I stink at adventure games. It’s a simple fact that I keep ranting and raving about whenever I get my hands on an adventure title for one simple reason: I’m stuck in my own little box and I understand its rules. I don’t understand the rules for adventure games because the way the genre’s “box” is set-up makes no sense to me. It’s rare that an adventure game, at least to me, is intuitive enough and clear enough to help properly orient the player. So how about a psychological adventure game about relationships? Then I have found a game for you: Anna.
Anna is a weird horror-themed adventure game. You control an unknown protagonist from the first-person perspective who has found himself at an abandoned and destroyed sawmill. What is our hero doing there? Well, you wouldn’t know without reading the journal included with the game. The clues provided in the game are, to say the least, obtuse at best. And it’s that intriguing element that kept my interest going.
Also, this is rare for me to write: The graphics helped a lot, too. It’s a gorgeous game, no two ways about it. The engine makes the environments look like something out of a photograph. There’s water moving, light (an important theme in the game) shines through cracks, printed eyes on the doors and walls haunt the mill. Also included in the game’s folder are pictures of the place that inspired the game. And they nailed it. Unlike many horror game’s, the screen isn’t dark. You can clearly see where you’re going. There is no real rush to move through the game as there is no danger to your avatar. And there are a few moments that had me wondering what was truly going to happen to him.
Yet it is important to note this is an old-school adventure game to its core. Sure, the game has the trappings of a FPS, you walk everywhere. The reticle changes to represent that you can interact with an object, how puzzles are meant to be solved is not always clear. Sometimes it’s as simple as missing an item because I didn’t realize I could pick an item up or even hold it in my inventory. Or there are hints given in the context of the game how to solve it. I quickly found myself going online to solve the puzzles whenever I hit a wall just so I could move forward and learn more about the plot.
Of course, the controls don’t help too much either. Yes. The game provides a highly immersive feel thanks to the first-person perspective. The problem is that the reticle is too sensitive. Furthermore, there are few moments where you’re required to move objects around. It’s supposed to be as simple as holding the right mouse button and then dragging the object around (such as opening a door). Here’s the thing: it never worked for me. It is a pain in the butt to do such a simple task and breaks the tense atmosphere.
Sound design is awesome. It quickly spreads from a simple background noise of birds chirping and the creaks of a wooden floor and the simple flow of running water. There is an elegant tune that plays every now and then, yet it is completely somber. Light choral music is heard along with the plucks of guitar. Other times it is downright “evil” sounding as the game rushes you with a feeling of being overwhelmed. There is some voice acting and sounds great. The problem I have with it is just simple: It’s hard to understand. While this adds to the mysterious atmosphere the game projects, it hurts the overall enjoyment and comprehension of the game.
That’s what makes Anna so hard to recommend. On the one hand, it’s a really short adventure that doesn’t overstay its welcome with a great sense of atmosphere. On the other hand, the game’s so short you can beat it in less than 15 minutes, has an obtuse plot, doesn’t control perfectly and is expensive ($10) for a game that doesn’t hit its mark.
The thing is the game is described as a game that “explores the dark recesses of the human mind.” There were moments were I thought all of the domains were going to mix and pull it off this lofty concept, yet the lack of character and background development along with no actual danger/survival are what stop it from truly obtaining greatness. Look at the photographs they took of the mill and it’s easy to see how they came up with such a dark tale and it’s easy to see that their vision is sound. Ultimately, this isn’t a horror game. This is a spooky campfire story to tell your friends when the weather initially turns south.