Pneumata delves into the roots of violent survival horror | Hands-on preview

by on May 6, 2024

I’m a sucker for horror and it’s probably my favourite genre to play. It’s the grandest departure from real life and gets you to play out fantasies that you’re never going to experience in the day-to-day grind of existing. When the opportunity to preview an early demo of Pneumata came along, I didn’t look into what it was about like I normally do, I just dived right in and played. While it might not be doing anything particularly new, it made me feel vulnerable in such a depraved and terrifying environment, looking over my shoulder at every turn.

The first thing that came to mind was how Pneumata reminded me of Condemned: Criminal Origins and Outlast, two brutal games that were both violent and intense. Wandering around an asylum where the lights are dimmed, the walls are dank, and you can almost smell the dry blood on the floor. Instantly I was left feeling uneasy and unsure of what I was going to find, and after a few encounters with some huge fucking spiders, I had my first heart attack as some grotesque psychopath burst through a wall.

I had a pistol and a baseball bat. I also had a shotgun but I was caught off guard so much that I didn’t quite know how to equip it. I swung the bat as it approached, but it lurched towards me and managed to hurt me significantly. I could block it’s attacks, but I chose to run at first, back through the corridors and into one of the washrooms that had some numbers sprawled on the urinals. “Stop being a wimp,” I thought to myself. I’d played tons of games like this, but the way the darkness acted as its own character made Pneumata feel different.

I went back to find the creature and used my pistol to fire off a few rounds in its chest. It continued to run towards me but I was finally able to put it down. Finally, he fell to the ground however, it wasn’t over just yet. One of the huge pulsating boils on its body burst and out jumped another one of those spiders that tried to attack me. There were these mutated freaks all over the asylum as I played through the demo, and while I knew they existed now, I never wanted to bump into them. This fear felt new. They weren’t bullet sponges but genuine threats.

Pneumata has some puzzles to solve, and while not particularly challenging, gave me something else to do as I tried to advance through the filthy hallways and rooms. There’s also inventory management that could end up being a real pain in the ass without upgrades to space, but for the duration of the demo I was impressed with how it dipped its toes into the roots of violent survival horror without copying or feeling like something I had played before.

Pneumata is a solid survival horror so far, but it’s only a demo. There still needs to be some work done with regard to screen tearing and some janky visuals. The sound design is excellent, and it creates a constant sense of dread in the pit of your stomach. It’s not trying to do anything new, but it is providing an interesting story and some well-crafted environments that ooze atmosphere. I will definitely be returning when the game is finished because I love the design and the feel of it, and any game that manages to scare me is well worth my time.

Pneumata is coming to PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S|X in the Summer.