Scream and they’ll come for you
This is not the first time we’ve covered Stifled by Gattai Games. We had played the game at PSX last year — and since then, the studio has released a new title called Muffled Warfare — but now the Asian region has finally seen a release of Stifled, which means we can really dig into it.
Last year, famed game designer Hideo Kojima said that the most effective way to scare people is to show them something that’s “slightly out of the ordinary”.
“Slightly off, but at first glance, they don’t know what it is about it that is unusual. When you do something like this, it confuses the mind, and that becomes unnerving for the person who sees it.”
That about sums up the Stifled experience.
Set in a monochrome world where echolocation is your primary mode of navigation, you play as David Ridley, a man whose mind is about to snap. Each step you take erupts in waves of white light around you, highlighting the world in fine lines. But as those lines ripple across the screen you begin to see shapes of terrible monsters listening out for you. Running is no help and more often than not it’ll end with a massive outline in red smacking into you. You have to be sneaky and quiet to get around these beasts.
The worst part of this game? It has you hooked up to a microphone. Consequently — and cleverly — every breath you take has the potential to draw the game’s horrors closer to you. This sets up a wholly unique and horrifying loop; you have to keep moving and try to avoid screaming when an enemy jumps out at you. Your own sense of fear — and your reactions to being frightened — are weaponised and turned against you. In Stifled, enemies want you to be scared, so that you’re all the easier to hunt. Therein lies the genius of Stifled.
The worst part for me was the sound of my footsteps; no matter how lightly I tapped the controller, it felt like I was continuously advertising my presence in the world. Damn you, Ridly and your elephant gait!
What makes Stifled infinitely more horrifying is being trapped in the world of virtual reality. It’s not like being a bird and flying high in the sky, it’s like being in a coffin. Putting on the headset genuinely immerses you in darkness. It’s certainly true that jump scares will get you, but it was really the quiet moments of anticipation (standing still and listening for nearby activity) that had me rooted on the spot for fear of taking another step forward.
I think it’s safe to say after this experience I’m not cut out to be Daredevil. Gattai Games has done with so little what so many big budget AAA zombie chasing horror games have failed to do with greater abundance. The core mechanic is simple, and frighteningly effective.
Stifled is not a long or a deep game; don’t expect a Resident Evil 7-style experience here or anything. What the game does have is an extremely strong core premise that just works and is by far one of the better VR games out now on the PlayStation 4.
This article was written by Super Jump Editor at Large, Kaylee Kuah. Kaylee is also the Editor in Chief of unpause.asia. This piece originally appeared on unpause.asia, and has been edited for Super Jump.