Time is seriously broken in this haunted London house
I turn my back on the mannequin I’ve rebuilt, and when I turn back it’s gone
The house, scene of a gruesome unsolved murder, has been left rotting for sixty years. Your family decides to sell it and sends you to see what state it’s in. You explore the dusty, forgotten house by the glow of your phone’s flashlight. There’s furniture draped in white sheets, cobwebs in the corners, and piles of unread mail. Then you reach the attic and see a plastic mannequin, its head and limbs scattered around it. You pick up each piece, slotting it back in. And that’s when things start getting scary.
TheMannequin is a narrative-focused first-person horror game being developed by a small team based in Oxfordshire. The first thing that strikes me when I play it is the stylish art style. Survival game The
LongDark seems to have been an inspiration, particularly how it mixes realistic lighting with textures that look hand-painted. Developer Two Tails says the game is about “terror and tragedy” as you try to uncover the truth about what really happened in the house, and I’m definitely intrigued to find out.
I turn my back on the mannequin I’ve just rebuilt, and when I turn back it’s gone. This is a horror game, after all. Two Tails describes the creepy, dead-eyed thing as a “malevolent entity” and you’ll spend the game being stalked by it. Things get interesting when I hear music playing downstairs, only to enter the lounge and find the previously abandoned, dustcovered room back in its prime. There’s brand new furniture and a crackling fire. This time-shifting is a big part of the story, which moves you frequently between the present day and 1958.
Occasionally I walk into a room, only to find creepy posed mannequins acting out moments from the house’s storied past. It’s a nice twist on the ghostly apparitions that usually haunt these games, and there’s something unnerving about the way the figures just stand there with their blank faces. But, a sense of rumbling unease aside, the game isn’t terribly scary at the moment. The mannequin’s appearances are sudden and unexpected, but it has none of the intimidating presence of the creatures from games like
Amnesia or Soma. I mean, it can’t even walk. It just stands there looking at you.
But TheMannequin still has a long way to go, and while I can’t say the titular plastic doll really terrified me, I do want to learn more about this creaky old house and the grim things that happened here. I love the visual style and the atmosphere, but it’s the story that will ultimately determine whether this sits among the best of the genre. I do like the concept of a story focusing on a single location and crossing between time periods, and I hope the writers make good use of this to spin a suitably creepy, mind-bending yarn.