A breath of flesh air.
Developer: Logvinenko Alexandr
Released: 8th October, 2016
Breathing Fear is an interesting experience, originating as a Game Jam entry from developer Logvinenko Alexandr, it made it’s way to Steam via Atriagames. It’s quite a well made pixel horror game, but it suffers from being shallow in many places, lacking a major amount of polish. Still, it does enough right for an overall enjoyable time, well, as enjoyable as a horror game can be.
For the most part, Breathing Fear’s art style is made up of fairly basic looking pixel art, often only able to present basic shapes, leaving little room for detail. Close inspections of certain items are both far more detailed, visually interesting and disappointingly rare, I wish the rest of the game looked as good. Despite its graphical limitations, Breathing Fear manages to make good use of what it has lighting, sound and scenery, to set consistent tone ripe for the more frightening aspects.
Breathing Fear’s Story is very threadbare, you’re dropped at a seemingly abandoned house with no information on who you are, everything else is for you to discover. I didn’t care much for the story, there is some sort of mystery behind the house and why it’s seems to be abandoned, but the game does little to engage the player in its narrative. There’s never a clear goal to anything beyond exploring the house and staying alive, so the overall narrative was rather ineffective.
The horror elements are far more successful than the story, using a number of subtle and overt methods to achieve its scares. The atmosphere created in Breathing Fear puts you constantly on edge, while the jumpscares do the rest. The actual attempts at scaring the player are quite hit and miss, the ones that really got were few and far between. while many others will only ever scare the in game character, which does have an mechanical impact itself.
The fear generated in Breathing Fear does have a mechanical purpose, causing your character’s heart rate to raise every time they get spooked, eventually biting the dust once it exceeds its threshold. Its an interesting way to tie the mechanics to what the players intended to feel, but it can be a bit silly at times, you can die of a heart attack by leaving your light off. There’s no way to avoid most damage either and few ways to settle your heart rate, a significant amount revolve around sedatives and alcohol, well I suppose that’s somewhat realistic.
A fair amount of Breathing Fear’s interactivity is almost as threadbare as its storytelling, your ability to interact with the world is boiled down to a single, universal “interact” function. The game decides what, when and where each item is used, leaving you with an incredibly stripped down version of more traditional point and click mechanics. It’s not completely mindless however, there is the occasional puzzle here and there and in order to find or use many items, you first must complete a prior task i.e reading a note, creating a specific sequence of events which, thinking about it, completely contradicts the claim that its “nonlinear”, its thoroughly linear. Anyway, given the sequential nature of progression, you’d think that you could just mash a button on everything in the map until you eventually made progress, not quite.
The game is designed around a time limit, attributed to your flashlight’s and only kept charge by a minute amount of batteries scattered about. Once your flashlight dies, your heart rate starts climbing, eventually killing you. Because of this, you can’t really just wander back and forth mashing a button on everything every time you find a new item, you just don’t have the time. So much of this game comes down to memorising what happens, and you get to do a lot of that considering this game needs multiple playthroughs.
Breathing Fear is a very short game, especially considering its time limit, although it does balance that out with replay value in the form of various endings, but is this a game that should be replayed? Remember how I mentioned that every event follows a specific sequence? Well that includes the jumpscares. Multiple playthroughs quickly reveal this game is much less “nonlinear” than than it claims and it doesn’t take long before you memorise the events. Unfortunately, this kills what potential this game has at actually scaring you, seeing as you’re able to accurately predicts the game’s best efforts, rendering multiple playthroughs boring.
Breathing Fear feels like a good start, an idea that could be built upon, expanded. Maybe if the Developer was given more time, the game would have turned out much better, but I suppose that’s the nature of a Game Jam. I have a hard time recommending Breathing Fear, on one hand I liked what it was able to do with its limited visual capability, it’s atmosphere is chilling and tense, and the puzzles were decent enough. On the other hand, the mechanics are generally shallow, story isn’t exactly inspiring and the inclusion of multiple endings counteract the jump scare nature. I suppose if you’re looking for a cheap, quick little game with some horror, you can’t go too wrong with Breathing Fear.