Massive shout-out to Nil from Fullsync for coming through on this review for me. Covering the soon-to-be released “SHUT IN” on Steam.
SHUT IN looks interesting, to say the least, and when a pre-release code came through to my mailbox, I knew it needed to be covered. Here’s what he thought….
I wake up.
It’s another day in a filthy bedroom. The light is struggling to permeate the cocoon of gloom my character has wrapped tightly around them. A disembodied voice is questioning every move I dare to make. “Have some pride… make your bed. Actually… it’s too much effort. You shouldn’t bother.”
Shut In is a point n’ click horror game that handles themes of anxiety, isolation and depression with lashings of comedy. Given that none of those themes lend themselves particularly well to laughter, it actually does pretty well.
Obviously enough, the humour is dark. It won’t have your dear old mum chuckling uproariously like she’s listening to Peter Kay talk about garlic bread. But it has a marvellously dry, sarcastic tone to it.
The disembodied narrator both pushes you forward and scolds you for trying. Even as you experiment with different items for puzzle solutions. They’ll mock you at every failed venture.
The objective seems fairly simple. You’re going to wash your face, brush your teeth, have something to eat and leave the house for some fresh air. As the game unfolds, it becomes apparent that the house has other ideas, and these tasks that some people may consider everyday are going to be significantly more difficult.
Shut In is quick to punish you for not reacting fast enough or making obviously stupid decisions, punctuating a description of your horrible death with a whimsical “WHOOPS – YOU DIED” splash message. As such, progressing through the house becomes a game of trial and error, all the while the environments around you transform from squalid and surreal to outright nightmarish.
There’s a particularly strong sequence in the kitchen that shouldn’t be spoiled, quickfire conundrums and apparent dimensional shifts culminating in an extremely ominous timed puzzle.
It’s not “scary”, as such – but the simple pixel artwork and backing music work together to create an atmosphere of creeping dread.
Puzzles, food and feeling the mood….
The puzzles themselves are fairly straightforward, and there’s barely any “well how the hell was I supposed to know that” moments that so often come with the genre.
Shut in does a really good job of gently signposting your next action without bashing you over the head with it. So navigating the corrupted house is smooth and interesting. Rather than leaving you wandering around clicking everything in the hopes of triggering the next event.
The gameplay – like the graphics and soundtrack – are simply performing a function here. Fostering feelings of confusion, frustration and helplessness. Making you jump through vague hoops to do something as basic as cooking food in the microwave (admittedly, food might be too strong a word for the thing that was actually cooked in the microwave). Shut In is making a point, and it’s doing so very effectively.
All in all…
I cleared the game in just under half an hour, and the game berated me for it.
The narrator gives you a quick stat rundown, insulting you for each one, calling me impatient for moving so quickly, and boring for not experimenting more with puzzle solutions.
Shut In has no grand finale, no closure – your hero doesn’t overcome the fears and anxieties that are holding them back. They simply live to do it all again the next day.
From a gameplay perspective, this gives you a chance to go back and find the hidden ending. Maybe the items you probably got mocked for missing the first time around. In respects to the theme, it’s pretty on point.
There is no dramatic victory or sudden cure for these problems. There’s just tomorrow, and all we can do is hope that this tomorrow doesn’t involve a bathtub full of flesh eating bugs.
Dark, funny, quick and entertaining. Easy to recommend! Check Shut In, out when you get chance!
Shut In is available tomorrow (October 30th 2020) on Steam for £3.99!