If I ever found myself trapped alone in a sinister abandoned lab, with scary noises and creepy messages lurking in every room, I think I’d curl into a ball, stick my thumb in my mouth and weep pathetically until help arrived. Unfortunately there’s no button for that in Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting, so you’ve got no choice but to explore the horrific interior of Cold Winter Farm, a menacing derelict building where - of course - you’re stuck with no way out.
Welcome to Cold Winter Farm
You play as Sheriff Alex Truman, a silent protagonist who is drawn to the farm by the last words of an unidentified car crash victim. Sadly this isn’t your typical happy little farm filled with pigs, moo moos and little fluffy chickens. As you explore the deserted rooms and corridors, you’ll discover that the previous inhabitants were up to all kinds of nefarious plots, none of which involved cute barnyard animals.
Exploration is the main goal of Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting. You view the world through the eyes of Truman, and progress in a slideshow fashion a la Dark Fall - there’s no 360-degree freedom, you can only turn in 90 degree increments and move along pre-designated paths. Thankfully this never gets too confusing, even though the lab is a little maze-like. With plenty of backtracking you’ll soon learn your way around, and there’s a map in one of the rooms to help you out if you ever get lost.
Corrosion is packed with journals and recordings, which fill in the story of Cold Winter Farm’s past and flesh out the characters. It’s a well-worn but trusty method of driving the narrative along, and pretty much the only option, as this is one of those games where you’re on your own 99% of the time. Of course, the occasional self-locking door and mysterious noise hints that there’s someone - or something - else inhabiting the labs, but to say any more would spoil the surprises.
A large part of Corrosion’s thrill is discovering what the hell is going on, with tantalising hints dropped in at a satisfying pace, leading you down that dark and terrifying path towards the inevitable truth. You’ll spend a lot of time hunting down keycards and codes to access locked areas of the lab. This does get a little repetitive, but the excitement of exploring a new area keeps you going - you’ll be dying to see what’s in next room, despite - or maybe because of - the potentially nasty things you may find.
Of course, you do have to suspend your disbelief somewhat - the idea that every single door is opened by an individual keycard, and that everyone keeps detailed diaries detailing their day, is a bit of a stretch. Our advice is to ignore these little niggles and just get on with it.
Puzzles 'n' stuff
Aside from tracking down keycards, you’ll have to solve the occasional brain-buster to progress through Corrosion’s plot. You’ll pick up a huge collection of seemingly random objects (clearly Truman has pockets like Guybrush Threepwood, or biceps like Tom Hardy, given the amount of crap he carts around), which occasionally have to be assembled in a specific way. Sometimes the solution is obvious, but there was the odd time where we simply clicked on everything until something worked. Blame our knackered old brains if you will, as we end up doing this in most adventures.
Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting throws a bit of variety into the puzzle pot too. There’s a cool little maths conundrum, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and you’ll need to work out times and dates of specific events that occurred in the lab, then play back recordings using the handy security archive. Voice acting is usually a sore point in indie adventures and there’s certainly no Oscar-worthy performances here, with the occasionally cheesy dialogue thrown in. Thankfully it isn’t too distracting.
Our main issue was the occasional brick wall we hit, after solving a puzzle. You’d expect a hint as to what to do next, perhaps one of those handy keycards for accessing another part of the lab, but three or four times we were left clueless. It was only after scouring the entire building that we discovered a previously locked door had been opened, with no warning at all. It’s a simple case of patiently covering old ground, but we could’ve done without it.
We’re keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible, but we will warn you that it’s possible to die in Corrosion, in a time-critical segment. Thankfully the game isn’t harsh, and starts you just before the timer started ticking if you fluff it up.
Corrosion’s plot keeps you guessing to the end, and even when it’s over there’s still plenty open to debate. Sadly the ending is rather anti-climactic - our response to the screen fading to black was “Oh. Okay.” It isn’t a bad ending, it’s just an ending, and one which would’ve benefited from a little more drama.
After ten hours of creeping through Cold Winter Farm’s eerie corridors, we sat back and considered the key question: is Corrosion actually scary? It’s surprisingly tough to answer. Playing alone in the dark with earphones, we were definitely creeped out. After unlocking the door to the medical lab or morgue, we hesitated before plunging inside, for fear of what we’d stumble into. Some of the contraptions we saw, including a particularly memorable chair, definitely surprised or shocked. Those with weak stomachs will also balk at some of the diary and computer entries, while the sinister music gets under your skin and creeps you out.
Sadly the game doesn’t have any stand-out scenes of horror, like the midnight scufflings of Scratches or the terrifying torture devices of Blackstone Chronicles, so it’s unlikely to join those titles on the pant-filling hall of fame. But while it lasts, Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting is an intriguing and suspenseful adventure that’s worth checking out.
Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting System Requirements
As with all slideshow adventure games, the system requirements for Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting are very low. Even a decent netbook can run it fine, with a Pentium 4 and 512MB of RAM being the stated minimum requirements. Make sure you invest in some decent headphones for the full freaky experience, however.
I had the good fortune of interviewing the Corrosion Indie Developer, Dan Peach from Viperante, so if you want to see what makes a horror game developer tick, pop over here to check it out