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Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC) artwork

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC) review

"It just might boar you."

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC) image

Enter an old house and unravel its secrets. That's how indie horror games roll, isn't it? You always enter an ancient mansion or rundown abode and shiver at every drafty sough and shadow you encounter. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is no different. You begin in an enormous manor, ghostly voices fill the hallway and you're supposed to be frightened. Little do you realize, though, that the most threatening of those voices is that of promise.

Sure enough, A Machine for Pigs starts off promising. First off, its score is top notch, crafted by composer Jessica Curry. The game's title screen first unnerves you with an ominous main theme, then the game creeps you out using a more ambient soundtrack. Each cut captures the current events of the story effectively. Every panic-ridden scene's music is filled with burgeoning dread and plot revelations ooze with sinister sounds.

Other aspects hark back to classic examples of the genre. The lighting and environments are nearly perfect, as expected from developer The Chinese Room. As you advance past dark corners and through ill-lit corridors, you catch bits and pieces of social commentary that smack of age old legends of the horror genre: George A. Romero, Mary Shelley and John Carpenter, to name a few. The game even warns you not to shine your light too often or walk too clumsily, as you might draw unwanted attention to yourself.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC) image

Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for A Machine for Pigs' promise to wane. You might now be thinking, "Alright, what happened that caused you to lose faith in this game?" The truth is nothing happened. That's the problem. You spend the first five levels wandering hallways and reading papers, immersing yourself in a tale of men playing gods. Now and then you might flip a switch or complete an incredibly easy puzzle, but you seldom have a legitimate reason to be afraid. The game throws you a few jump scares and one effective sequence, where an unseen entity attempts to break down a door while you fill a car's gas tank. However, for those five or so levels, a lot of nothing ultimately transpires.

Eventually, you find yourself wandering past a collection of animal cages, spooked only by the occasional distant scream of a man begging for escape. You descend into an even darker region of the storage facility, round a corner and stop dead in your tracks before a hunched over figure. As the initial shock wears off, you realize it's an enormous pig. Your gut tells you to dismiss this as a hallucination, because A Machine for Pigs has been toothless up to this point. Then the swine faces you, stands upright and ambles towards you. Now it's time to panic.

The game chooses this moment to paint you as a vulnerable, fragile creature amid an army of ogre-like monsters who have no problem chowing down on human remains. So you keep your lantern unlit and advance only in a crouch position, thereby allowing you to sneak around the anthropomorphic hogs you meet. You creep into the shady corners and tiptoe carefully, afraid that a pig-man might detect you and crush you beneath its hooves. Even the game's simple collection of switch-throwing puzzles and challenges become stressful. Some of them set off literal bells and whistles that attract attention, or open doors that have surprises waiting behind them. You know this for certain every time you press a button to stop some machinery and hear the far off anguished scream of a monstrous boar-man, prompting you to hide.

However, as with the game's initial promise, this newly found fear soon fades...

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC) image

A Machine for Pigs remained terrifying until I made a few unfortunately discoveries. During one scene, I had to sneak through a nearly pitch-black chamber patrolled by a few pigs. I crept past the first two, but walked face-first into number three. My first instinct was to locate a hiding place, but a second notion crossed my mind. Just run past him. I did that and suffered a blow, but ultimately pushed beyond the beast and through the door leading to the next stage.

Not long after that, I entered a completely dark hallway in a crouch position with my light disabled. Regardless of my advantages, the monster dwelling there still spotted me and moved in for the kill. I didn't bother to turn my light on because I figured I was a goner anyway. I ran blindly, erratically through the darkness. I could hear the demon squealing in my ear and swinging his arms, but only one strike connected. Before long, I accidentally entered a well lit room and the creature scampered away.

I had no idea what frightened my pursuer, but I don't believe it was the light. Some research taught me that your foes only chase you to a certain point, which usually is a door, a stairway or a ladder. Once you cross that threshold, they lose heart and return to their original routine. Add to that the notion that I sustained two bloody wounds, but healed Call of Duty-style in mere seconds. Sadly, with those two realizations, A Machine for Pigs lost its haunting spark.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC) image

The rest of the campaign bore a few frightening moments, including one where a catwalk collapses and throws you into a submerged room full of invisible pigs. However, after I realized that A Machine for Pigs is a tame horror adventure, I lost interest. I forced myself through the remainder of the stages, propelled only by its actually decent story and terrific soundtrack.

During its final phases, the game transforms into more of an interactive film, where you traipse through grisly set pieces while events ranging from empowering to horrific unfold around you. However, few of these scenes impact you directly, and you begin to feel divorced from the experience. Occasionally, an adversary might chase you, but that jolt of panic you felt earlier is long dead. Hell, during one late-game chase, I even moseyed about to glimpse the environments because I didn't take the chimeric horror charging after me seriously. The creature attacked several times and missed more often than not. It's no wonder I didn't fear death.

That's just as well, too, because I finished Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs without dying once. Even when I tried to die or thought for sure I was going to push up daisies soon, I still came out of my predicaments with nothing more than wounds that fully healed in no time. Yes, this game is aurally magnificent, it weaves a good story and it sports some fine atmosphere and a few effective moments. However, it's devoid of threatening content and offers only the most basic puzzles. It begins with eerie, howling promise, but that turns out to be nothing but wind.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (March 24, 2018)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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