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Reveil Review (PS5) – More Story Than Scary

Reveil Review (PS5) – Across the last two console generations, Madison stands as my benchmark for horror games. In a lot of ways, that’s not fair to upcoming horror games.

With that in mind, Reveil uses its settings well as a narrative tool, but it lacks the intensity, tension, and consistency necessary to invoke fear.

Reveil Review (PS5) – More Story Than Scary

You step into the shoes of one Walter _______, the father in a family of circus members. On this particular morning, you wake up in your bed with a brewing headache. After taking some meds, you search for your family in your house, which you quickly learn is empty. In your search, your house shifts to entirely different locations. With each one, you face a bit of your past that you can’t seem to remember.

The vast majority of the time, the settings you see jump between locales associated with the circus, each one distorted or disheveled somehow. Many of these settings show off the strength of the Unity engine, with all of the set pieces showcasing some gorgeous scenes. Odd things randomly appear in lower resolution, but you have to really be searching for them.

Unfortunately, though, the five chapters all follow a similar formula: walk, chase, and puzzle, with the occasional event that does any combination of the three. While not inherently negative, the lack of spontaneity brings down the horror effects and tension.

With that said, it puts more of a focus on the circumstances around Walter’s family. While somewhat predictable, the situation still holds a lot of emotional tension that the game world enunciates.

Creative Choices Change Things

In a lot of ways, Reveil is a bit of a walking sim. For large chunks of the game, you just move forward. These get broken up by occasional events or chase sequences, so it’s not one-note gameplay. To boot, the walking portions offer some rather cool sections. For instance, there’s one area where you must find your way through a room of mirrors.

Then, there are surprise jumps in perspective that keep you honest. All in all, there are some thoughtful concepts at play here.

I play my broken record when I say that I suck at puzzle solving. It’s a peculiar thing just because of my love for horror games. With that said, the puzzles in Reveil mimic the kinds of puzzles you find in the classics.

Open a flow to move things around, find hints around the room, etc., you’ll find puzzles aplenty like this. Even with my obliviousness, clearing through these puzzles doesn’t take more than a couple minutes. They break up the walking sim formula nicely without convoluting the flow of the game.

The dialogue in Reveil presents itself in a way that contradicts its intentions. In a vacuum, all of the dialogue is well delivered. However, much of the spoken tone doesn’t match the tone of the game. As music starts to grow ominous and the scene more chaotic, Walter continues to talk about things as if reminiscing about something he finds in his closet. It’s almost like the dialogue was recorded without referencing where that recording appears in the game. This isn’t all the time, but it’s more than enough to break immersion quite often.

Leaning Away from Tension

Even further still, enemy movements also diminish the intensity of the game. The first time you encounter them, they may get you and take you out. After that, though, you already understand the way the enemy behaves. In fact, one strong example is a monster that you need to navigate while collecting items.

However, the monster moves slowly and has such limited vision that the risk just isn’t there. The monster can’t even see you through an open space under wooden stairs or when you stand along the side of an easel. The tension just isn’t there.

Even if the monsters lack mechanical complexity, their implementation coincides with how the game seems to focus more on delivering the family circumstances. Again, the delivery of those circumstances look and feel wonderfully potent, albeit a bit predictable. So, it’s hard to truly knock the game for this design choice outside of it having mechanical issues. Equally so, the same effect could have been done with a simpler approach.

Finally, Reveil offers a generous reload feature. Should you die, you either return to your bed or a short distance away from where you died. The loop effect contributes nicely to the narrative circumstances, but it also further leans the game into one intended as a convenience experience rather than a challenging one. Considering all the aforementioned points, the intentions of the game are crystal clear, but the execution isn’t always complimentary.

Intriguing Story With Tamed Horror

Reveil tells a compelling story of family discourse, using a horror format to enunciate the telling of it to generally wonderful effect.

Several mechanical design choices diminish the immersive nature of the game, and the horror elements lack the nuance to generate consistent tension, discomfort, or dread. It may not be scary, but it tells a great story in a unique setting.

Reveil is available on PS5 and PS4 on March 6, 2024.

Review kindly provided by publisher



The Final Word

Reveil tells a great story through its dialogue and settings, but it misses the mark when it comes to horror. It may not scare you, but it still proves quite compelling.