This will be a little different than usual. Wired Productions, publisher of their newly released horror bundle, gave me an Xbox code for Those Who Remain for free with the expectation for a review to promote the aforementioned bundle. Also included in the bundle is Close to the Sun, which I had purchased recently but hadn’t gotten around to playing. Since it was close to Halloween, I decided to play and review them both!
Although Close to the Sun is a year older than Those Who Remain, I enjoyed it more. They are both horror themed walking Sims, but offer fairly different experiences.
In Close to the Sun, you play the sister of a scientist that has requested you visit her aboard the Helios, Tesla’s giant floating research vessel. The game play is similar to other walking Sims, with you walking around, exploring the ship and solving the occasional puzzle but has the added horror mechanic of chase sequences that have you run through a maze of obstacles to escape some sort of threat.
The characters are great, even though there isn’t many. You mostly interact with them through scripted radio chatter, but you do come face to face with them a few times. Other than your sister Ada and Tesla, you will also spend a lot of time talking to another trapped scientist named Aubrey. You get a good sense of their personality through these conversations, but you can flesh out their backstories by finding collectibles in each chapter and even explore their apartments during certain sections of the game. Even one of the enemies is fairly well crafted as a character!
The setting is also fantastic! The Helios is a scifi steam punk complex of scientific labs. Although you don’t get the opportunity to explore the whole ship, you do get to experience the most important setpieces. Each section has a map that shows where you are on the ship, helping to chronicle your journey as well as hint at things to come.
The art is impressive too! The style of the ship combined with horror accents creates a strong atmosphere for the game. I did run into issues during a particularly dark section, but that was easily rectified by increasing the brightness in the settings.
The story is where the game really shines! I don’t want to give too much away, but you are summoned by your sister for a reason, not just to visit. I especially liked that each chapter had a particular theme to it’s collectibles, making them easier to find after discovering the first. Overall, the story combines horror and scifi perfectly as well as throws in a little bit of mythology for good measure. I wish I could say more, but the best part about the story is experiencing yourself and figuring it out on your own.
Overall, I really enjoyed playing the game for the few hours that I did. I was a little disappointed that the chase mechanics weren’t explained well, but after the first one you know what to do. I Al’s thought the ending was a little weak, either too short or leading to a nonexistent sequel with some unanswered questions. I think fans of walking Sims, good scifi stories, or those looking for some good scares would enjoy it.
On the other end is Those Who Remain. I did not enjoy playing it at all the couple hours I tried it. It was very dark, without good contrast, so I couldn’t see very well and died often because of it. Compounding that issue is the lack of direction and sporadic checkpoints. I quit after losing almost an hour of progress because of these. It’s even difficult to know how close you can get to an enemy before you die.
It’s story revolves around your character being asked to meet your girlfriend at a motel. Upon arriving, she is nowhere to be found and your car is stolen. As you walk toward the town, you realize you must stay in the light to survive. Enemies with axes lurk in the shadows, killing you if you get too close. You walk from location to location, solving puzzles to open doors and turn on more lights.
It’s more horror and jumpscare oriented than Close to the Sun but it can lead to deaths if you aren’t careful. The art is lackluster as well, with nothing really having much detail to it, which seems to make the game more difficult than it should be. The light/dark mechanic is cumbersome as well, not knowing if you have enough light to move through an area or not.
I can’t really recommend the game to anyone but diehard horror fans that also like a challenge.
As stated at the top, I received Those Who Remain for free with the expectation for a review while I purchased Close to the Sun myself. Both were played on an Xbox One. I am also mostly blind, so some things I have trouble with may not affect your experience. Both games are currently available separately or in the Wired Horror Bundle on several platforms.