Anyone who’s ruined their undergarments playing terrifying PC chiller Scratches should be mega-excited about upcoming horror adventure Asylum. This sinister first-person point n’ click adventure has been designed by master of terror Agustin Cordes, the same man behind Scratches, and Public Enemy Number One to stain-free kecks.
You won’t be too shocked to learn that Asylum takes place in a decrepit old mental institution, quite a common setting for bone-chilling horrors. You play as a former in-mate, who finds himself plagued by horrific dreams - or are they visions? - and is inexplicably drawn back to the nightmarish institute, which appears to still be in use...
You can play a short demo of Asylum right now by visiting the official Asylum website, and after donning the GD kevlar underpants we had a quick blast. We start off in a run-down old cafeteria on the ground floor. Immediately the grimy walls, dust-caked broken furniture and slimy floors had us craving a long, hot soak in a soapy bath. The atmosphere is stifling, ably assisted by mysterious distant sound effects. Was that someone wailing in some other part of the building, or are we just going...slightly mad?
You can look all around (360 degrees) using the mouse, but navigation is limited as usual: you can only move in set directions, by clicking when the cursor turns into an arrow. Clicking on objects, notice boards and suspect puddles gives a brief voiced comment from the protagonist, who sounds like a world-weary middle-aged man who’s seen far too many woes for one lifetime. Despite his situation, he still manages to come out with the occasional unexpected one-liner or light-hearted jibe, which helps to take the edge off the tension. In his position, we’d probably be curled up in the fetal position rather than cracking wise.
The demo is only short, but has a heavy lean towards exploration rather than puzzles. One of the only obstacles is a hidden key, which has to be found to access a dark and horrifying corridor labelled as the men’s ward. When we finally located the key, which we’d managed to walk by five or six times before finally noticing, it still took us a minute or so of deep breaths and lip chewing before we were brave enough to venture on.
Stalking down the narrow corridor, we were shocked to discover that we weren’t alone in this place. Turning to look into one of the first cells, we spotted a shadowy figure through the observation glass, rocking back and forth and muttering to himself. But if this place is still operational...where are the doctors? Just what the blimming flip is going on here?
We’ll have to wait for the full game to launch before we get any answers, but Asylum is down for release late 2013, so the wait is far from over. We’re already enticed by the fabulously sinister graphics and sound design, and will be interested to see if puzzles really do take a back seat to exploring the horrifying secrets of each room. Either way, we can’t wait to plunge further into the belly of the run-down institute. As The Cat would say: “This sounds like a twelve-change-of-underwear trip!”