Take on the whole terrifying trilogy – if you dare
The games industry has an independent (or ‘indie’) scene in much the same way that the music industry does.
While games usually cost a lot of money to make, occasionally a small independent developer can come up with something that’s genuinely different and engaging on a level that big-budget releases fail to reach.
This is very much the case with the Penumbra series, which started out as little more than a demonstration but which was successfully turned into a full game by its creators, the Swedish Frictional Games.
Last year we reviewed the second title in the series, Penumbra Black Plague, but the latest release, Penumbra Collection, packages the new third episode together with the two previous outings, providing the opportunity to play the whole story in sequence.
It’s a good story too: a chilling HP Lovecraft-influenced tale of a man’s journey to discover the truth about his father and his subsequent descent into a bizarre world of psychological terror.
We don’t want to give too much away, since part of the Penumbra experience is the discovery of events as they unfold in front of you. But, loosely speaking, Penumbra blends survival horror with traditional point-and-click adventuring. Though played from a first-person perspective, the games are about solving puzzles and beating challenges rather than running about shooting zombies – and in many ways they’re much more unsettling as a result.
Penumbra’s graphics aren’t particularly cutting edge (though this has the bonus of not requiring a cutting-edge PC in order to play the games), but sound is spot on, with some deeply disturbing effects helping to maintain the eerie atmosphere.
From a technical standpoint, however, the stand-out element of the Penumbra games is their physics engine, which applies real-world mechanics to in-game objects. You’ll find yourself using the physics to solve puzzles (use item A to pry open door B and so on), which adds a whole new layer of interest to the adventure genre.
These games won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re looking for a nerve-jangling, thought-provoking puzzler, then Penumbra Collection is definitely worth a shot in the dark.
PEGI age rating: 16+
If you’re looking for a nerve-jangling, thought-provoking puzzler, then Penumbra Collection is definitely worth a shot in the dark
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