Becoming frightened by videogames always seemed like a strange prospect to me when I first started playing them, mainly because gaming technology just didn't allow developers to create realistic enough images to invoke fear. Now that I've experienced genuinely spooky games like Silent Hill 2, which mixed cutting-edge graphics with disturbing imagery and storytelling, I've started to actually seek out these kinds of games. After all, getting spooked every now and again is great fun and videogames are getting better and better at provoking those emotions.
Illbleed was a game I had my eye on for quite some time because of its unique take on the "survival horror" experience, but because of some lackluster reviews I decided to pass on it. When I was given the chance by GameCritics.com to review the game, I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, the lukewarm reception this game received was appropriate. Even though Illbleed does succeed in being different from other horror titles with its unique gameplay mechanics, the whole package is nearly destroyed by its horrible controls, frustrating camera and slow pacing.
Illbleed is the name of a strange horror-themed amusement park that was built by horror movie producer, Michael Reynolds. Apparently, no one has ever made it out of Illbleed alive and Mr. Reynolds is becoming desperate for someone to claim the $100,000,000 prize for clearing all of the park's stages (which are all based on movies that he created). Enter the Horror Movie Research club, whose members are the four protagonists you'll be playing throughout the game. One by one they take a chance with the park in an attempt to claim the reward. But after three go out and never come back, the fourth member, Eriko Christy (whose parents operated a traveling haunted house), goes in to find her friends and escape the park.
Illbleed employs traps throughout the stages that are meant to scare your character in order to raise your heartbeat, weaken you or cause you to bleed. If you succumb to too many traps, your character can be scared into a fatal heart attack, or die of blood loss or fatigue. Your character can detect these traps through four senses—sight, smell, hearing and sixth sense. If one sense starts to go haywire, then the area should be explored or left alone. But its all a craps shoot. There is no real indication if that shelf in the corner of the room will contain a useful item or a scary beast waiting to frighten you. There is a useful device called the Horror Monitor that will point out traps and allow you to disarm them easier, but that uses up your character's adrenaline. So exploration for the sake of exploration becomes pointless and usually results in death, which caused me to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible rather than enjoy the scenery.
Some of Illbleed's traps result in blood-spurting-everywhere fights, and this is where Illbleed really suffers. The analog controls seem to have a mind of their own once you go into battle, meaning that your character never really seems to move where shes supposed to. The camera also becomes locked at this point, and characters and enemies constantly blocked its view. Getting into these skirmishes definitely helps to break up the exploring monotony, but it's so horribly executed I could've done without it altogether.
Since Illbleed's real focus is finding and disarming traps, you have to be very careful walking around the stages. Aimlessly running will only trigger numerous traps, so for the most part of the game your character walks—very slowly. This makes the whole game crawl by at a snail's pace, which makes the experience with Illbleed too drawn out and boring. And if you happen to die somewhere along the way, let's just hope that it's near a save point...
I commend the developers of Illbleed for trying something different with the videogame horror genre. I'm sure it would've been much easier to create the next Resident Evil rip-off, and it's nice to see someone take a chance to create something fresh. But just trying to create something unique doesn't make for a good gaming experience. Had Illbleed polished its gameplay a little and focused less on the slow, slow exploring, it may have been a limited success.