Don't Tell Them Your Crimes
Trespassing is a crime. Like, an actual legal crime, but also there are some places you don't trespass for good reasons. Radioactive swamps, dangerous jungles, and hellish living libraries that are home to eldritch horrors shouldn't be trespassed on more for your personal safety. Thankfully, A Place, Forbidden offers up the opportunity to hit up that last one! Is it worth entering the forbidden place though?
It's never a good feeling waking up somewhere you don't remember being, but that's what happens to the game's protagonist. A man that wakes up inside of a mysterious library, he originally only plans to politely leave and not make much of a fuss about it. However, he quickly finds the library doesn't want him to leave, trapping him in its walls and bending in impossible ways. As the man progresses through the library, you'll learn he's not exactly as innocent as he claims.
It's a simple enough set-up, but A Place, Forbidden really does a lot with it. The story of your character certainly keeps changing the way the game feels, as you try to figure out if he really deserved this or not. The library itself manages to be just outright terrifying, even when it's musing about the strangest things. Hearing a voice debate how many arms and legs would be useful on a human is funny in that black comedy sort of way, but also seems to come from a being that straight up doesn't understand humans, and gets genuine glee out of rearranging them. It's both hilarious and horrifying, a genuinely difficult combo to pull off.
A lot of this is thanks to A Place, Forbidden's absolutely superb presentation. The game's graphical style takes after old PlayStation visuals, with blocky polygons and muddled textures. It's just enough to give you an idea of what each object should look like, while still obscuring enough so your imagination runs away with the full horror of it. Objects in the distance always look obscured, which works fantastically in making me wonder if I really wanted to move forward or not. Combine this with great sound design and some creepy voice acting, and you have a package that titillates the senses. Just, you know, in a scary way.
As for how it actually plays, you'll generally be solving puzzles between exploring the library. None of the puzzles were really brain-twisters, but several had clever aha! moments that I really appreciated. One, for example, saw me reading several stories and having to use the plots to help figure out the order I should put tablets into a safe to unlock it. Another required me to look into various rooms and find matching items so I could figure out the code for a lock. Every puzzle manages to be just challenging enough that I had to really think, and it makes the game feel like I'm doing more than just moving forward and listening to story points.
As a random aside, if you've heard of the fantastic project that is the Haunted Ps1 Demo Disc 2020, you may remember that A Place, Forbidden was included in that lineup. If you haven't, I strongly suggest going to play the 15-minute demo included in that collection as well, as it's a self-contained side-story that fleshes out the plot for the main game a little more. Also, that whole collection of demos is great, but this is neither here nor there. The important thing is that it's getting to spend a little more time in a unique and terrifying setting that I really came to love.
It took me about an hour and a half to finish up with A Place, Forbidden, and I am absolutely thrilled that I got the chance. This strange horror game makes the absolute best use out of the aesthetic and combines it with both a fantastic story and some great puzzles for an experience that honestly feels unique as all hell. It's a reminder to pay attention to these little projects you find off the beaten path, and you may just find the best experiences there.
Just, you know, don't look for any horrible bleeding libraries that turn people into skin books? Those are illegal.
TechRaptor played A Place, Forbidden on PC vita itch.io using a copy freely downloaded by the writer.