Paranormal: A Haunting All Your Own (Every Time You Boot It Up)
Other than just wandering around being scared, the goal of Paranormal is to figure out what the hell is going on. That means investigating the apartment. Strange handwritten journal pages keep appearing in different places, and if you find them, Mattel will read them aloud in real time — often while haunting events are taking place around him. These bits of backstory tell a disturbing tale of a wife and her husband, and lead you through the space, to the Ouija board in Mattel’s room, to the attic and its secrets, and to the basement.
The story itself and the voice acting for Mattel really help sell the whole scenario. As you learn more about the haunting, the images you see and weirdness you experience take on more significance and make more sense. It really is a powerful way for the game to unfold, allowing you to add structure to what you’re seeing, and Mattel’s on-camera reading and reactions are subtle enough to feel realistic, without getting melodramatic.
Paranormal is technically “released,” but that doesn’t mean it’s free of issues. I experienced a few bugs in the build I played from Desura, which developer Matt Cohen is continuously updating, had some problems; for example, when I stayed up too long without sleeping in-game, which you have to do to recharge the battery in your camera, I got a weird clipping/floating situation that prevented me from getting to the bed and forced me to restart from the beginning.
Bugs are easy to overlook when you realize that Paranormal is the work of just one guy, though, and when you recognize what a creepy frakking game it can be throughout. Updated versions with fixes and more features come pretty fast, and Cohen has done a pretty phenomenal job here in building atmosphere and capturing the feeling of found footage films, as well as making observing a haunting both frightening and engaging. The result is a solid entry into indie horror, and definitely worth a look.
You can find Paranormal on Desura for $9.99.