It became very obvious that things were not right.
So very not right.
What should be the comfortably normal rooms of a typical suburban house take on ominous overtones with lengthening shadows of the setting sun, and the empty rooms feel like traps waiting to be sprung. Perhaps my phone will give me some comfort from this oppressive isolation?
No internet on my phone, but it springs to life in my hands like a snake, opening a video call from my “parents”. I use quotation marks because I don’t recognize them, and I am distracted from their glib reassurances that everything is ok by the shifting background behind them. They’re at a party. They’re at a posh restaurant. They’re outside. All in a manner of seconds. These are not my parents? Who are they? Where am I? I realize with horror I actually don’t know this house, even though it seems designed to be familiar.
Just as I am grappling with the concept that I can’t remember how I got here and even who I am, I realize I am not alone in the house…
At this point in the demo of The Blackout Club, I was actually sweating. The game had artfully unsettled me to the point I was actually anxious about my situation. This should not have been a surprise to me since it was developed by a team of industry veterans including the Creative Director and Lead Writer of BioShock 2, the Senior Gameplay Programmer of Dishonored, and the Lead Effects Artist for BioShock Infinite. Still, I appreciated that the fear I felt was not fueled by petty jump scares but rather increasing dread as I could see, and thanks to expertly programmed directional rumble, the indistinct Shape coming toward me.
Besides the rumble that increased or decreased as the intruder came closer to me, a button press enabled kind of a sixth sense that let me see a vague outline of the menace through the walls. Rather than making me feel safer by knowing where it was, this supernatural sense heightened my anxiety as I saw it approaching my hiding spot. I knew that making noise or turning on my flashlight would draw it to me, so I remained still until I thought it had passed. As I came out of hiding from behind the drawers, it suddenly rushed back. Had I made a noise? I’m not sure, but it was terrifying to have it overtake me and have the screen go black…
My time with The Blackout Club was short, and I have just scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. After escaping the house, the player will meet up in a secret hideout with other teens in the town who have figured out that something is very, very wrong. What happens when you Blackout? Turns out you wander the town like a sleepwalker, controlled by who knows what until your friends can sneak up on you and wake you up.
Although Blackout Club can be played single player, as the old video game saying goes, it’s dangerous to go alone. Without friends to wake you up if you are turned into a Sleepwalker by the Shape, your nightly adventures will end quickly. And your investigations into the mysterious cabal of adults that seem to be experimenting on you will be hard to complete alone. Collecting video evidence to show the world proof of this dark conspiracy will be much harder by yourself than with a few online friends to provide distractions or revive you.
Besides, if Stranger Things has taught us anything, its that you can only beat the monsters with help from your friends.
Assemble your team, The Blackout Club will come to Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in 2019.