Are you bravely fighting off paranormal forces in the search for the truth? Or are you picking the scabs off your own disquieted mind, gradually descending into insanity? Those are the two possible perceptions of the unfolding events in Anna – Extended Edition, and the game’s exploration is finely balanced between them, until the impeccably placed threads draw together in a conclusion which transcends both.
Dick van Dyke has a lot to answer for. As a child, growing up in my native England, seeing Mary Poppins on television and van Dyke’s character “Bert” enunciating preposterous syllables in a ridiculous manner, I simply assumed that, as this was a fantasy movie, that’s how people from Planet Chimneysweep speak. Because it most definitely is not how any person from the British Isles has ever spoken. Ever. EVER. I was given cause to reflect on van Dyke’s crimes against voice-acting on more than one occasion while playing Huntsman – the Orphanage.
Most reviews of Gone Home have, while doing their best to avoid spoilers, commented that part of the game’s charm is that it takes a well-worn horror convention and players’ attendant expectations, and then does something completely different. Slender: The Arrival, on the other hand, takes those conventions and does exactly what you expect of them – only on steroids.
One of the most frequently repeated pieces of advice for those writing fiction is “show, don’t tell.” In addition, one of the most common comments from critics reviewing horror film is “less is more” – in other words, it is atmosphere and the feeling of dread which fosters fear in an audience, rather than overt displays. Horror is a challenge then: show, but don’t show too much. This is a line which Doorways (Chapters 1 & 2) sets out to walk. It is admirable, but has mixed results.