This is our final contribution from Lee Spriggs for this year’s feature, but it’s a good one. I’d really like to try this game, but I don’t have an iOS device. Guess I’ll just have to read Lee’s write-up over and over.
Why would you willingly close your eyes during a horror game? When that’s all that there is to the experience. When the sound design is the game itself. And when you want to see whether a game can be effective without any of the mechanics that we’re used to.
Vanished is an interesting little iOS game. I wouldn’t say it’s a ton of fun, but it’s a fascinating experience. And at 99 cents, I think it’s worth a look simply to have that experience. The basic conceit of the game is this: you’ve woken up. You can’t see anything. You can hear a noise off in the distance that you’re supposed to move towards. While you’re moving, bad things can attack you, which you fend off with the weapon that you’re holding. Simple idea, but the execution is the part that’s worth experiencing for yourself, because the game isn’t the usual button-press experience. It requires a lot more interaction than that.
In order to play the game right (or at all), you have to give in to its demands. You can’t play it without headphones in – the directional audio only works if you have headphones (or possibly surround sound speakers, but let’s not quibble over details). After the initial introductory text, the game asks you to close your eyes, and while I played it both ways (eyes open and closed), it’s a far better experience with your eyes closed. Because all that’s on the screen is the Menu button, your Hit Points, Experience, and the rusty knife you appear to be holding, which doesn’t make for the most enthralling visuals.
You play the game by using your phone’s internal compass, turning the phone to orient yourself towards the sound you’re seeking and then tapping on the screen (anywhere is fine) in order to travel in the direction you’re pointed. Periodically, you’ll want to stop and spin the phone around to re-orient yourself most directly and then keep trudging forward. You’ll hear creepy laughter, footsteps and growls, and occasionally will get attacked by a monster. At this point, all you can do is flail your phone back and forth like a weapon, hoping that you hit the monster. If not, you die and start over again.
Supposedly, you can get better weapons, but I never got to that point. After flailing wildly at monsters that I couldn’t see, I decided to put the game down and haven’t resumed it. But the game has stuck with me many days later for a few reasons, and that’s actually why I feel like it’s worth recommending. The developers have said that the game is an experiment and that they hope to flesh it out more, but as a proof of concept or an experimental experience, I think the game is a wild success (especially at such a low price point). Vanished reminds me of the start of games like Resident Evil or Shinji Mikami’s upcoming The Evil Within, starting you off in an already creepy setting and intentionally trying to disorient you. The first sounds you move towards are police sirens and then dispatchers from the police cars you stumble across, which means that there are other living beings in the world, but not ones that you really have access to. And if you’re willing to close your eyes and let the experience take over, your imagination has a chance to really do some interesting work, especially as you try and figure out what it is that’s pursuing you and then later gnawing on your leg bone after you once again fail to fend it off.
- Released: October 10, 2013
- System: iOS
- Developer/Publisher: Pixel Heart