I love a good horror game. A truly terrifying experience is actually rather difficult to find in this day and age. Amnesia: The Dark Descent was one of those truly horrifying games. The sense of helplessness and fear really drove it home for me. When I heard a sequel was in the works, I was very excited. Developed by The Chinese Room, this sequel takes some different routes that change up the gameplay from the original. While the sequel has some terrifying moments that gave me a good scare, the rest of the game is not fleshed out, and it drops the entertainment factor significantly.
A Machine for Pigs is set on the night of New Year’s Eve 1899 in Victorian London. Players take control of Mandus, an amnesiac who has just awakened. Now, he must find his two children while navigating an industrial nightmare where some horrible experiences have taken place. With the help of a mysterious man giving advice through phone calls, Mandus must find his way through the dark clockwork of corridors and find out what has happened to his children.
Much like the first Amnesia, A Machine for Pigs is played through a first person perspective. Mandus utilizes a lantern to light his way. Unlike The Dark Descent, the inventory and sanity aspects are not present in A Machine for Pigs. Mandus can pick up certain items and move them around to solve puzzles or to open a new path, but it never gets very involved. The lantern never runs out of oil, and there are no health items to pick up. For the most part, it feels like a much more simplified version of the first game.
There are a few puzzles to solve in order to progress. These never went into much detail or complexity. Most of them even had the solutions sitting in the same room. Sometimes I found myself solving one and didn’t even know it was one.
The atmosphere and scares are what players of the first game would come to expect. The sound design and lighting is top notch, and it can get very creepy at times. Of course, there are monsters that will begin a chase sequence. This is where things get very scary but at the same time, shows how it has no real depth. The first few encounters were genuinely terrifying, but when finding out the monsters are blocking the only exit, I had to kite the enemy around some corridors or eventually, just run by them entirely.
The visuals are on par with the first Amnesia. The lighting is well done, but when getting close to textures, it does show its flat surfaces. Of course, most of the time, I was too busy looking around to notice. Aside from the few scattered puzzles involved, the only other aspect comes in the form of the way the story is told. Most of it is through journal pages that the player will find, that offer back story to what is going on in the industrial nightmare, and even though it is told through reading or voiced flashbacks, it is still well done.
The only technical problem I had with the game was substantial screen tearing. It only started after about halfway through, but when it started, it didn’t stop and it was very harsh.
I’m somewhat torn on A Machine for Pigs. It definitely has some moments of tension, and the story is well done, but when the game only lasts around four hours, and the puzzles and chase sequences boil down to simplistic solutions, it feels like a bare bones experience wrapped up in a scary exterior. I enjoyed what I played, but in the end, it felt like it was too short of an experience with not much happening. After the end of the game, I saw there was no real reason to go back and play it again due to already experiencing it. It felt like it ended far too quickly and after sitting back and thinking about it, it really felt like I was just running through a haunted house with a few puzzles spread around.
A Machine for Pigs has some great atmosphere and a compelling story, but The Chinese Room have removed much of the game play that kept me coming back to the original after the scares had became dull. As much as I liked The Dark Descent, A Machine for Pigs feels more like a quick expansion than a full on sequel. Fans of the first game will enjoy this quick romp through a new environment, but with its short play time, no replay value and removed mechanics, I still have to recommend a price drop.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.