When it comes to cheesy horror, we’ve all done it; yelled at a character onscreen (or in-game, as it were) to get the hell out of the obviously-haunted house, ditch the creepy dude and call the police, etc., etc.. Part of that is probably human instinct1. The other part is what makes those movies (and games, as it were) fun— we watch as other people continually fling themselves into terrifying situations, and subsequently pay for those mistakes.
Fright Light ($2.99) is one of those times you find yourself inexplicably talking to the screen, imploring a fictional person to get the hell out the obviously-terrible house. You don’t say this because you’re concerned for anyone’s well-being, though, but rather for the fact that you’ve seen this scene before, and you already know the ending. Like those cheesy horror films you love to hate, there comes a point when something that should be scary no longer really is.
Looks familiar, feels familiar.
To be fair, a lot of that has to do with familiarity and timing. Fright Light is the sequel to a sort-of sequel to an original game, which was almost certainly inspired by another game. These three games on XBLIG also come in on the heels of each other, their releases spaced out in just over a month’s time. And much like in those previous games, Fright Light is low-budget horror, relying on jump scares—and the constant threat of those jump scares— to prop up the rest of the experience and keep you continually on edge.
Fright Light returns the series to a stationary setting, with you sitting in front of a laptop and watching the feed from security cameras posted around the house. Intruders2 enter and leave the various rooms, making their way towards you. Your goal is to the survive the night, naturally, spread out over several hours. The story that accompanies each ‘hour’ is cheesy and humorous, dealing with escaped patients from an insane asylum (and a four-foot tarantula).
The game ups the ante in terms of baddies, giving you up to four intruders to avoid at a time. In a convenient twist, all of them are sensitive to the beam of your flashlight you just so happen to carry, granting you a momentary breather should any of them reach the door outside your room. Just as convenient, said flashlight runs on batteries, batteries which happen to die off just as quickly as they are loaded into it. This in turn creates the game’s chief form of tension, forcing you to guess at when and how to use the flashlight.
Sadly, some of that challenge and tension is diluted by the game’s camera system, which simply flashes whenever an intruder is in the room you’re watching. While that undoubtedly makes it easier to track multiple intruders at once, not having to frantically scan the rooms yourself takes away from the inevitable jump scares. The game does benefit from changes and increased polish elsewhere, though, including smoother stop-motion transitions and death scenes. They feel like small additions to a game that feels largely the same as the ones that came before it.
That leaves this release stuck somewhere in the middle. Improvements to the pacing and the room layouts are welcome, but the third time around is not necessarily the charm. The jump scares still do their job3, yet the idea has been stretched thin, and the market, now oversaturated. Fright Light is more of the same, just tweaked. It’s up to you to decide if those changes (and the increased cost) are worth another night in a well-tread house.
- The mostly-good kind, anyway. We do want to help people, so long as it doesn’t threaten and / or inconvenience us in the process. If it does… ‘Shit, buddy, you’re on your own. Sucks for you.’ ↩
- That low budget applies to your enemies as well, with returning favorites like ‘Man in Hockey Mask’, ‘Man in Wolf Mask’, and ‘Toy Spider’. Honestly, it’s worth a chuckle, and fits the game’s theme well. ↩
- As this compilation of clips can attest to. ↩