Author Topic: Stay Out Of The House (Switch) Review  (Read 818 times)

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Offline Brawndwarf

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Stay Out Of The House (Switch) Review
« on: June 15, 2023, 08:03:55 AM »

A straight-to-video slasher video game that has some Switch issues.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/63972/stay-out-of-the-house-switch-review

For the first part of this review I’ll discuss the game itself (it’s cool!), then I’ll discuss why you may want to be wary of the Switch port.

If you’re not familiar with Puppet Combo, they are a developer making games that primarily capture the vibe of straight-to-video slasher films of the 80s. Stay Out of the House looks back even before then, with its primary inspiration being films like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. It also looks back to an earlier age of survival horror (with one modern concession).

As is the case with Puppet Combo games, the polygonal visuals in SOOTH are extremely simple and abstract. This is a good thing, as oftentimes the truly terrifying aspects of horror are the blanks your mind fills in. I chose to keep the default visual setting (an approximation of a VHS tape being played on a CRT television) through the bulk of my playthrough, changing to 1999 when I needed better visibility, as you’re able to change the filters depending on your preferences. The game credits many people for its audio (down to the sound they contributed), which is a huge part of the atmosphere here, so I’d recommend being intentional about your speaker/headphone situation as you play.

At the start, the game gives you the option to play through a couple of prologue stories or jump straight to the house that honestly you should probably stay out of. I highly recommend playing through both prologues - they set up the story a bit and despite being pretty low-stakes compared to the “main” game, manage to ramp up tension and deliver some big scares.

The “meat” of the game is the house section, where you need to solve puzzles and avoid being caught by the cannibals within. The puzzles are classic PS1 survival horror: find a thing so you can use a thing to progress to the next area. The controls can be a bit awkward at times - trying to precisely aim my cursor at a screw or pulling open a cabinet door occasionally led to clumsy results. There are weapons, but they are extremely scarce and minimally effective against your primary pursuer.

The primary way you engage with enemies in SOOTH is avoiding them. This means being intentional about your movement through the house, and if/when you are detected, finding a hiding place immediately. This plays out similarly to the encounters in Clock Tower 3, or more recently, Alien: Isolation. Saves are limited and once you’re caught three times it’s game over (which is also one of the game’s endings). It’s the right gameplay style for this experience. There was a moment when hiding that the tension was so high I realized I was holding my breath, which I’d say is a pretty big win for a horror game. However, this comes with some frustrations as well.

There were times when I’d be hiding waiting for a threat to pass for minutes at a time, which definitely deflated the tension. Ideally the goal would be to simply not trigger the detection mode, but even with careful play there are some random elements that make it unlikely for most players on their first playthrough, which will likely last four hours or so.

The game does have a lot to offer those who want to replay it such as multiple endings, optional areas, and plenty of supplemental text to piece together the story. The PS1-era Resident Evil / Metroidvania structure of the house makes it a prime speedrun candidate as well. A great addition is the “explore” difficulty option for players who just want to experience the puzzles and story without being constantly threatened by a roaming enemy. I’ve seen a mode like this requested for Alien: Isolation, so I know some players would welcome it here, though it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re not getting the “full” experience.

Stay Out of the House is a game with a clear vision and intended audience. '70s and '80s horror fans with a high tolerance for gore and frustration will likely love it, but others may take one glance and pass it over like a tape at the rental shop.

On the Switch version: while there’s a lot to like about SOOTH, but I can’t recommend the Switch port based on the version I played. At one point I went to save the game, only to get a "This software needs to close due to an error" message, losing over 30 minutes of (honestly pretty stressful) progress. As I mentioned earlier, the explore mode is an excellent option for players, but when I tried it there was a bug that wouldn’t trigger one of the final events of the game, meaning I couldn’t finish it. And unfortunately, rebooting and reloading a save didn’t help. These are two pretty significant issues to experience in the 5-6 hours I spent with the game, making me hesitant to recommend this version.

The developers have promised a day one patch to address these issues, and judging by the updates the game received on PC, I’m inclined to trust them. However, at this moment I still recommend Stay Out of the House, but only the tried-and-true original PC version.