In some ways, I think that mobile games can lend themselves to horror even better than console games. With headphones on, all the creaks and groans filter directly into your ears. When you bring the device to your face, it completely fills your field of vision. And when the monsters finally appear, there’s no controller to serve as a barrier between you and your avatar. Your bare fingers are on the screen, all over their bodies, trying to dispel the stuff of nightmares. These were the hopeful thoughts I had in mind when I launched Mental Hospital Eastern Bloc II. After this game did everything in its power to smother my hopes with a cheap hospital pillow, I’m not sure what to believe in anymore.
When the story begins, you find yourself in a dilapidated mental hospital. Then you get the facts of the case:
-A man named David was found dead in the hospital.
-Due to mysterious causes.
-He left behind a camera.
-It is a Very Important camera (dick pics????)
-Given that the case was hushed up, it couldn’t have been an “ordinary tramp” that killed him.
-Your mission is to find the camera.
Based on that, a few questions sprung to mind:
-Umm, who is David?
-What was he doing in a mental hospital?
-How many dick pics did he leave behind?
-What’s my relationship to David? Am I one of his ordinary tramp friends? Do I even know this guy?
-In other words, is this really my problem?
So I had some story issues right off the bat. But let me back up for a second. Before I hit play, I started in what I thought was a logical place. The tutorial. The first part was straightforward—walk with the analog joystick on the left side of the screen, adjust your view by swiping on the right. Next: “Pick up the flashlight on the table.” This was accomplished without too much strain, though in order to pick it up, I had to focus my crosshairs dead center on the flashlight. (Is it callous of me to use this phrase? You know, because David only just died a few…um…a few units of time ago?)
Here is where my trouble began. First, this game is two shades darker than midnight, and fifty shades darker than gray. Good thing I have a flashlight! you might say, but unfortunately, the character you’re playing as doesn’t have the wherewithal to focus the flashlight on the object he or she wants to look at. So if you’re searching for some kind of reasonable weapon to arm yourself with in an abandoned mental hospital, you won’t actually be able to see this weapon as you try to pick it up, because the light is directed just slightly to the right of anything important.
This is more than just a minor inconvenience because the only way to interact with any object is to focus on a very small, very specific area, some very unspecified distance away from it. Mind you, these are objects you can’t even see, because your character apparently lives in a world where flashlights are only for accessorizing. So it was that I spent about 50% of my time adjusting my POV, 40% tapping unidentifiable objects, and 10% playing this virtually unplayable game.
I was almost done with the tutorial. All I had to do was open a drawer and collect some ammo. Should be easy, right? Well let me tell you. I approached that drawer from every angle a person could possibly approach a drawer. I touched that drawer in unmentionable places. And I wished on that drawer things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies, animate or otherwise. It would. Not. OPEN. NOT THAT I’M STILL UPSET. I’M TOTALLY FINE. FURNITURE IS GREAT.
Returning to the 10% of actual playing time: You wander around halls that all look the same, try to open a series of identical doors that are either locked or uninterested in responding to your touch, explore rooms that are all splattered with the same vomitblood/bloodvomit substances, and occasionally get attacked by zombie-like people (disgruntled hospital staff? disgruntled tramps?) who kill you in no more than a few seconds. Then you get to start the whole process over again.
Here is where I’ll dispense a few brownie points—the developers did create a nice atmosphere. The soundtrack has its spine-tingling moments, and some sound effects are almost pants-wetting, especially if you’re getting on in your years and it occurs to you you haven’t peed in a while. There are cool moments where you’ll pass by an empty bookcase and when you come back, hey, there are a couple of heads in there! Or you’ll find a body sitting in a wheelchair and when you return, the body has vanished. These are the kind of details that suggest the glimmer of a good game.
Unfortunately, most of the environment is too dark to see any kind of glimmer at all. Perhaps the developers did this to hide the fact that the graphics are not as refined as they’d like them to be, but instead of putting lipstick on a pig they just hid the whole thing under a blanket. Darkness can be used to great effect in the horror genre, but when you’re trying to defend yourself against enemies you literally can’t see, you start to get a little crazy.
I know that great horror games can be made for Android. It’s hard on an indie budget, but it can be done. Unfortunately, Mental Hospital prioritized atmosphere over gameplay, and it isn’t scary enough to make you forget how angry you are that for the first time in your life you can’t open a door, or a drawer. It’s enough to make you go mad.
Is it Hardcore?
A few good ideas but no functionality. The lights are off, and there’s nobody home.