By Niall Taylor
It is difficult to write about Sepulchre, the new horror adventure game from Owl Cave, creators of the brilliant Richard and Alice (http://owlcave.net/richard-alice/). For one thing, to go into detail would be to ruin the experience. For another, the game is only about half an hour long.
Sepulchre revolves around Doctor Harold Lang, a museum curator on his way to evaluate some new historical finds. His train journey takes a turn for the macabre however, and it is up to the players to guide Lang through the journey.
The gameplay is in the traditional point and click style – you can examine and interact with objects around you, and you have an inventory in which you can store a few of the things you find on the train. It will be familiar to anyone who has played an adventure game before, and is accessible to those of you who might be new to the genre. Visually, Sepulchre is presented in a gorgeous pixel style, and utilises a limited colour palette to great effect. Its simplicity accentuates the detail of every scene, particularly in the lighting of the environments.
Aurally, Sepulchre is excellent, but let down a little by the audio quality. The score is fantastic, and sets the mood of Lang’s journey very well, without being intrusive or distracting. Similarly, the voice acting is spot on, with Lang in particular being engaging and natural. Sadly, one of the game’s characters audio recording is much weaker, sounding a little fuzzy and tinny, which does take away from the quality of the actual voice acting. In general however, I found myself actually listening to the lines rather than reading the subtitles and skipping the sound, which I usually end up doing in games such as this.
One of Sepulchre’s strongest points is its treatment of the player, and of the horror themes. There are no jump scares – the writing tends towards the unsettling rather than the outright horrific, and most significantly does not reveal all to the player. Owl Cave have been brave in how they trust the player to try and fill in the gaps themselves, rather than to outright explain what is happening – a known issue with many horror games. It works, of course, and what has resulted is a short, unsettling and crucially satisfying adventure, that any fan of intelligent horror (whether they enjoy games or not) will definitely not want to miss.
Sepulchre can be obtained absolutely FREE at http://owlcave.net/sepulchre-game/, with an email sign up.
If you want to support the developers, you can buy the special edition for just under two quid ($2.99) – and with that you get the game, the soundtrack, two wallpapers and a digital copy of Bright Lights and Glass Houses, a book of short stories written by Sepulchre’s writer, Ashton Raze.