Horror games tend to split people down the middle creating two entirely separate pools, the first of which being feverishly in love with the genre and the second just failing to understand the appeal. Fitting nicely into the first of those two pools, I must admit that the count down to Anna’s release had me more excited than I perhaps should have been. Boasting the games ability to adjust it’s storyline depending on the players fear, I couldn’t help but imagine and somewhat dread just how terrifying my experiences with Anna would be and instantly began anticipating a boxer-browning experience along the same vein as Amnesia.
Having began my journey through Anna the first thing I noted and really took notice of was the flawlessly beautiful soundtrack whose soothingness and accompanying atmosphere seemed so perfectly suited to the dream like world that I had found myself in. Instantly setting the mood and drawing me swiftly into the protagonists world I was instantly made aware of how perfectly crafted so many of the controls were, as each and every aspect of them seemed to deepen my immersion and mentally involve me more and more with the title. It was five minutes in and although I had yet to do a single thing save for running through an idealistic garden I was pleased with the direction of the title and anticipated the spine chilling story line that was to follow.
As my progression through the game continued Anna did live up to the expectations and delivered some mind madding moments of fear that really made the adrenaline pump, or at least it did for a while. Within the first 30 or so minutes of gameplay Anna pulls some good tricks that could generate a good scare out of even the most hearty of players but unfortunately the fear tactics employed are rather limited and quickly lose their effectiveness through repetition. Somewhere long before the end of the story, Anna really does lose it’s sense of fear as the falling cans and sudden screams that once dampened your chair quickly age into nothing more than an annoyance and actually serve in drawing you out of your previous state of immersion leaving only a grumpy gamer and his game.
The rage inducing aspects of Anna are not limited to the rather uninventive and most definitely repetitive attempts on fear however, and are actually in a higher abundance when you approach the puzzle aspect of the game. The puzzles, which are usually limited to finding items and merging them with others, are fairly typical of any horror game but it’s something that Anna fails to fully grasp and understand. Whereas a lot of the time logic and linear thinking can be used to derive an answer and unlock the next chunk of gameplay it’s more often that the player would resort to a long winded combination of every object due to the games rather avant garde approach to things. These puzzles, which are impossible to figure out and lack any sense of cohesion are particularly damaging to the game and it’s atmosphere as they force the player to delve out of their engrossment and un-involve them with the going on’s of the game.
The entirety of the interaction throughout the title is done to or on the environment in which you find yourself trapped. With every wardrobe and plant pot demanding closer inspection than would be expected of any other game, it’s obvious that the visual aesthetic throughout Anna should be of higher detail to accommodate for such. Unfortunately the opposite is true throughout this title, with many textures and objects displaying visible pixels and artifacts in such a way that I could almost describe them as presented to the player. In a game that focuses on immersion above any other aspect, graphics shy of any blatant shortcomings are a basic requirement and a lack of such would seriously damage the whole gameplay experience, which is exactly the case for Anna and is one of the many reasons this game disappointed me the way it did.
Behind the vile graphics and infuriating puzzles Anna harbours a very interesting and atmospheric story line that works itself in quite the unusual way. Unfortunately this game is a victim of its shortcomings to the greatest degree and although I did thoroughly enjoy many aspects of the game the whole experience has left little more than a bitter taste in my mouth. Taking place in no more than four or five environments I was surprised at the lack of acceptable graphics and with only 2 hours of gameplay I struggle to find any excuse for anything other than a smooth experience, especially considering the £7.99 price tag on Steam. With such a strong sense of narrative and perfect potential in regards to immersion, it is a shame that Anna disappointed me the way it did, especially when you consider that the glaring issues I have with the title stem not from the concepts or gameplay but rather from aspects that could have be avoided by a larger effort in regards visuals and a few better thought out puzzles.