Horror games are a genre always aching for innovation—you need to find new ways to terrify your audience or else the scares might grow stale. And sound is one of the most important aspects of horror. Humans tend to be more scared when their senses are limited, and since most people rely more on their sight than anything else, removing that sight and making us rely on other senses can make for a truly scary experience. Stifled is a new indie horror game that capitalizes on this. Stifled, from Singaporean developer Gattai Games, is the spiritual successor to Lurking, a student project that garnered the attention of some bigger YouTubers for its inventive echolocation mechanic. It is now being made into a full game, which just hit Steam Greenlight today.
TechRaptor got to play Stifled at E3 during the Indie Mix. While it's not the most ideal game to play on a loud, crowded Los Angeles rooftop, those initial impressions still garnered some interested. Fortunately the developer provided a demo to play in the comfort, darkness, and eerie silence of the bedroom. And that makes for a very different (and awesome) experience. The demo for the game is about 15-20 minutes in length, but gives you a very good impression of the mechanics you're working with. Your microphone is connected to the game and you must calibrate it prior to playing (tip: make your normal voice slightly quieter than usual, so the game picks it up slightly better and you don't have to yell as loud to get a response). You then must navigate a dark sewer, evading a monster, which just sounds absolutely terrifying.
Your voice isn't your only tool though. The ground also can make noise, which can aid you in finding your way around, but also harm you as it alerts monsters to your location. You can also pick up rocks and other objects and throw them to try and lead the monsters away from you. The fun thing about that, which took a while to figure out, is the objects all have independent weights. Throw a can and you'll get a good distance in your throw. Throw a large rock and it'll more than likely just land right in front of you, and then you'll have a bad time.
Theoretically you could get through the demo without making a peep, but making noise purposefully reveals the area around you and can make it a lot easier to figure out where to go next. The mix of different sound mechanics, both created by the player's own voice and by using objects in the game, makes strategizing your steps far more important. The strategy of using sound and distracting enemies is much more pronounced than in games like Amnesia. It gives every step you make a measure of weight players might not otherwise consider.
Based on those initial impressions, the full game is likely to be a great one. While it's not the Let's Play fodder many horror games are (it's definitely not the type of game you want to be screaming dramatically at while playing) for individuals interested in horror, it's fantastic. You can vote to get Stifled added to Steam when it's ready for release here. The game is planned for release later in 2016. Check out the Greenlight trailer below!