror inspired visuals will keep you more than invested. You really shouldn’t open the envelope. You really shouldn’t let him in. But you’ll want to see how far down this dark rabbit-hole goes.
Suffer The Night is available now on PC via Steam (review platform).
Developer: Tainted Pact
Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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