A Creative Game With A Bland Name
Wooden Floor (developed and published by pheenix93) is a game with a somewhat boring name. I'll say as much right from the start. I picked it up in a bundle for the same reason that I picked up Hektor: it promised to offer room-shifting mechanics similar to that of Antichamber, and I was interested in exploring that concept.
I can state unequivocally and without reservation that Wooden Floor does indeed have wooden floors in it. If you never once looked down, the somewhat repetitive creaking wood sounds that occur when you walk everywhere would make you realize the sheer amount of wood underneath your feet.
Okay, okay. I've ragged on the game's title enough. And honestly, the strange choice for a name was part of the initial appeal for me.
You begin Wooden Floor by waking up in what appears to be a fairly normal looking house in an era where candlelight was the norm. My first impression was that the scale of the room (especially the bed) felt a bit off. That aside, I set forth on my journey.
The tutorial was provided through gameplay—there weren't any menus or videos that popped up on the screen. The controls are the fairly basic things you would expect in a first person exploration sort of game. WASD to move and space to jump.
This game does the "the rooms move around" thing well. An early room advised via a note that I ought to visit it again. I closed the door, and when I opened it up again the room was completely different. This sort of mechanic comes into play a few times throughout the game.
Wooden Floor is meant to be a scary game, but I was delighted to find that it didn't go for gore or super spooky dark horror. I felt that it played more like a sort of carnival fun house. You would occasionally face mildly unsettling things, such as a room that is completely upside down or a set of glowing eyes staring at you from the darkness. The first time I saw those I was afraid. And I wasn't afraid of whatever horrible creature had those glowing eyes, I was afraid that I was going to have to run away from yet another unkillable monster that was going to chase me around this spooky mansion. Thankfully, that was not the case.
I'm a proponent of the belief that the best fear is a subtle fear. Jump scares have their place, sure. Wooden Floor has more than a few jump scares, such as a book suddenly flying off of a shelf. However, the majority of the scary stuff are things that you can't see quite clearly or don't entirely understand. The scariest thing is whatever your brain thinks might be lurking in the darkness, and Wooden Floor excels at executing this technique.
If you have any concerns that this is just a simple walking simulator, I can put those concerns to rest. There are a few light platforming sections that utilize strange geometry, and the game has some very basic puzzles. One puzzle in particular didn't seem to have an apparent solution, but it was mechanically easy enough that I solved it through simple trial and error.
Light is very much lacking in Wooden Floor. At first you have a generous amount of light provided by candelabras and stoves. As you progress further, you will find yourself standing in the darkness almost as often as the light. There were very rarely any real gameplay problems with this save for one early door that I just could not find because it was hidden in a dark area. Given the nature of the game, I feel that this was intentional more than an oversight on the developer's part.
You get a temporary reprieve from the darkness in the form of a candle that you can hold, but you later have to sacrifice your only portable light source in order to open a pathway. I wondered to myself why I couldn't just pluck one of the many candles off of the wall around me. Ultimately, I chalked that inability up to a game design decision, and the lack of light overall never really impeded the gameplay in any serious way for me.
Wooden Floor is very clearly an indie game in terms of its graphics. Assets are reused perhaps a bit too frequently. The texture quality and visual effects aren't anything groundbreaking. However, the game maintains a consistent art style and it is presented well. I always consider the gameplay important first and foremost, and Wooden Floor's gameplay is good.
The sound is about as good as you can expect in any horror game. Scare chords and well-timed environmental noises will make you occasionally hop out of your seat. The music is where the sound of the game really shines. The track at the conclusion of the game—you'll know it when you hear it—is particularly catchy. And it's fortunate that this track is such a pleasure to listen to as you will likely be repeating the end of the game a few times due to its difficulty.
There are a few cases where you are going to have to repeat sections due to not understanding where you need to go or failing to successfully navigate an obstacle. However, nothing was so challenging that I felt it was unbalanced or in any way unfair. There are some complaints about the challenge at the end of the game, but I grew up on NES games and was used to having to replay a section a few times. I was quite happy to see a game that was unafraid to present a few genuine challenges to the player without holding their hand.
There are two bits of standout criticism that I have for Wooden Floor. The first is that there is a lack of a good save system. You can continue sections where you fail very easily, but if you exit and relaunch the program, your only option is to pick one of the three sections of the game. Wooden Floor is a short game overall, so you won't necessarily lose an awful lot of gameplay, but a save system is something that really ought to have been included.
The second (and much more minor) criticism I have is the lack of good menus in general. There's not really a solid options menu. There's not even a pause function as far as I can tell. Most of the danger in the game is something you have to navigate or pass through, and the few sections with active threats can be repeated very easily if you end up dying.
These criticisms aren't enough to deter me from recommending that people buy Wooden Floor. The developer may not have created the most beautiful game or the longest game. (I completed it in a little over two hours.) pheenix93 has nonetheless shown a mastered ability to perfectly time in-game events when they're at their scariest. I encountered a particular room that I recognized from elsewhere at a certain point in the game, and the very moment that I made the connection in my mind became terrifying thanks to a perfectly timed crack of thunder and flash of lightning. The jump scares aren't overdone in my eyes, and when they are done, they're done well.
Wooden Floor retails for $5.99 on Steam. It's half off during the Steam Halloween Sale. I would have been satisfied with my purchase at full price, and for a good two hours of creepy mansion spookiness I would enthusiastically recommend it at the sale price of $2.99. Wooden Floor 2 has been greenlit and has every indication that it's going to be bigger and better than the first one. I'm looking forward to it very much, and I sincerely hope that the developer's lack of recent activity online isn't an indication that he's thrown in the towel.
TechRaptor reviewed Wooden Floor on PC via Steam with a copy purchased by the reviewer
Are you a fan of haunted houses? What kind of floor do you have in your home? Let us know your mundane interior decorating details in the comments below! Oh, and I guess you can talk about the game and stuff.