If you think you’re impervious to jump scares, think again. Even if you’re not ripping the headset off or wetting yourself, Dreadhalls provides an adrenaline rush you haven’t experienced from any previous two dimensional horror games.
The core gameplay in Dreadhalls is simple: explore a maze, look for keys and unlock the next area.
Fitting in nicely with the horror theme, the keys are eyeballs and finding them might prove difficult because along the way you encounter a variety of ghouls, demons and monsters. Once you figure out how to outwit each enemy, and with your adrenaline levels spiking, you’re left wandering through empty rooms and hallways collecting items.
The meat of the campaign is procedurally generated, which means that it’s different every time you play. The randomly generated levels are connected via static hub worlds that open up new locations to explore, many of which are genuinely unnerving.
Did you ever play Silent Hill or Resident Evil with headphones? If so, you’ll feel right at home in Dreadhalls. Like most typical horror games, the sound is used to build anticipation and heighten the atmosphere before releasing it, usually with some kind of jump scare mechanic.
This effect is achieved wonderfully in Dreadhalls, with atmospheric sounds bringing the tension to a boiling point to produce some incredibly scary moments.
Monster and environmental sounds are well produced and convey an appropriately creepy mood to the player as well as informing them of in game items to collect.
Built upon the Unity engine, Dreadhalls is a very average looking experience, particularly when given the quality of VR releases in the past few months. Blocky low resolution textures, low polygon models and limited interactivity hinder what could be a standout VR horror experience.
Where the graphics do deliver is in the art style. A medieval mood is present throughout, with gargoyles, dismembered bodies and creepy set pieces littering the game world.
Hallways and environments are convincingly claustrophobic too, adding to the users feeling of unease and tension. One area that the engine really shines is the lighting, with objects casting realistic shadows in the world which definitely makes the low quality assets bearable.
Walking around in the game world is a reasonably pleasant experience, and after a few minutes becoming accustomed to the control scheme, I did not experience any simulator sickness to report on. Others did however, and the locomotion movement may be an issue for some players.
The environments are almost completely static except for a few interactive objects, which greatly hinders the immersion factor in the world. Something as simple as adding physics to more objects in the environment could provide the added distraction necessary to rebuild shock value and extend the novelty factor of the game.
As it stands, I found myself trying to interact with many objects that simply didn’t respond at all to user input. Hopefully this can be improved in future releases or a sequel.
Dreadhalls is not a comfortable experience and it doesn’t want to be. With a combination of small hallways, creepy soundscapes and dark lighting, it’s an exceptionally unnerving time. However, that is the desired effect and we’ve factored that into our rating in this review. These kind of shock horror experiences aren’t for everybody and we suggest making sure the player doesn’t have any medical issues that may be brought on by intense games like this.
Dreadhalls isn’t for everyone, especially people that aren’t into horror experiences. Poor quality graphics and the lack of environmental interactivity cast a shadow on a potentially stunning game which boasts great sound design and atmosphere. That being said, if you’re after a VR game to scare the socks off your friends, look no further.