While perhaps not as relevant in the big budget market as they were in past, horror games have nevertheless been able to graze comfortably on indie pastures. Indeed, ever since the Slender Man had gamers punching their computer monitors back in 2012, indie horror has become something of an internet sensation, with the underground artists of our industry consistently producing incredible and creative new ways to scare ourselves silly. On this front is Enola, a new effort from The Domaginarium, and one which punches well above its weight as an indie offering. Unfortunately, ambition and execution are two different entities and while there are plenty of eyebrow-raising ideas here, they don’t necessarily blend together as cohesively as they could have.
Publisher: The Domaginarium
Developer: The Domaginarium
One aspect of Enola that plants it several paces ahead of the competition is its storyline. Most indie horror titles tend to put you on the spot with little rhyme or reason in order to get to the actual horror as soon as possible. With Enola there’s quite a bit of thought and build up packed into a narrative that, while not Shakespeare, is unpredictable, engaging, and fun.
In fact, the opening minutes of the game will surprise with the unexpected tranquillity of their tone as you amble up to your mansion in search of your girlfriend. Nowhere to be found, the situation escalates with the discovery of an alarming note that suggests she has disappeared with a potentially dangerous man. From this point forward, your adventure plunges headfirst into the surreal, spooky and sublime. Supported with an enchanting musical score and some admirable voice acting, Enola is far more than your average “find 8 pages” fare.
The game’s plot trickles out across your journey in the form of scattered notes for you to collect. Depending on the type of player you are, this can be either hit or miss. There’s a remarkable amount of terrain for you to explore in Enola, to the point where an update had to be released in order to quell gamer complaints of being confused and lost. Every step taken is one brimming with atmosphere. The game takes a more fantastical approach to conveying horror, focusing more on subtlety and psychological terror, and so every location is unique and staggeringly insane.
The game’s graphics aren’t exactly polygonal Picasso, but they do manage to evoke feelings of intense discomfort and unease. There are some ‘jump-scares’ incorporated in the game but they almost seem out of place. The game is so unbearably eerie that these sudden, startling events break the flow. In the midst of all the thrills and chills, are some puzzle and adventure mechanics. For the most part, the puzzles aren’t too difficult, and again their implementation in relation to other elements seems a little forced, but they remain a fun challenge which provides the gameplay with an extra bit of muscularity.
Enola is a genuinely impressive effort, with a lot of great ideas going on. But all these excellent ideas, when forced together, do not seem fully realised. While all of these elements are to be admired by themselves, together they can’t seem to work as team, resulting in Enola’s biggest flaw: inconsistency. It should be noted that such a critique is minuscule in the grand scheme of things, and anybody looking for an enjoyable experience of horror while indifferent to any sort of technicalities will no doubt enjoy what Enola has to offer. It’s not going to be the next big thing as far as indie horror is concerned, but the effort and imagination put into it is evident and is easily worthy of notice.