Dread and fear gnaw at me every time I start exploring a new first-person horror game. Why do I keep doing this? I need to learn my lesson.
The Beast Inside is first-person horror with ghosts from the past. As player-character Adam, you flashback to the dark past of your family’s country retreat. Lines between past and present blur as you attempt to uncover clues in the present about what had happened there. Like in any first-person horror experience, prepare to be scared off the set of your pants, but there are also some puzzles and at least one quirky sci-fi gimmick.
It starts out with an unsettling opening, but right after transitions you to a pleasant afternoon drive in America’s 1960s. Adam and his wife Emma are escaping to a familial residence in the countryside. While completing basic chores – bringing boxes into the house, finding a paint can for part of their renovation project – you discover an old diary in the houses’ attic. With it, the creepy adventures begin.
You go into the past, and that’s really what this game is all about. Entries in the diary take you back in time, placing you in the shoes of Nicolas Hyde. He stands at the entrance of the same house Adam and his wife arrived at, only now it’s in the mid-19th century and it’s a whole lot creepier. It’s night-time, it’s storming, and the whole place is dark.
In the past, the real horror begins. I also found out why I typically can’t move in these games, at least no more than a few steps at a time. The house is very dark and everywhere you look there’s another creepy painting or statue staring at you. Your first task is lovely: lighting candles. In other words, you now have the joy of exploring all the dark corners with just a few matches. Lighting candles don’t really help, either. All it does is cast shadows that make the furnishings look even more unsettling.
From there the rest of the chapter flows with jump scares and frightening environmental storytelling. Once you’re taken back to the present – to Adam’s world, from the opening – it’s interesting to explore the house again after seeing it in the past. You’ve seen it dark and scary, and now you’re seeing the same areas again in the sunlight. And everything’s safe! Or so it seems.
Odd Additions and a Few Issues in The Beast Inside
There’s more than horror in The Beast Inside, though. Your character Adam is an agent in the CIA, a decoder, so cracking number, letter, and other such codes is his specialty, so you'll find code-based puzzles. The first puzzle you encounter concerns the lock on the box with the diary. You crack it by substituting certain letters with others to come up with a word. If you’re not great at decoding such puzzles you will likely get stumped here, right at the beginning.
Odd sci-fi technology also joins the puzzles as a companion to the horror. After your first sojourn in memory lane, you return to the present as Adam and eventually pick up a device called the “quantum localizer.” Adam so nonchalantly introduces it I couldn’t help but be thrown off. It’s a tool he brought that allows him to discover shadows of people and events from the past. It leads you to new quantum pockets - like a metal detector for memories. I’m pretty sure it’s anachronistic for 1960s America.
You also use it as a weapon against “anomalies.” These appear as formless floating shapes and interrupt your ability to look for memories. You must fire at them with the quantum localizer. Even within the device’s scanning field anomalies can be difficult to see, making this task kind of a pain.
I encountered a few technical issues. The performance kept hanging up on me. I am playing on a 2016 PC build, but it meets the recommended requirements as listed on Steam. On mostly medium settings I kept encountering pauses every 10 or 15 seconds. This also affected dialogue: characters would repeat words or phrases at times. A couple of dialogue lines also cut over each other, and once – when in the second chapter, set in the past – a dialogue line played when it shouldn’t have. As Nicolas, I had walked out into the back, behind the house, and he said that someone was banging on the other side of the basement door. At the time, I was looking towards the river and hadn’t even seen the basement door yet. Given that the front door of the house had recently closed and locked, I wonder if the back door should have been locked as well.
The Beast Inside seems to hold the solid makings of a first-person horror experience. It’s a bit silly and has some flaws, but it frightened me. It made me want to escape to the pause menu. A few times I couldn’t take a few steps without closing my eyes. If that kind of nerve-wracking horror experience is enough for you, you’ll find something to enjoy here.
TechRaptor covered The Beast Inside on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.