Room escape games aren’t hard to come by on mobile devices, but few aim to be as scary as In Fear I Trust does. Blood spatters the walls, flashbacks and audio recordings hint at brutality, and the fact that it isn’t shown makes it all the worse, your imagination taking over more vividly than graphics could ever manage.
But that isn’t the most disturbing aspect of In Fear I Trust. No, that goes to the ambient noises. Doors slamming, banging on walls, perhaps the odd scream. I had to take off my headphones after ten minutes and play it through my phone’s speaker, the noises too close in my head otherwise.
In Fear I Trust opens with a cutscene, the protagonist signing up to participate in an experiment, for reasons he doesn’t want to talk about, before you wake up in a cell. It provides a little context for what drives the rest of the game; working out what the experiment was, and why you’re all alone in the facility.
From here, the staple find X to interact with Y of the room escape genre takes over. The Puzzles are varied enough, with no repetition, and mildly challenging, though at no point did I get stuck for more than a few minutes unless I hadn’t found a certain item.
It’s bolstered by the mystery aspect, with journals, audio recordings and letters to find that flesh out the story. There are plenty of them, though they do little to aid the narrative and instead hint at a dangerous experiment of dubious morality, which is kind of obvious from the setting anyway. There’re two episodes here as well, the second opening in a school. It’s a strange disconnect from the prison of the first, and there’s no explanation on how they are connected. More episodes are planned, where I’m sure we’ll get answers, but some thread of narrative continuity here would have been nice.
The clues themselves aren’t hard to find, thanks to a “retrospective vision” mode that highlights them against the environment. On the one hand it means you don’t have to scrabble around clicking everything on the screen, the downside is that it removes any further level of challenge. It also shows images of the past (a fellow prisoner sobbing at one point, for example), but no reason is given for the ability except for one vague reference to “enhancing human perception”.
The controls use the touchscreen joystick approach, controlling like an FPS. They work well enough, but are never a decent replacement for real joysticks and my fingers kept sliding off them. You never have to move quickly, however, so it’s not an issue. Tapping will pick up an item or move a switch for a puzzle, while swiping brings up your journal or activates retrospective vision depending on the direction.
For a mobile game it’s quite the looker, lighting and textures create a dark, abandoned atmosphere that complements the tone of the game. Cutscenes are quite the highlight too, with detailed character models I didn’t know were possible on a mobile; it runs on the Unreal Engine and it shows. As I’ve said before, the audio is excellent as well, really setting the mood and genuinely freaking me out (admittedly not hard, I only played 15 minutes of Dead Space 2 before chickening out).
There is a “but” though, and sadly it’s quite a big one. A mobile game, in fact any game, should be designed for its format, and In Fear I Trust just hasn’t been designed for an iPhone. It makes great use of the touch screen, but most of the writing is far too small, and some of the puzzles require incredible precision, hitting one icon a few millimetres wide that was surrounded by dozens of equally small buttons. It got so bad at one point that I gave up on the puzzle altogether. Perhaps on an iPad screen it would be okay, but maybe it shouldn’t have been released on a phone at all.
It also crashed after I finished each episode, though no progress was lost, and at one point a cutscene was skipped as I triggered it while listening to an audio recording.
VERDICT: In Fear I Trust is a decent room escape game. The puzzles are varied and take a bit of thought, but don’t go in expecting a challenge. Solving the mystery is fun, but at the moment there are no real answers to questions thrown up by the narrative. While the design is excellent, with a creepiness that’ll make you hear noises in the night, only buy this to play on an iPad unless you have tiny fingers.
DECENT. A 6/10 indicates that, while this game could be much better, it still has a fair amount to offer the player. It might be an interesting title sabotaged by its own ambition, or a game denied greater praise by some questionable design choices. Don’t avoid it outright, but approach it with caution.
Review code provided by the publisher.