Happy Halloween, fellow VR enthusiasts! To celebrate the creepiest weekend of the year, I decided to stick my face inside a nightmarish survival horror game for your entertainment – ’tis the season to be spooky, after all!
In this week’s episode of Ian’s VR Corner, which you can watch below, I bumble and yelp my way through a couple of scary scenarios in Home Sweet Home, a Thai produced VR horror game that takes inspiration from local mythology and folklore.
Although Home Sweet Home has been out in America since last week, the game isn’t actually available in the UK yet so don’t panic if you can’t find it in the shops. I had to download it from the US PSN store in the end because, with no set release date announced, it’s unclear as to whether or not Home Sweet Home will be released over here at all.
So was it worth all the effort? Well yes, and no. A horror game is only as good as its scares and this one has them by the bucketload, although some are way more successful than others. You see, Home Sweet Home is the video game equivalent of Asian horror movies like The Wailing or Ju-on: The Grudge. They’re very scary, but unfamiliarity with the respective countries myths and legends can see some of the scares lost in translation.
In this case the majority of the scares come from the feeling of being constantly stalked by unstoppable forces. With no weapons to use, the only way to survive is to stay hidden and stealth your way to safety, something that can be quite panic inducing when you mess up and get spotted.
Helping to boost the scares to eleven is some really impressive audio design. There are some missteps here and there, especially when you interact with scenery, but when it comes to creepy babbling, monstrous moans and the scrabbling of creatures unseen, it really does the job of chilling you to the bone.
Considering all this sneaking around is played from a first-person perspective, the comfort settings in Home Sweet Home are rather lacking. There’s only one such option in the menu and that allows you to choose between smooth or blink turns. This means those new to VR may find the locomotion uncomfortable, although I had no such issues. While this could be down to my extended experience in VR, another factor could be the torch. The ever present cone of light that cuts through the darkness creates a makeshift vignette around your peripheral vision that is less intrusive than your standard comfort vignettes but has the same effect.
The main problem I have with Home Sweet Home though, is just how low budget it all feels. All too often you’ll find yourself creeping your way along another one of the game’s basic, blocky corridors with your heart planted firmly in your mouth, only to find the tension shattered by some clumsily placed, copy and pasted assets that are floating an inch off the ground.
The scrappiness of the level design can also be found in the enemy AI which is often so rudimentary it turns nail-biting moments of horror into clumsy capers. Some of the stealth sections are genuinely, unsettlingly creepy and this is especially true when you’re being hunted by Belle, the blood-soaked ghost of a student who comes straight out of The Ring school of horror.
Belle wields a Stanley Knife and, as she slowly shuffles from room to room, she constantly extends and retracts the knife blade, creating a horrific clicking noise that made my hair stand on end. Or at least it did during the moments when she wasn’t grinding her face on the scenery for no apparent reason other than the pathfinding forgot where the doors were.
Midway though the game, Home Sweet Home disappoints again buy throwing a gigantic beast at you and then using it for nothing more than some repetitive and aggravating instakill stealth sections. It seems like the perfect time to experiment with VR’s sense of scale but instead the game just chucks a couple of cheap jumps scares at you before making you take part in a chain of unconvincing games of hide and seek.
But still, even with all the negatives, Home Sweet Home does have moments of glory where the fear is so intense you forget about the cracks in the facade. These moments were compelling enough to push me onwards, even past scenarios that would have made me rage quit the 2D version of the game. That’s the beauty of VR I guess, even the scruffiest of horror games can be utterly terrifying thanks to the added believability that full VR immersion brings.
Oh, and there’s also a gigantic monster-dong in there, but you’ll have to watch the video to find out more about that. Enjoy!
If you enjoyed this episode of Ian’s VR Corner, you can catch up with my previous adventures over on YouTube in our VR playlist, where I get silly with Kona VR, Salary Man Escape, The Exorcist: Legion VR, Killing Floor: Incursion, The Persistence, Detached, Pixel Ripped 1989, Rec Royale, Arizona Sunshine, Transference , Zone of The Enders 2, Downward Spiral: Horus Station, Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Evasion and Free-roam Zombie Survival.