Imagine you were asked to dig into a pool of murky, foul-smelling water in order to find clues to a mystery. The strangest and most confusing things keep coming out, and you don’t want the sink to be emptied again. But what you have found makes you curious about any other secrets that may be hidden in it. This is how Scorn, an interactive puzzle game in which you explore the ruins and traces of a dying civilization, can be described. The biomechanical aesthetic of H.R. It’s more disturbing and frightening than it is terrifying, thanks to Harlan Ellison and Giger. However, the positive vibes it generates can be quite potent.
This mangled skeleton’s most striking bone is the macabre artistic direction. It creates a world that’s cohesive even though each hub is unique in its upsetting grandeur. It’s not so much an amalgamation of flesh and machine as it is a space where architecture and strange puzzle contraptions coexist. The shapes of bone and viscera are reflected in the soaring alien spires, while the foreboding tunnels give the impression that you’re being swallowed whole.
There is no text or dialogue to explain why you are here or what has happened. You have to examine all the disturbing imagery in order to understand why the world is so chaotic and almost deserted. My part of the story was that I did manage to put it all together in my short, but dense seven-and a half-hour journey into hell. Although there are no definitive answers in this world, I enjoyed the fact that it allowed me to make my own decisions and provided enough clues to help me do so.
Scorn believed in me and gave me enough guidance to make my own decisions.
The otherworldly Myst-like contraptions aren’t exactly Mensa-level brain teasers, but some of them were tricky enough that I felt pretty satisfied when I finally caught on to their workings. They all have mechanical parts that fit together and feel a bit like a mechanical engineering exam. Sometimes you have to get several different wheels that can rotate together or independently to line up with a central hub. Other times you need to count the rotations of a spinning disc in order to lock it into place when your view is partially obscured. Some of the more elaborate ones take up the space of an entire level and have you running back and forth to move walkable platforms with a giant, crane game claw arm.What level of action do you desire in your horror games.
Scorn features an equally mysterious zombie… thing that wakes up in the middle this chaos and begins solving moderately difficult puzzles. It has no stated mission except to move forward. It was only curiosity that drove me to continue. The nameless homunculus or whatever he may be, poses me with the same question: Is this all worth saving? An unskippable scene early on suggests that he’s not. So, I never really developed any sense of self-preservation nor hope for salvation. This person and this place probably got what they deserved. I wanted to know what was beyond the next door of the rib cage.It is unforgivingly dark.
And that highlights another issue with Scorn, in that it’s constantly, unforgivingly grim. Better horror games like Amnesia or Resident Evil intersperse moments of stress and unease with islands of calm, then very effectively inspire dread by taking them away or making you leave them behind. Scorn’s world simply doesn’t feature anything like that. There are parts of it that could perhaps be called darkly beautiful, but once you strap in, you’re in for a journey that will never let up on trying to shock and unsettle you. This eventually ended up having the opposite effect on me, as I grew somewhat numb to the ceaseless psychological torment. Without anything to fight for, any sense of serenity to look forward to, or anything worth keeping to be robbed of, it loses its impact.
However, I must applaud the clear, singular vision behind each sight and every sound. Scorn doesn’t have a soundtrack, but there is an electronic atmosphere that should be heard on surround sound headphones with good bass. It is also amazing how all the moving parts you can interact with fit together, whether it’s a huge puzzle that spans an entire tower or your inventory which contains these strange, fleshy artifacts. Every round you put into your weapon must be loaded manually. Getting more from a replenishment point is another animation. This helped me feel grounded.Combat is terrible. This is not a compliment.
Unfortunately, the combat itself is dreadful. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Most enemies have highly accurate ranged attacks, your strafing speed is painfully slow, and the only weapons that do a decent amount of damage have very limited ammo. Some of the hitboxes are ridiculous: it looks like you should be able to shoot through the bars on a cage-like, rotating platform, but you can’t, which undermines the tactile feeling Scorn tries to create. And both healing items and checkpoints can be very stingy in places. Thankfully combat is only a major part of one of five chapters, which is the only reason it didn’t entirely ruin the experience for me.
This is not an accident. It seems combat was intended to be a nuisance to discourage you from engaging in it. There is no cover or stealth system, so I used cheap, but not very effective strategies like running around on a pillar looking like a cartoon character to get in hits whenever possible, or trying to sprint past the enemies to make sure I didn’t do too much damage. You need to give me better tools to avoid them if you don’t want to me fighting them. Scorn would be a much better experience if it removed most of the enemies from Act 3. This is because it greatly hinders exploration and puzzle-solving. Combat was not necessary, especially in this way.
Scorn would be too long if it was longer than it is. It’s a short, satisfying sprint through the surreal and grisly. Unfortunately, the frustrating combat only lasts for a small portion of the playtime. The superb, darkly mysterious art direction and the ambient music bring the entire thing back to life like rancid blood. From beginning to end, it’s a disorienting and uneasy experience. It’s a great experience that I won’t regret.
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