Husk is a single player, first person perspective game of pure survival horror. Featuring an eerie aura. Reminiscent of Silent Hill. While also using a 90’s type setting. A game that uses it’s horror in an atmospheric format. Wanting to frighten the player with a desolate environment, instead of jump scares. Husk also deals with real themes of alcoholism and fractured family relationships. The issue becomes that none of it is fully realized. Leaving the player with the opposite feeling that first time developer, UndeadScout, tries to instill.
Platform: PC [Reviewed]
Genre: Horror, Action, Indie
Release Date: Feb 3, 2017
Husk centers around Matthew Palmer, a man traveling on a train with his family. Headed to his hometown of Shivercliff to see his abusive father, in hopes of patching things up. Suddenly, the train crashes. When Palmer awakens, he discovers his wife and daughter are gone. Left in this rather Twin Peaks-esque town, all alone. A largely abandoned and sullen locale, well, except for the monsters that inhabit it.
Palmer tells his story through inner monologues. Actually channeling the fear of being alone, while also explaining his past family troubles. He tells stories about the town, as you progress through it as well. On the surface there’s an interesting story awaiting further depth. Unfortunately though, you don’t really get that because what carries the player through the game, has lots of issues. The gameplay problems totally ruin the appeal in the story.
The Light in a Dark Place
Husk follows the path of many survival horror games. The player attempts to avoid monsters, while trying to get to the next part of the town. The problem is, you can’t really get around the monsters all that well. Using stealth is supposed to allow Palmer to sneak around without fighting. However, it seemingly just leads to the monster spotting you. Putting him into unnecessary fights. Not that the fights are all that difficult, but still. A gameplay mechanic should work properly and the stealth in this game really doesn’t.
Thankfully, there are firearms in Husk. Although, these also bring their own set of problems. Palmer can use the pistol itself as a weapon to bash monsters. The weight detection is off, so you may start flailing away and it doesn’t do anything, because you can’t feel that the pistol is actually hitting them. Using the pistol eventually kills them, but it may take more strikes than what’s actually needed. Of course, being a firearm, Palmer can also let bullets fly.
However, due to the weight detection issues, it’s more like shooting blanks. Most of Husk is dealing with nasty creatures roaming the town. There are also some boss battles as well. This is when shooting the weapon is rather important. Since you can’t walk up to bosses and strike them. So, basically you play “shoot until it visibly dies.” I mean, it gets the job done, but it just doesn’t feel right. Due to having to deal with the weight issues, it also takes you out of the moment. I could never get engulfed in being fearful of any creature, because so much of my focus went into making sure the monster was completely dead, before walking away.
Exploring For Keys
Although it is nothing we haven’t seen before, one thing Husk gets right is capturing the foreboding loneliness of its setting. Matthew Palmer does what many of us would do, if we were suddenly alone in a creepy town. Palmer’s memories of Shivercliff and his sad past drive him to the next landmark. Shivercliff is host to an abandoned hospital, warehouse, and other familiar horror locales. Throughout these locations are rooms. Essentially, the objective in each location plays out the same way. Rummage through rooms to find a desk with a key inside. This key helps grant passage to the next area. Then, Palmer does the same thing in the next place for the next five or six hours.
Sadly, this causes the positives about Husk to wear pretty thin by the end. Especially, because there’s also some clipping problems when walking through the environment. Prior to some patches, there was also major frame rate dips. Some of which happened when there wasn’t even enemies around. This has mostly been fixed in post release, but still happened a few times when playing through a bit more, before I began writing this review. Again, I feel like the team at UndeadScout should be commended for going the atmospheric route in presentation. It’s just the combination of so many things take away the enjoyment.
The Horror atmosphere
Story themes are interesting
Town environment reminiscent of Silent Hill and Twin Peaks
Weight detection for weapons is bad
Stealth doesn’t really work
Doing similar objectives repeatedly verges on tedium
Overall Thoughts: 5.0 Out of 10 The tale of Husk is similar to that of it’s protagonist. One of what could have been. Husk’s story has interesting themes and a character that suffered some very real issues. Shivercliff provides a nice atmosphere for a horror game in general. However, the myriad of gameplay issues tarnish the overall experience. On the bright side, none of those issues make the game unplayable, just it makes it feel a bit wonky. The game is short enough that nothing about it crosses over into feeling like a slog either. However, it’s hard to think about Husk positively, due to it’s negative gameplay mechanics. Ultimately, the base ideas in Husk are good. It’s just the execution didn’t come through all the way.
For the sake of transparency, the publisher did provide a digital code for review purposes.