I’m very much split when it comes to procedurally generated games. I like the fact that no new game is the same, that when you die and start again the rules and map will change to ensure that you have to tackle it with new eyes and ears. But there is a flip side to that point of view – it undermines learning the map and understanding your mistakes, something that comes about when the journey is more linear.
Anyway, Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward is a new horror game that embraces some of those procedurally generated ideas. But that doesn’t mean it won’t make you want to hide behind the sofa.
Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward is the first instalment from a duo of developers, with more to come in the future. It focuses on a group of scientists who are hoping to study the paranormal; they have some outlandish ways of doing just this. You are strapped into a device underwater which enables you to enhance your telepathic skills to do something no one has done before. You will be put into a dream-like state, connecting your mind with an evil object full of malignant presence. Of course, it’s a creepy doll.
What happens next is that you move through a series of tight and dark environments where you have to progress through the dark mind of Henrietta Kedward. The story is really interesting and intriguing, told in small chunks rather than a full overload of narrative. But it’s the environments that you travel through which deliver the great art of visual storytelling, where your imagination gets active in trying to work out what is going on. The writing is good and the character you are playing loves to comment on his situation and journey as you go.
The gameplay works as a mixture of exploration and survival, by means of stealth and at times running. You find yourself traveling through very narrow corridors that are dimly lit, your only light source being a candle. Like all candles, it will get smaller and smaller the more you progress, so you need to find other candles hidden in the levels; in cabinets or rocking up around the environment. I like this element of gameplay mechanic because it adds an extra level of tension to a tinder box of anxiety.
As you move around the space you will have several main objectives and side objectives. In the beginning, you will need to find some photographs hidden around the levels. Each time you load a new game they will be in different places, and depending on your thoughts, this will come across as either frustrating or interesting. Whichever, expect to be surrounded and bombarded by jump scares throughout, from books being thrown across your path or even Henrietta Kedward appearing in close-up.
There are number of clever puzzles to find and take in as you go; matching shape puzzles or the likes of finding a special optical lens that allows you to see hidden messages. The puzzles are good, working as a nice break from the horror, yet I think the hardest thing about Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward is that death happens quite a lot – at times it feels a bit unfair. More positively though, when you get through an area it is a massive relief and accomplishment.
Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward is very impressive visually, especially as it comes from just a small team of developers. The darkness helps of course and the level design that you travel through is very scary and atmospheric at times. However, Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward does have a similar issue to many horror games and the more often the scares are shown, the less it hits in terms of fear.
The sound effects, audio and score are excellent throughout and, as you might expect, playing with headphones on will give you the full horror effect.
Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward is a horror experience that should be very pleased with itself. The story and setup are unique and intriguing, the scares come thick and fast and there are some nicely designed puzzles and gameplay mechanics. I’m not overly sold on the sheer amount of death, nor the procedurally generated elements, but as a whole this is a worthwhile addition to the growing survival horror market. Project Nightmares Case 36: Henrietta Kedward is a welcome addition.