The Fridge is Red is a difficult game to review. This is because each aspect is of massively different quality. The developers have succeeded in telling a somewhat simple story that has relatable themes with moments that put nightmares into reality. The psychological analog horror has a lot of appeal, especially when it comes to the graphics and audio. However, it’s bogged down by repetitive gameplay and a lack of direction.
Ultimately there is a lot to enjoy in this game. But the short playtime results in sections that feel unneccesarily long, with you running, or driving, in circles without much direction. If you can get past the more menial parts though, you’ll find a lot to appreciate in this game, especially if you like psychological horror with minimal jumpscares.
The Fridge is Red is now available on Steam for $14.99.
Story: A Surreal Anthology
The Fridge is Red follows the story of a man being terrorised by a fridge. This is a reductive way to describe it, as the game is really a surreal tale of grief, regret, and the horror of mundanity. There are 6 sub chapters that work as a sort of anthology, following dream-like sequences of the real events of this man life.
It is hard to delve into exactly what happens without spoiling The Fridge is Red, however for review I’ll break down the segments under gameplay. I will say that the story is effective if a touch generic and predictable at times. Each chapter is summarised at the end with brief clips of what actually happened. This is both good and bad. On the one hand it’s interesting to see what the surreal liminal spaces represent as you piece together the story of this man and his fridge. However, at the same time it does make things a bit too obvious.
Ultimately the story is okay. It’s not the best or most original, but the execution is sufficiently interesting, unique and bizarre. From the maze-like hospital to the haunted road trip, the way that events of the man’s life are recontextualised through bizarre nightmare sequences evokes games such as Silent Hill 2.
Gameplay: Running in Circles
Unfortunately for The Fridge is Red is let down by the inconsistent gameplay, which definitly has great moments, but can also be downright frustrating to review. At times it’s great and ambitious. But, at other points, it feels padded. This may be because the game is quite short. Each chapter takes around 15 – 30 minutes or so and is even shorter when you know what to do. This means some sections feel artificially lengthened, which I will get into. The gameplay starts strong but slowly deteriorates, like food going bad in a haunted fridge.
The basic gameplay loop is you collect items to use on other objects and solve basic puzzles. Nice and easy, but this largely works well in the strange environments and liminal spaces. Where this formula struggles is that there is often a lack of direction. You can brute force it, but it ruins the momentum.
The opening chapter plays really well for such a simple premise. You are in a staring contest with the Red Fridge. Notes are strewn across the ground that will help you figure out the solution, but each time you look away the fridge begins to inch closer to you. It’s a basic premise but is executed well and makes you feel very tense. This is also the center piece of the game in a way, with the story looping back around to it in a gratifying way.
For Daddy to Work
The Fridge is Red is at its best in its second chapter. You are simply trying to get home to your family from the office. However, you are stuck by an elevator that just keeps falling and failing. You need to do the traditional collecting of items to repair the elevator whilst the environment becomes more and more detached from reality. It’s more puzzle orientated than a lot of the other chapters. The puzzles in this one are at their most interesting. If you get the elevator code wrong the doors open to some new horrific site. The puzzles, whilst not particularly difficult, are engaging and require some thought.
Seaside is an ambitious chapter in The Fridge is Red, with some elements being better in review than in practice. This is also where some of the cracks begin to show. You must navigate a hospital of endless hallways that loops back on itself. The gameplay here fits well with the story being told. The mundanity of a hospital and their confusing layouts is spliced with the surreal elements of the game to really hammer home the games point.
This levels gameplay is essentially that of a maze, not too dissimilar to the Lost Woods of Legend of Zelda. However, it also faulters at points, such as when you have to literally stand in a queue, which whilst an ambitious move for this kind of horror, is a bit frustrating. There is also the lack of direction mentioned before. This is felt most heavily in the archive section, which has no clues as to what the solution is. This is where the level feels better in concept that in reality. Being lost in a maze can be great, but there needs to be at least some tangible sense of direction. Otherwise you’re just running down the same repeating hallways, hoping that eventually you will make the correct sequence of turns.
This chapter also has highs and lows. You arrive at a funeral and must find bibles and chalk to use on the alter to progress whilst a haunted coffin attacks you. Where it picks up is in the second half which involves another maze. This time you are hunted by a crazed priest. This makes for a tense gameplay segment which keeps you heart in your throat. It’s the kind of simple gameplay loop that works really well, similar to Fidgeted Sherri. Every corner is horrid as the priest may be there, waiting to end your life. However again there is a lack of direction. There’s no real explanation of what you need to do, or what the path is. The horror wears off as you blindly run-down hallways until you find the solution.
The game which was already struggling to maintain new gameplay and puzzles really starts to fall here. Which is a shame because its another segment with a great idea but lacklustre execution. You are on a long drive when you stop for coffee at a petrol station. You then experience a series of problems and reasons to turn around, from a train blocking one route, to needing to refuel, to fixing the car alternator by stealing a new one from murderous farmers.
The roads always loop back to the café and petrol station and the individual set pieces are decent, if a bit simplistic in their solutions. Similar to the hospital and the funeral, a lot of time is spent driving in circles, waiting for the game to take you back to the café. This exemplifies the recurring problem. There’s too much time going from A to B through monotonous surroundings with too little actual gameplay and puzzle solving. It’s a shame as this was simultaneously one of my favourite parts to review, but also one of the worst parts of The Fridge is Red.
The last chapter has two bits of gameplay. The first is drinking beers in front of the TV. This goes on for a weirdly long amount of time as you just click on the beers on the floor, then click again to drink it. Rinse and repeat. The climax is a game of hide and seek with you daughter. Which is as simple as it sounds. The gameplay works well with the story of the chapter, but again, it’s a bit too much fluff and ends in an all too predictable way.
Graphics and Audio: Retro and Distorted
The graphics and audio are an absolute highlight for The Fridge is Red and a delight to review.
The game is visually striking, with screenshot moments galore. It takes its inspiration from PS1 era horror games. The graphics are pixelated and blocky, with a VHS style filter over the top. Whilst at times this does make it hard to see, it creates a unique style to the horror. Like you are playing some kind of cursed game. The developers make great use of this visual design element. The use of lighting especially is phenomenal. Particularly when it comes to eyes and being watched. The games visuals make the spooky story land alot better than it would in a more traditional format.
The audio especially is fantastic. The music is distorted and strange which fits in well with the look of the game. The use of modulated speech as well creates that eerie and unsettling feel the game is after. The hospital level makes the best use of this, with the distorted coughing and sounds of pain putting you on edge. The game has so many horrid sounds throughout that will haunt you and makes even the sections where there’s no physical threat feel menacing
Overall, the graphics and audio are masterfully executed to make the dark and spooky vibes work in a game that could be silly given its main monster is a fridge.
This review for The Fridge is Red was made with a key provided by Stride PR