REVIEW: The Monastery

Slender really opened the floodgates for imitators with its release; it was a brilliant scare that capitalized on the one thing that most of us cannot bear in any quantity— fear, and helplessness in the face of that fear (more or less the opposite of the recent Resident Evil and Dead Space games… zing!). Looking to carve out its piece of the horror pie (if such things can be manifested and baked), Rendercode GamesThe Monastery (80 MSP) tries its hand at the formula.

The Monastery - Screen

First there were missing pages, then tape recorders. The Monastery has bibles for you to locate (10 on Easy, 15 on Normal, 20 on Hard). Music is sufficiently unsettling, and the flashlight does a good job at illuminating just enough to make the darkness feel like a physical element working against you. Finding each book is slightly more challenging here, without any audio or visual clues. Landmarks you can use for navigation are largely absent from the game, too, as one rust-flavored wall or stone column blends into the next, most of the architecture repeated. You will walk around in some circles, no doubt, though it’s not that issue that ultimately breaks the game.

While both Slender and White Noise end when the monster finds you, The Monastery’s creatures do not immediately spell out finality. That fact alone effectively eliminates all sense of danger and / or scares the game may have provided. After being spotted (this can potentially happen fifteen seconds into a game, before you’ve even collected anything), you simply need to avoid them. Worse still, they’re incredibly easy to lose, dropping your scent once you’ve turned corners or run on ahead (and there’s no stamina penalty for prolonged running). So long as you are quite literally walking away, and you don’t get hung up on a doorway or wall, the creatures cannot catch up to and / or kill you.

The Monastery - Screen2

This idea is utterly ridiculous for a horror game, especially one that’s supposedly mimicking the ‘stalking presence’ these games are known for and billed as. It renders the whole thing pointless, a collection minigame about wandering, with only the illusion of antagonism. I gathered the fifteen bibles in the Normal setting on my third playthrough, without breaking a sweat or making a peep. There’s global leaderboards to track your times on each difficulty, though with the game’s concept broken as it is, there’s no satisfaction in posting a good run.

If you absolutely need Slender scares in your life and don‘t mind washing your shorts, play Slender. If you can’t play Slender, play White Noise Online. And if you can’t play White Noise Online, definitely do not play The Monastery. Read a book or go outside.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

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22 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Monastery”

    1. That is a strange assumption. I think modern carrie fisher is more frightful tough.

    2. Them’s fightin’ words! Carrie Fisher is my first, true, and only love. I adore her in all her films, but especially in The Burbs.

    3. Thumbs up purely for the ‘Burbs’ mention. Highly-underrated comedy. Carrie’s good in all her films, agreed, though I’ve got a bromance thing for any Tom Hanks movie.

    4. The Burbs is FANTASTIC. Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, BRUCE DERN, Corey Feldman yelling “Pizza duuuuuudddddeeee!”, that guy-who-played-Art-and-was-also-in-Ghostbusters 2-and-Scary Movie … not to mention Hans Klopek (as played by Courtney Gains, who ALSO was in an episode of Seinfeld and Back to the Future) with leiderhosen. As you can tell, my enthusiasm for that movie is unbounded. And usually entirely unappreciated. And Carrie Fisher is smokin’ hot in it, as always.

    5. Oops. Not Ghostbusters 2, I meant Die Hard. Don’t know how why I typed Ghostbusters 2. I can only blame being seduced by the visions of watching Carrie Fisher in The Burbs again.

    6. ‘Pretzels and sardines’, that’s all I have to say about that. That whole scene cracks me up every time. Classic cult film.

      She was an attractive woman back in the day. Always found her oddly-alluring in The Blues Brothers, for some reason. And there’s the whole Star Wars / Golden Bikini thing, though I would take Natalie Portman over her any day of the week. Darth had good taste. 🙂

      So ‘Art’ was in the original Die Hard? Wow, I’ve seen that movie many, many times, and I can’t place him in it. I know I’ve seen him in a few other films here and there. I remember him in Groundhog Day (also a favorite comedy).

    7. Yeah, you leave any and all of the Golden Girls out of this! They never did anything to anybody. Modern Carrie Fisher doesn’t scare me as much either. ….A Joan Rivers-inspired monster, though, that, that might be too much for my fragile heart to take.

    8. Well given the basis of this being collecting bibles I was thinking someone along the lines of Rev. Joyce Meyer. She scares the devil out of me already!

    9. He’s right, you guys. The monster will take the form of anything you think of, so clear your heads. Don’t think of anything. No J. Edgar Hoover, no Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. :p

  1. “Read a book or go outside.” – I think this is a clue to the puzzle.

    Looking at the screenshots and having read reviews of the monastery, I’d offer that its focus is the ‘experience’ rather than the ‘gameplay’. If a game does this, expectations will not be met. Players have expectations of what a game should do, and if they want an ‘experience’ they can get that from other mediums like books, or in other ways like going outdoors.

    Let games be games.

    1. I never considered that line of thought when writing the line, but that’s a good point. It has the ‘experience’ part down… somewhat, in that it copies the Slender feel and style, but the ‘gameplay’, what should drive the whole thing forward, is lacking. When you can turn around to face the monster(s), watch them swing at you harmlessly, and keep going about your business, something is flawed.

  2. Good review.
    If this is bad on xbox, be thankful.
    So many slender games on iOS.
    I just don’t get the “horror” of these games.
    Then again I prefer Alan Wake and SH Homecoming when I go horror. Still, walking around a dark map with X amount of invincible monsters to get Y widgets gets old fast.
    So I guess we can call this one, a slender scam.

    1. It’s not for everybody, I agree. One or two variations on the idea is fine, but then it starts to feel like copy & paste. I like the hunt.

      Alan Wake is underrated. Hugely atmospheric. Always good to see writers get the spotlight. 🙂 It did decent numbers in the long run, too, so it’s almost guaranteed to show up on the next-next-gen consoles. Love Silent Hill as a series whole, and the idea, though it needs a hit to revitalize it. Drop the action elements (and the damn breakable weapons), and get back to basics. Another game that should be all about the story / atmosphere. SH2 is always the game people enjoyed most, but I really liked the ‘reboot’ of sorts, Shattered Memories. Played it on the Wii, no less.

    2. Agree with this whole reply. SH2 is probably in my top 5 games of all time. I hope for more on the Alan Wake series as loved the whole approach. More of the Action Horror, I can easily see it going more full on psychological horror, but doubt it will because those don’t sell as well. Ever play Fatal Frame 2?

    3. I played the original Fatal Frame (and still own it). Started the second, didn’t finish, and that’s where I stand on the series. There’s three or four of them now, I think(?), including the one on the Wii, which I wanted to play, but never did. I like the series, and the idea. Definitely an excellent example of the horror genre, in my opinion.

    4. Apparently, there’s a Fatal Frame spinoff on the 3DS called Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. Some gameplay:

      Kind of an augmented reality version that looks pretty cool. Hmm, I didn’t even know it existed.

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