I should really learn not to play scary games in the dark.
Let me tell you a little story. Once, when I was around 4 or 5 years old, my older brother pulled a really mean trick on me. I was laying in bed and my mom, who often laid in bed with me until I fell asleep, had gotten up to go the bathroom, just outside my bedroom door. As a five year old, I had already seen Nightmare on Elm Street (don’t call CPS!) and was well aware of who Freddy Krueger was and what his weapon of choice did. I pretty much refused to sleep without my stomach covered until I was eleven. Anyway – my brother loved to torment me. It was pitch black in my bedroom and I was laying there watching the hall light for my mom to come out of the bathroom when suddenly… my bedroom door slowly creaked open.
As you can imagine, I was basically peeing my pants at this point. I could feel the absolute terror build in my throat and to this day I remember how desperately I tried to stay absolutely still and not make a sound.
Then I saw a smooth-headed silhouette right at the foot of my bed. This added to my terror because a very specific part of Nightmare on Elm Street 3 involved Freddy appearing at the foot of a bed. You may remember the scene. At this point I was pretty much convinced that Freddy was in my bedroom and I was praying to God that my mom would hurry the hell up and get out of the bathroom and come save me. No such luck. So, being the terrified five year old I was, I quickly hopped out of my bed and ran to the bathroom door, knocking on it furiously. Just as my mom called back to me that she would be out in a minute, my older brother jumped at me from the dark bedroom I’d just retreated from.
Thus beginning my long-instilled fear of things jumping out at me from the dark.
See that? That’s a monster. And he’s coming to get you from the dark corners of the Doorways. I won’t lie, I yelped like a little girl when I first saw him and flinched at all his little buddies throughout the game too. Doorways: The Underworld is preceded by two more chapters which you can purchase on Steam in one convenient all-in-one scare pack. I’d recommend buying the lot and then playing them through, though I will say that I found 1 & 2 to be slightly more enjoyable than part three if I’m honest. The three can likely be picked up for relatively cheap during any of Steam’s sales as well.
Controls for the game are your typical WASD, Left is Crouch, I is inventory, etc etc etc system that many PC gamers are familiar with. The tried and true norm of gaming controls you can’t usually go wrong with, so that’s nice. I did find myself having an overwhelming desire to use the mouse more often, but I got over that pretty quick when I realized it wasn’t exactly pertinent to my ability to manipulate objects and navigate the game at all. Also, did I mention that the game has native Oculus Rift support? MAN, I wish I had one. That would be an experience.
In terms of graphics, I’d say the most highly-detailed “props” in the game are the monsters themselves. As far as your surroundings go, the game leaves much to be desired. There’s not a whole lot of interesting things to look at and many of the rooms you enter are “decorated” with all the same props – crates, boxes, a variety of generic wooden chairs, file cabinets and tables, etc. There are a few interesting sights to see, but not a great many. It hardly does the game justice, however, this may be in an effort to keep you focused on the game’s main objective: navigate the mazes, solve puzzles and discover just what the hell is going on in this nightmare of what I can only describe as an insane doctor’s torture chamber.
Ambiance is quite creepy, to say the least, especially when everything is so dark that you genuinely get the feeling of being unable to see inches in front of your face. I don’t actually mind that – I find that it adds to the extreme reactions I tend to have to being leaped out at from the dark (I will shriek – no lie). There is also some nice voice over work performed by Sam A. Mowry, also known as the voice of Alexander in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a familiar voice for horror game players. Replayability is also a factor for the game, with several secret places able to be redone/revisited.
There are a few parts of the game that seem almost claustrophobic at times, which really adds to the tenseness I tend to get when I know there’s something basically hunting me down that is just going to appear out of no where as I run around. The first time I saw our friend Mr. Wheeler, I actually recoiled TWICE – once when initially seeing him, and then again upon realizing what and who he was. Not to mention, the SOUND he made when he got near you… sort of like what anyone with a really bad chest cold would sound like… it really added to the scare factor somehow. I really am just a great big fraidy cat.
Doorways: The Underworld definitely is a game worth killing some time with if you’re into ambient horror, solving puzzles and running for life, but if you’re expecting major visual eye-candy as far as exploration goes, prepare to be a bit disappointed. While it leaves something to be desired visually, the game’s thrilling ambiance, ingenious puzzles and expert voice-over work will provide a few hours of entertainment and combined with its predecessors, is a solid trilogy for the not-so-faint for heart.