I’m always looking for new horror game experiences, so when I saw a free-to-play horror game called Reminiscence among Steam’s new releases, I figured I’d give it a go. I knew little about the game going into it, and after beating it twice, I feel like I know almost as little about it.
Although, this adds to the eeriness of the game for me so it's a pro, not a con. As for what I do know, the game was made using Unity by students at ISART Digital Montreal.
It’s currently available on Steam, and it’s also available on itch.io where additional information can be found including a list of credits on which ISART Digital Montreal students did what.
Reminiscence is P.T. Meets Layers of Fear and It’s Scary as Heck
The summary of the game on Steam is also informative, with the game’s creators taking their time to outline what you can expect from Reminiscence.
“As the world collapses into anarchy, you set out to explore the house you left behind in search of your missing family. Following your recent discoveries, you have mastered Time and intend to use it to find the cause of your loved ones' disappearance.
You will explore your old home, a typical American household from the 1950s, and also discover an alternate, altered and corrupted version of it. As you travel between these two eras, you'll have to figure out what happened and solve the mystery that surrounds your home.
Yet in the midst of these two very oppressive universes, you sense that your experiments have lured a rather unusual guest.”
There’s a surprising amount of backstory on what’s going on with the main character in Reminiscence, and what’s going on with the world given to you while playing. It’s not an empty haunted house experience, not in the slightest.
Unfortunately, one critique I have with the game is that because of how short it is, some of these story details end up feeling a little lost. Replaying the game is easy though, and I was able to get a fuller picture once I’d completed my second playthrough.
Given how short the game is – with my first run taking less than 30 minutes – it’s possible that you’re supposed to feel a little confused about the story at the end so that you jump back in and replay the game. If that’s the case, it worked because I immediately played through it again after my first playthrough.
I enjoyed my second playthrough as much as the first, and the scares still got to me which surprised me.
This leads me to pointing out the game's greatest strength... the scary moments and nuances are executed incredibly well in Reminiscence.
It’s like the entity is always right there on the edge of the frame. You don’t know what it is, all you know is you don’t want to stick around and find out.
As I was playing Reminiscence, I got major P.T. vibes and I feel many who play this game will feel similarly.
However, there were also elements in there that reminded me of games like Layers of Fear in how the game works to disorient and unsettle you.
Speaking of Layers of Fear, rewinding time in Reminiscence also reminded me of the clock puzzle in The Medium (another Bloober Team creation) except you don’t need to be precise with your rewinds in Reminiscence.
I understand this is partly because Reminiscence is a student game, but it could also be an intentional design choice. The puzzle solving in the game could be kept simple in order to allow you to focus more on the visuals and the scares.
Puzzle solving also helps enhance the scares even further. The game knows you’ll be distracted when you’re rewinding time, or when you’re looking at or for something, and it takes those opportune moments to try and rattle you. It works.
The “why” of why you're doing these puzzles also makes sense as your character grows more and more disoriented. The disorientation comes from going through the house, manipulating time as you try to change what happened to your family while insisting there’s still time.
Except, maybe there isn’t.
As the house distorts and becomes less and less recognizable, you get a sense that maybe you’ve already done this all before. And if you replay the game like I did, you actually have, which serves to make the game all the more surreal.
Even though I mentioned this earlier I'll mention it again and say that replaying the game makes Reminiscence feel all the more complete (so I really recommend playing through twice), even while the game still feels incomplete in a sense.
Personally, I’d love to see these students build upon this game because I believe they have something special here with Reminiscence.
It’s scary, and mastering the ability to scare someone in and of itself is quite difficult. It’s also interesting in the idea that time travel can be destructive, and the ways in which it can be destructive.
One could reference the “butterfly effect” here, but it’s also sort of similar to me to Stephen King’s book (and fantastic Hulu series) “11/22/63” where the main character tries to prevent John F. Kennedy from being assassinated.
While doing this, they realize there are dark consequences that make it difficult (and dangerous) to try and change the past. With Reminiscence, the deeper you get and the more progress you make, the more you feel like you’re almost working in reverse.
The ending of the game adds to this, tying together the idea of a disorienting time travel loop where you’re stuck and trying to get out only makes you more stuck, like quicksand.
In short, you’re a fan of horror games, or interesting takes on time travel, or you want a P.T.-like experience, I definitely think you should give Reminiscence a try.