Help Me is the latest project by indie developers BlackRat, working with Madmind studio (Creators of Agony), with the preview showcasing the opening of the game. The developers have shown that the have the skills to create noteworthy creepy environments, as well as having an aptitude for horror. The story as well promises a lot of intrigue, with reality and nightmares blending together in a surreal game.
The drawback for the Help Me preview is that it’s very short. It takes less than an hour to complete, with a lot of it being the opening learning of mechanics that feels pretty dull. Whilst I’ve liked what I’ve seen, it’s a bit too light on the bones to really tell if the game is going to be good or bad. If it helps, their previous game Uventa, received mixed reviews, with praise for the visuals and story, but criticised for the bugs and milquetoast gameplay.
Help Me will be released on Steam, with a release date to be announced.
Story – Promises of Intrigue
The preview for Help Me begins in modern day Kazakhstan, which is a fairly unique setting. You play as a young man named Maxim. Your father recently left for a conference on religious practices and hasn’t returned. You transition between reality and nightmare sequences, however the dreams are starting to encroach on reality. It’s implied that things have changed since you last woke up, for example the existence of a cat. A mysterious person contacts you, imploring you to remember something just out of reach. Maxim and his family have secrets that you must uncover.
All in all, it’s a solid starting premise, however the trouble with the preview for Help Me is that all you get is the premise. What’s been released so far is very short, and so there’s a not a whole lot to uncover. There’s the mystery surrounding your father’s disappearance in the real world, and a strange death on a train during the nightmare sequence. Both are intriguing on the face of it, but there’s not enough to go on to really assess how the story will go.
The game could really use a longer demo to really entice you into the world being created. As of right now, it’s just too short to get hooked on.
Gameplay – Horror Themed Walking Simulator
The preview of Help Me is at it’s core a horror walking simulator. You walk through the environments, collect items and use them to solve puzzles. So far the puzzles have largely been very simple. You find an item and use it on appropriate object, for example a door handle on a door. However, the preview only takes you through the opening levels, so it’s likely to get more complicated as you go.
There are some good additions to this formula. Primarily this is through the phone. You can use the phone in all the ways you normally would. Call people, use the torch and take pictures. The camera is used to photograph puzzle solutions/information that you want to remember. It requires you to be more engaged in the game, photographing things you want to recall without having to trudge back to where you saw it.
There are also choices you can make that will likely affect the game’s outcome. There’s only one in the preview for Help Me. You must decide whether to run from, or fight, the monster on the train. Much like the preview in general, how good this will end up being is hard to tell because of how short it is.
The movement is quite sluggish, with no run button. You amble fairly slowly with jump scares and events happening as you go. You can’t run, which is frustrating, but does add to the tension in some circumstances. There are also some bugs at the moment, such as clipping through textures or needing to hold down the right click on the mouse to turn your head. Ultimately the mechanics and gameplay are fine. It will all come down to how well these are utilised in the full game.
Graphics and Audio – Good Looks, but Lacks Flare
Graphically speaking the game looks great for an indie horror. It makes use of Unreal 5 and photogrammetry to make realistic environments that look wonderful, if not quite as good as what AAA games can do. The developers have shown they can make great looking set pieces and moody locations. That being said, there hasn’t been much visual flare. The settings can be a touch bland. This may just be because you only see early game locations, as there are some moments that make good use of lighting in the train sequence. The one monster we get to see is also well realised and designed, but a bit too generic to stand out. It’s basically the same mutilated human body we’ve seen before. Again the preview is let down by it’s length as the developers haven’t really shown off what they can do.
The same can be said for the audio. It’s for the most part really good. Everything sounds appropriate and there’s great use of unsettling noises in the background and a lowkey soundtrack. The voice acting is a little stilted, but the game is meant to be played in Russian so I don’t want to judge someone speaking their second language. The audio can be a little disjointed in places. Sounds can being very loud when next to them, but fading very quickly as you move away.
The game is for the most part, graphically and audially very strong. The developers have the tools and skills to make a great game, it just remains to be seen how it plays out.
Help Me was played on Steam with a key provided by communityvilla.com.