Concluse is an atmospheric horror indie that was released on 29 June. It’s free. It’s also a game that managed to both creep me out and stress me out.
Michael has been searching for his missing wife Carolyn for the past three years. When he gets an anonymous tip that she was seen alive and well in a town called “Hell,” located in the middle of nowhere in the Northeastern US, Michael goes off to find her and bring her back home. As he makes his way to Hell, he encounters the deserted town of Cordova, dead bodies, and a mysterious and distorted black figure who follows him throughout his journey.
Concluse was originally an alternate reality game video series on YouTube that began almost a year ago and was created by animator Jon Martin. It was presented as a walkthrough of a rare video game that Martin had ostensibly “found” in the attic of his deceased uncle, a PlayStation fan. While the ARG video series provides some material for Concluse, it is by no means a walkthrough of the actual game, which features new areas, puzzles, and mechanics that were not featured in Martin’s video series.
The game, which is clearly inspired by the Silent Hill and Resident Evil games, will have you primarily searching for keys and solving puzzles in hopes of them leading you to your beloved Carolyn. While it was fun trying to figure out where to use tools and determining which doors certain keys belonged to, the immersion of the game often fell apart when I found myself stuck in certain areas.
For example, I was trapped in the sewers for at least an hour, going absolutely insane, because I had no idea how to turn on these buttons that would unlock a door. I kept darting back and forth between the only two areas that were open at the time, only to finally realise that there was an essential area I was overlooking, the entrance to which was almost entirely obscured by a wall in one of the rooms. A better-designed map could have solved this issue.
I love how Concluse’s graphics are aesthetically reminiscent of PS1-era horror games. The bleak palette of colours helps establish the game’s eerie atmosphere. However, it can also make it really hard to see or even read in-game text. I found myself squinting a lot more than I should at my computer’s monitor in order to read notes that were essential for solving puzzles. I also bypassed another key area multiple times because it was essentially shrouded in darkness and out of my view. While the darkness can be brightened a bit in the options menu, there really isn’t much you can do about how blurry the text can be. No one wants to strain their eyes, especially not while simultaneously trying to decode a puzzle.
Despite some of the issues I had with Concluse, I still found it to be a worthwhile experience. I appreciated how Concluse shows that horror games don’t have to rely on jump scares. Rather, there’s an emphasis on building an unsettling world, while providing plenty of room for players’ imaginations and theories to run wild. The music is also stellar. Concluse feels like it is only the beginning of a story, but there’s so much potential there that I’m looking forward to what it might have in store for us next.