Amnesia: Collection is a group of titles I have been eagerly awaiting on the PS4. Collecting Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Amnesia: Justine, and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, this smattering of first-person horror games is the first time any of these games have been available on console. And as a non-PC gamer, I only had to wait three to six years to play them! How to review three separate experiences, though? Why, one at a time, of course! Let’s take a look at the games in the order they were originally released, starting with The Dark Descent.
DEAR GOD ALMIGHTY!
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Originally released in 2010, The Dark Descent is the first game in the Amnesia universe. You, the player, wake up in a castle as a man named Daniel. Why and how did you get there? Daniel doesn’t remember because he has….AMNESIA. As you progress through the rooms in said castle, things get a little more fleshed out: Daniel left notes behind to help him remember who he is and what he needs to do.
To sum it all up while being as vague as possible, since I don’t want to spoil the plot and don’t even understand it one hundred percent, Daniel needs to kill a man named Alexander while avoiding The Shadow, a monster that has various forms. As you explore and open up new areas on your way to murder Alexander, things start to make more sense and a story most sinister reveals itself. When you really start to understand what is going on in this castle, you’ll start to feel really uncomfortable and saddened. I was definitely hooked until the finale.
I now understand why you are this way, disemboweled pig
The Dark Descent is a tough game to play. You can grab objects with R2 and throw them with L1, and you also use R2 to open and close doors. Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s a huge pain in the ass when you have to stack boxes on top of each other to reach an elevated platform. You can spin objects horizontally or vertically with the D-pad to help set them how you want, but there were definitely times I wanted to throw my controller because boxes kept falling off of each other when I jumped on them. Thankfully, these particular puzzle segments were few and far between.
Doors also open by either pushing or pulling them, and it’s never clear whether you have to grab and push the right stick forward to push or back to pull. This is frustrating when The Shadow is chasing you and you want to close a door behind you to impede its progress. This does heighten the tension, though, so I can’t fault the developers for including this mechanic too much.
I can’t see a damn thing
I don’t hate the gameplay entirely; in fact, there are aspects of the gameplay I absolutely adore in The Dark Descent. The lantern is an important item you get early on in the game and it requires oil to use. Alexander’s castle is quite dark, so you need the lantern to light the way forward. The only other light source in the game is the tinderbox, and there are many scattered around the various rooms you explore. You can use them to light candles. If you run out of light, your sanity starts to diminish. The screen gets slightly distorted, you hear this horrifying scratching sound, and if you are in the dark too long bugs just appear in front of your face!
The only good thing about having no light is that The Shadow has a hard time seeing you. You see, you can’t fight The Shadow. The best thing to do around The Shadow is go into a crouching position and crawl, turn your lantern off, and don’t look directly at it. But the longer the light is off, the more your sanity deteriorates. It’s a brilliant balancing act that was my favorite aspect about The Dark Descent. If The Shadow sees you, you can try to run, but it usually catches and kills you (it’s best to hide). You can survive a few scrapes and heal yourself with Laudanum, and you can regain your sanity by staying in the light.
Some of the environments are stunning
The Dark Descent looks good and detailed, though a bit dated. The many forms of The Shadow are effectively grotesque if you happen to see them up close instead of running away screaming. The sound is top notch. Daniel breathes hard whenever he’s freaking out and this horrible beeping sound loops whenever The Shadow is near you. Environments are varied. I went through libraries, torture rooms, sewers, laboratories, and much more.
The Dark Descent also likes to mess with you; one time I opened a drawer looking for documents to read and was met with a pile of bones. In one room in particular, I looked at a picture on the wall, turned around, and looked back to see…something quite unpleasant. Daniel can’t even return to previous areas because his path gets cut off by…I can’t even explain it without sounding crazy. Weird stuff happens, OK? Take my word for it.
There’s a party going on in here
At its core, The Dark Descent is a puzzle game, and it somewhat falters in that regard. Thankfully objects that you need to use later in a different room are stored in your inventory, while ones you need in the immediate area you pick up and place somewhere (a cog in a machine, for example). Sometimes there will be clues for a puzzle listed in a document you read and picked up, and that’s fine; you’ll definitely get an A-HA! moment and be pleased with yourself.
Yet there were times when it really was not clear what I was supposed to do. At one point, I got stuck outside two doors that I had no idea how to open. I looked everywhere for a lever to pull. Turns out, I was supposed to hop on a table, open a trap door above my head, stack a few boxes on said table to reach the top of the trap door, and break a spinning gear with my bare hands. The doors opened after. At another point, I had to shove charcoal into a furnace and light it. I tried grabbing a shovel and digging up some dirt around me, but it turns out I had to literally pick up a few pieces of charcoal and throw them in. These areas were just unclear and frustrating.
I do believe that man requires medical assistance
Fortunately, the good parts of The Dark Descent far outweigh the bad. The Shadow is a relentless, terrifying enemy that gave me the heebie jeebies (just wait until you see its form in the sewers, oh boy!). Daniel sees and ultimately does some disturbing things in order to survive his adventure. The plot is interesting and made sense for the most part, though I do have some lingering questions. There are four different endings, most of which you can see by doing something different in the last room (the game autosaves there, so you can just reload to see them all after you beat it). The Dark Descent is easily the best title in Amnesia: Collection, and I recommend any horror fan experience it at least once.
This lady is crazy
Released one year after The Dark Descent as an expansion, Justine is short. Like, really short. Short as in, “This takes ten minutes to beat if you know what to do and doesn’t even have a save system.” Your character wakes up in a prison and turns a phonograph connected to a rope in order to escape her cell (I figured out you play as a lady because she has lady grunts when she jumps). A woman’s voice plays through a recording, the titular Justine, instructing you to go through various rooms. These rooms contain prisoners, three in total, whom you can save or kill (the ending changes slightly depending on who you save or maim). Along the way, you’ll see The Shadow a few times; though if it kills you, you have to start the whole game over. Basically, solve the puzzles and save the prisoners or don’t solve them and kill the whole lot, and make it to the last room.
Remember these words well
Justine has basically the same gameplay as The Dark Descent, yet more condensed. Infuriatingly, you get a lantern in the first room and NEVER USE IT. Oh, and you have to stack boxes in order to progress in one of the chambers, which is my favorite thing of all time. You’ll find a few notes that flesh out the plot (including an amazing Easter egg that references another indie title) and more messages from Justine. One of the puzzles is particularly terrible because you are being chased while simultaneously figuring shit out. Of course, if The Shadow catches you, you have to start all over again, so it makes the “figuring out” part of puzzle solutions a nightmare. Justine looks about the same as The Dark Descent, no better or worse.
You’ve got a wheel stuck to your head!
Justine is too short to be particularly effective or memorable. I missed having the lantern, a few of the puzzles were just not fun to figure out, and I called the story “twist” when I started playing. While Justine shares some mechanics with The Dark Descent, it isn’t nearly as polished due to its short length, which made the more grating parts of The Dark Descent (not knowing what to do, stacking boxes) more noticeable and unforgivable. Definitely not as good as The Dark Descent, and I only barely recommend you play it because it’s so short.
Already you know this game is going to be gross
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Two years after Justine, A Machine for Pigs was released. A proper expansion, A Machine for Pigs is longer than Justine, shorter than The Dark Descent, and thankfully has a save system. You play as a man named Mandus, who wakes up in his room to the sound of his children’s voices. You set out to find them, and come across a telephone that rings. On the other end is a man whom Mandus names The Saboteur, who tells him his children are in danger of drowning unless he clears a flood underground. Mandus must make his way through London’s underground in order to find his two boys, bypassing a labyrinth of machinery along the way. Like The Dark Descent, something really creepy and messed up is happening in Mandus’ world. Through notes and progression, the plot unravels and questions are indeed answered.
Remember the other two titles in Amnesia: Collection? Then you know what the gameplay is like in A Machine for Pigs. OR DO YOU? Changes were made to A Machine for Pigs due to its jump forward in time (it’s not medieval like The Dark Descent) but sadly it isn’t for the better. Mandus’ lantern does not require oil to use and therefore doesn’t run out. Though it does blink on and off near baddies (pig/human hybrids), I feel the game loses some of the fright factor of the original because you are never forced to be in the dark. There is no sanity meter anymore, either, one of my favorite elements of The Dark Descent. There aren’t as many enemies scattered throughout the title (indeed, it’s a good long while before you even see a pig beast) and there is no way to heal. And one of my favorite touches from The Dark Descent is gone: when you would die, helpful messages like, “DON’T RUN” or, “IT’S BETTER TO HIDE” would pop up. Here, you are booted back to your last checkpoint when Mandus dies, sans hints. There is no inventory in A Machine for Pigs, so any puzzles you have to solve require you to pick up and move items from room to room. Also, sometimes when Daniel picked up a note in The Dark Descent you’d hear his voice narrate the words you were reading; A Machine for Pigs does not have this feature. I know some of these things are minor nitpicks, but their exclusion disappointed me all the same.
Eerie as all hell
Graphically, A Machine for Pigs looks and sounds a bit better than its predecessors. The squeals the pigmen utter are quite creepy and fill you with dread. Environments and manpigs are nicely detailed, the machinery of the underground is metallic and rusty, I love the lamps and telephones that the slightly more modern setting brings (no more tinderboxes!). One of the coolest things you see is near the beginning of the game when you are exploring Mandus’ home: there are all sorts of hidden passageways behind the bathrooms and bedrooms that link to one another. I love that kind of stuff and hope my own home has them built in when I eventually buy it (fingers crossed). And like The Dark Descent, A Machine for Pigs loves to play with your brain. I definitely ran out of a room and closed the door behind me only to see said door vanish when I turned away and looked again. Entire corridors became separate rooms, and at one point I literally warped from one area to another in an instant. Really awesome visual effects.
All in all, though, I have mixed feelings regarding A Machine for Pigs. I miss things like a limited use lantern and a sanity meter. Vague puzzle solutions are still an issue. Plot is both good and bad: finding your missing kids is kind of an overdone story, and while the revelations behind the pig monsters and Mandus’ past are interesting, the general plot is a bit too confusing to me. It’s strange, too, because I feel like some of the spoken dialogue is downright poetic at points, and some of the explanations for how the monsters work actually flesh out how they behaved in The Dark Descent. It’s a muddled game with some really bright spots. I enjoyed it, but not as much as The Dark Descent. It’s still worth playing, though, and I’d put it right between The Dark Descent and Justine.
Can I borrow some sugar, good sir?
Amnesia: Collection is a solid collection of the titles in the Amnesia universe. Though I don’t think the expansions are as good as the original The Dark Descent, they are still worth checking out (though only barely in Justine‘s case), so I’m happy they were all included. Do check this bundle out on the PS4 if you never played any of the Amnesia games on the PC!
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Plot - 6/10
Gameplay - 6/10
Sound - 8.5/10
Visuals - 7.5/10
Scares - 6/10
Genuinely spooky and unnerving!
Amnesia: Collection is a damn good collection of spooky puzzle games overall. Though it starts out strongest with the first title that the expansions never quite match, you’ll still want to see each game through to their bitter ends. Fun for the whole family, if your family likes murder, horrible experiments, monsters, and torture!