It feels like only yesterday that the Dread XP team was releasing their first horror game anthology, but here we are already at the Dread X Collection 5. That’s right, another round of indie developers have been given a theme and time to create appropriate games for it, all bundled up into the ongoing narrative of the Dread X universe. This time around the theme was "Entertainment Horror," which is fitting given the narrative link this time around takes place in a Chuck E. Cheese style children's play center.
Dread X Collection 5: Hunsvotti Review
Our first entry, Hunsvotti, is set in the late 1800s during a Finnish festival called Juhannus that takes place during the summer. As things start out, it’s not immediately clear what’s going on, with only a vague and sinister monologue from your nearly invisible father to clue you in that the festivities aren’t quite so festive for you for some reason. As you wander into the village with blonde-haired, white-clad merrymakers dancing around, you quickly get the impression that you’re not really welcome.
As you speak to various people and interact with objects to learn more about the situation, it becomes clear that you're the village outcast. You were born with black hair, something that was seen as a bad omen. As such, you’re badly mistreated by most people in town, including your own father. Someone has even defamed your mother’s grave, a low blow considering she died giving birth to you. With all this setup, it doesn’t take long for the villagers to push you around and knock you to the ground, eventually dragging you into a shed where you get urinated on by a pig for some reason.
Or rather, you do if you get the "bad" ending. You’ve been told by your father that it’s a Juhannus legend that if you throw seven flowers down the well you’ll meet your true love. If you can avoid being beaten black-and-blue by the villagers, you can acquire seven flowers dotted around the town and drop them into the well. I won’t reveal exactly what happens when you do this, but you can be sure that your fellow citizens will be horrifically sorry for mistreating you. In the end, this was a short experience but had a great creepy and eerie atmosphere to really set the mood for the rest of the games in the collection.
Dread X Collection 5: Gallerie Review
Next up we have Gallerie, a very surreal game that makes use of 3D audio for immersion, and does so pretty effectively. You visit an otherworldly art gallery that seems to have works of art from history, and it's also filled with some very strange patrons. At the entrance, you’re given a mysterious earpiece where a recording of the curator will guide you through the exhibits, as well as a warning that the gallery has been experiencing some power outages. If they happen while you’re visiting, you should just stand still and wait for staff to come and get you.
At that point, you can start wandering the gallery, and it doesn’t take long for a voice to ASMR you in the ear a bit, which is probably helpful for the creep factor depending on how you feel about ASMR. Before long the power starts flickering and the "sculptures" have a tendency to move when you’re not looking at them. Of course, then they go full monster and start chasing you down while you’re solving puzzles, at which point the 3D audio really comes in useful for both solving the puzzles safely and for creeping you out.
While the game is insanely creepy thanks to the great use of audio and the eerie setting of a surreal gallery, there are some shortcomings. The audio is a great strength but has a horrible tendency to glitch out and leave you with some ear-wrenching sounds. Even worse, at several points throughout the game would crash completely, and since these micro-experiences don’t typically save progress, that meant starting all over again. Definitely worth a look at, but you might find the technical issues make you drop it sooner than you would have liked.
Dread X Collection 5: The Book of Blood Review
Now we’re really talking. The Book of Blood is a great entry in this collection, having a lot of vibes that are similar to titles like Five Nights at Freddy's but with much more proactive gameplay. You’re a carnival worker who has volunteered to lock up. As you’re doing so, a strange masked man approached you with a note that says "Let Me In." Suuuuure. Obviously, you don’t want to do that, so you take the mysterious book from the back room and try to use it to get rid of your strange assailant.
A lot of the gameplay takes place inside your carnival game hut, mostly requiring you to listen for sounds while skimming through the book, then go running to the doors to make sure that they’re still locked, like FNAF. You also have to carefully journey out into the carnival to switch breakers back on when the strange man turns them off, adding some proactive stealth gameplay to the mix which makes for more interesting gameplay.
The downfall in this case comes from the enemy you’re facing. At first, whenever the masked man gets you either in the hut or out in the carnival, you’re terrified and trying to complete the quick-time event to stop yourself from being stabbed and losing health. However, you quickly realize that you can just keep spamming the QTE button without any consequences, which completely removes any threat from the character. While the gameplay and puzzles were certainly interesting enough to make this a worthwhile experience, the lack of any real threat from the enemy and the sort of cliched twist ending kind of kills any enjoyment after a while.
Dread X Collection 5: Karao Review
Next up is Karao, a first-person horror adventure about a person out on the town at their local karaoke bar. Unfortunately, the bar has a bit of an unorthodox policy on bathrooms (i.e. they don’t have any). Since you’re bursting for a wee, you end up having to enter the back room, and on your way back, you find yourself locked outside of the bar. That’s when things start getting weird. Before long, you're crawling around a weird combo of sewers, train tracks, and forests, packing a random shotgun that you found lying on the ground -- which is lucky, because random women with handguns are all over the place. At this stage, the game becomes a relatively standard FPS.
Most of your time is spent shooting enemies before they can shoot you. The game is effectively a series of minor vignettes featuring a bunch of enemies highlighted by spotlights that suddenly flash into life as you interact with random karaoke machines. Luckily, this is one of the few games with a save system and checkpoints, so the challenges aren’t insurmountable.
Fortunately, Karao actually does have some stand-out elements. Firstly, the atmosphere is pretty great, especially the slightly terrifying karaoke machines that play a song about washing blood out of your hair in a scratchy sort of way. By far, the best part is the ending, which is often the hardest bit to get right in horror stories. The entire game is pretty surreal most of the way through, but the ending reveal brings the actual events that have happened into a much more frighteningly real place and results in a much stronger ending than other similar games have had in the past.
Dread X Collection 5: Rotten Stigma Review
This was certainly one of the weirdest games on the list, or at least, weird in that it’s a bit of an outlier. Rotten Stigma has a lot of the classic Resident Evil and Silent Hill style and tone with the limited draw-distance and the way puzzles work, but the gameplay is much more like the Resident Evil 4-7 era, since it’s an over-the-shoulder shooter. Another reason it's a bit of an outlier is that I really haven’t been able to connect this game to "entertainment horror" in any way.
It’s a pretty barebones game, truth be told. It’s like a Resident Evil game with less content and a weird graphical overlay that looks gross but sort of works with this being a horror game, since it obscures a lot of details. The story is about some cult that you’re investigating to find your daughter Amanda, and honestly that’s pretty much all there is to it. There are some revelations about the cult throughout, but mostly it’s a pretty standard affair going area-by-area taking down enemies with your mostly plentiful supply of bullets, and solving simple puzzles until the game just runs out of steam. Still, lack of unique qualities aside, it is at least an incredibly competently made game.
Dread X Collection 5: Spirit Guardian Review
Spirit Guardian is another entry that seems to lack any connection to "entertainment horror," being set in an old abandoned daycare. I suppose that daycares are supposed to entertain children, but still it feels like a flimsy connection. That aside, this is another first-person adventure where you must explore a haunted daycare, guided by the voice of a ghostly child who evidently lost their life there. As you enter, you’re also greeted by the daycare’s old matron who immediately runs at you if she spots you, leaving you scrambling for a nearby locker to avoid her wrath.
I say her wrath, but this is another game that sort of suffers from a lack of any danger. If you get caught, you lose all of your items and are sent to the entrance of the daycare; but the items are just down the hall from where you start, and the entire daycare is incredibly small. This effectively means that you can just sprint straight from each puzzle, get hit by the matron, and still finish the game in record time, which is a little disappointing in some ways. Still, it would have been much more annoying to have to complete the entire game each time you failed, so this was probably the best solution.
Slight weirdness aside, the gameplay is relatively interesting for the most part. You explore the daycare, solving puzzles to release the spirits of the children trapped there. None of the puzzles are anything groundbreaking, such as a game of hide-and-seek or needing to count the number of colored items in a room, but they serve a decent purpose of forcing you to split focus between listening out for the murderous granny and solving the puzzle to progress. If there is anything that makes the game stand out, it’s the blend between 3D and 2D graphics that gives it a bit of a unique style. The ending is another one that sort of tries to pull of a twist, but it’s less cliched here and mostly just sort of confusing, but doesn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth, fortunately.
Dread X Collection 5: We Never Left Review
This is one of the most interesting games in the collection, albeit for sort of personal reasons. We Never Left is about a man who gets a call late at night. It turns out that his brother has gone missing, and so he heads to his brother’s house to see if he can find out what is going on. Before long, it becomes clear that your brother has been working on a video game, as well as seeing a therapist, so you must dig through his belongings and recordings from his therapy sessions to figure out what has happened to him. The game is actually framed around the in-universe text-adventure that your character’s brother has been working on, and while exploring the house for clues, you have to make your way through the game in its entirety to solve the mystery.
How excited you are by this prospect probably depends on how much experience and joy you have with text adventures. As a veteran of text adventures, I was really hyped for this one, and it has a promising start. The house you have to explore is creepy as all hell, with obvious signs of an abandoned life lying all over the place. The cassette tapes that reveal your brother’s… interesting relationship with therapy also add to the creep factor. Unfortunately, it all falls down when it comes to the text adventure. Whether you’re used to text adventures or not, this one has the worst text parser that I have ever personally experienced. Even stuff as basic as moving around the game world and looking at your surroundings is clunky and horrible, making it a real chore to play, even for those with plenty of text adventure experience.
It’s all unfortunately not improved by the fact that it took me ages to get this one working. There’s a weird glitch with the game that causes everything to flash when you try to boot it. There is a warning about OBS causing problems, but even without OBS active I ended up having to boot the game directly from the Steam files to get it to actually work. By far, this is is one of the games with the most potential on this list, but it was let down by a poor text adventure experience.
Dread X Collection 5: Vestige Review
Following on from a game within a game to another game within a game, Vestige is about visiting your childhood family home to house sit for your parents and checking out some of your old video games from the attic. As you start to play, things in the house get a bit weird, and before long you find you pretty much have to keep playing if you want to get out of this house alive. This is another interesting game experience because it’s a bit unique. You don’t have free reign over your movements, exploring the house by rotating on the spot and clicking on new areas that you want to explore. This restricted movement adds to the creep factor by making you feel pretty trapped by your situation, which is aided by having to explore a quite large and empty house.
The gameplay of the video game you’re playing is sort of basic. You explore snowy areas as a motorbike-riding skeleton and have to deliver mail to people who usually say something to do with death. As you play and explore, you also get a few hints towards the main character’s deep, dark secret, and that ties into the game that you’re playing as well. Overall, it’s a pretty short but enjoyable experience, and the ending is also pretty great. I swore that the storyline was heading in a certain way, but the ending actually both surprised and satisfied me, which is a pretty good thing for such a small and narrow horror experience.
Dread X Collection 5: Resver Review
Here’s a title that spell checkers don’t like. Resver is another surreal first-person horror adventure in a similar style to many of the other games on the list. In this particular story, you’re sitting at home alone when you get a mysterious invitation to a local nightclub. You decide to meet your friends at the club, but when you arrive at the mysterious place, everything seems a bit strange. In reality, you’re visiting a club that actually burnt down a long time ago… I think. Okay so when I said this one was a surreal game, I really meant it. Resver is incredibly committed to the idea of a surreal game, and that does make it somewhat hard to understand what’s going on. From the moment you get into the club, it’s not immediately clear what is actually happening, with a hole opening up in the floor and swallowing you.
Everything that happens after that is basically a series of increasingly baffling events, mostly as a simple walking tour but there were some "puzzles" after a fashion. That’s not to say that this level of surrealness is a negative point. If anything, it’s sort of refreshing for a game to commit to a string of sights and sounds that convey a meaning rather than a specific narrative. In this case, the sound of a nightclub burning down with a large number of people trapped inside is a message that is pretty difficult to forget, and it’s certainly a topic that has some pretty harrowing media attached to it already. Sadly, the ending feels a bit lackluster. Effectively it seems like the game was ended as soon as the developer ran out of time, abruptly stopping in a way that felt more like an emergency break rather than a carefully crafted ending that ties everything together.
Dread X Collection 5: Ludomalica Review
This time we have another game about a game, but in this case, it's a board game, not a video game. You play a young child whose parents have left them home alone. Despite being warned that your grandfather’s old board game is cursed, you decide to play it anyway, and it doesn’t take too long before stuff starts getting weird in your house. The game comes with several rules inscribed on it, such as having your lights turned off, closing your door, and being alone. So before you get started with the game, you need to go around your house and get everything prepared so that all three rules are crossed out.
These rules are actually pretty effective when it comes to being creepy. The first time you see a rule un-cross itself out, it’s not that big of a deal, at least in a horror game. You just go and turn off the light that mysteriously came on or close your bedroom door after it opens itself. No, the really effective use of it was probably the first time that the "you must be alone" rule uncrossed itself out. Since it hadn’t happened before, it didn’t even occur to me as a rule that could be broken, so I was properly creeped out at that point, and it took a fair bit of courage to get out into the rest of the house to fix up the problems so I could keep rolling.
Unfortunately, that’s where it all falls down a bit. The game is relatively formulaic, mostly a case of rolling, fixing a bunch of issues, and running back to your room before you die, then repeating those steps ad nauseam. The problem with that is that it’s not only boring but because the board game is an endless loop, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Each round, the sections of the house that you have to explore just keep getting bigger and bigger, and the sections where you have to run away become more and more tedious. In the end, this game might be worth your time if you were a big fan of sprinting back to your bed after turning the lights off as a kid, but don’t be shocked if you stop playing before you hit the ending.
Dread X Collection 5: Beyond the Curtain Review
Ahh, the theater! Beyond the Curtain, if the name isn’t an obvious enough hint, is a game about visiting the theater, specifically a puppet theatre in this instance. You are a small child visiting a puppet show with your parents who falls asleep during the show. Clearly, you were loving it. When you wake up, you find that the doors have all been bricked up and you’re alone in the dark, with your only chance of escape lying behind the curtain (do you see what they did there?). This is another first-person adventure affair, mostly consisting of running through environments filled with puppets and trying to work your way through the Euclidean backstage area behind the show you were just enjoying not a moment before.
There’s a lot to unpack with this particular game. My first red flag was probably when the game warned me to "take my time" and "only run when necessary." I was a little worried that this was a way of artificially padding the game’s length, but I was downright distraught when I got into the game and experienced just how slow the protagonist actually moved while walking. Honestly, it’s not much better when you’re sprinting, but at that point, it’s at least closer to the land speed of an old granny in a zimmer frame.
For the first chunk of gameplay, things actually aren’t too bad. You’re wandering around areas filled with stage dressing made of literal cardboard and balsa wood, with hanging marionettes all over the place. As you progress you end up dealing with the classic "enemy that can only move when you’re not looking" trope, which was probably more effective the first 50 times that horror games did it, but it still serves a decent purpose. Of course, it’s all killed by the late-game section where you’re attacked by a giant worm. It comes sort of out of nowhere and doesn’t have the same puppet show theming as everything else, which sort of ruins it. It would have been cooler to have a giant worm contracted from marionette parts of something, rather than this Dune reject we ended up with. On top of that, the actual gameplay of this particular section is frustrating, so there are just far too many reasons not to enjoy this one.
Dread X Collection 5: INTERIM Review
Ahh, the final entry on the list, and it’s another interesting one. Once again we’re presented with a first-person horror adventure where you work behind the scenes in the television industry. One day while you’re cleaning up the studio so you can leave, something horrific happens to your boss and you find yourself trapped. Now you have to work your way through the surreal world of TV to try and figure out a way back out of the office before you get swallowed up by TV. INTERIM is probably the game on the list that is closest to being a fully fledged game. There's a decently sized main menu that features links to extras like trailers and stuff but does that mean that the game itself feels the most like a finished product? Yes and no.
So the storyline of the game has a relatively distinct beginning, middle, and end, which is a bit shocking considering the surreal way that the story is presented. However, the game also suffers from some incredibly finicky controls and a bit of a lack of direction at times. At least once or twice I got stuck because I wasn’t sure what the game was intending for me to do, or because it was too finicky to do it. For example, there’s a very cliched "climb upwards escaping constantly increasing water" section that requires you to move planks into the position of makeshift bridges. With the finicky controls, this task becomes incredibly difficult to achieve because there’s no real way to control the planks beyond clicking and dragging, and trying to get them into position while the water level rose was both intense and deeply frustrating.
That aside, the real thing that let the game down was that it was pretty short and almost impossible to tell what was going on. It’s another surreal experience but felt like it had a more defined narrative that the game just wasn’t telling us during the time we were there. There’s something about a guy who is obsessed with TV who might be a washed-up actor, but it’s not 100% clear if this is the same schlub who we control or not. There are too many details for this to feel like a stream of consciousness, and as a result, it left me feeling empty after I was done playing.
TechRaptor covered Dread X Collection 5 on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
Disclaimer: Our reviews editor, Samuel Guglielmo, works at publisher Dread XP. He was not involved with this article.