This year’s Layers of Fear release showcased how horror can be more than jump scares and a cheap excuse for buckets of blood. It provided a deep narrative in the framework of a complex psychological nightmare, and I will always choose that over something laced with cliché. Ad Infinitum shares some similarities with Bloober Team’s game, except it focuses on a very real and incredibly horrifying event from history, and how the effects of the Great War impacted the lives of those who had to take part in it.
After experiencing an explosion while in one of the trenches, a German soldier wakes up in a large home, alone, trying to understand what happened. It isn’t clear whether he is on his own, or whether his family are still around, and there’s an instant eeriness to Ad Infinitum that catches you off guard. As you start to explore the house, there’re various notes scattered around that give you a background to your parents, including your mother who’s clearly dealing with grief in an extreme way, and a pushy father influenced greatly by his war hero of his own dad.
There’s also your brother who went to fight for the German army, and certain mysteries reveal themselves about all four of you. It’s upsetting at times, especially because of the nature of war and how it’s hit all of you, but Hekate has done this in a sensitive way, much like Town of Light did when dealing with mental illness. Various items bring back memories, old drawings from when you were both children, and other pieces of archaic furniture, creepy or not, start to paint a picture of the kind of lives your family lived, torn apart by a tragedy.
The further you progress through the game, the more of the house you start to see, and every facet of your family life starts to be shown. As dark and tragic as things are, the home is designed beautifully, with puzzles to solve that are multi-layered to offer plenty to work out. One such puzzle required me to make a compound known as ‘tank-eater,’ and I had to find the various chemicals, with one locked in a safe that required a couple of solutions to actually find it. Your home is a labyrinth, and the clues are right under your nose; you just need to find them.
When you’re not in the house, you’re transported back to No Man’s Land, the battlefield, where soldiers had to suffer a whole manner of diseases, starvation, and the constant fear of being killed by the enemy. You’re almost always alone in terms of other human beings, and being on edge constantly is done very well for the first few hours or so. You’re tasked with solving puzzles in this setting as well, but there’re also creatures that try and hunt you down. You’ll find documents here, revealing details about how your family play into your career in the army and more, but these details are best to explore on your own.
The creatures in Ad Infinitum are introduced relatively early, and rely on you making sound to find where you’re hiding. You can be quiet to sneak past or use sound to distract them. I found on a few occasions they didn’t always react, or they’d react when I thought I’d been silent, meaning the balancing was a touch off. The first main monster or creature seemed like some random big bad, but again, Hekate manages to blend nightmares with reality, and when you reach a final puzzle involving gramophones, it’s actually quite sad. It was at this point I’d also thought I was pretty comfortable with the horror element, not feeling that scared at what I’d seen. How wrong I was.
Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but the next monster was horrible, and I hated running away from it. Ad Infinitum leaves you vulnerable, and while you do feel uncomfortable and on edge, there’s an air of melancholy to it. It’s a shame then, that on a few occasions I got stuck in the environment, including an area where I could crouch into, but then couldn’t get back out. There was also a door that was open after falling down a ditch in the trench, but for some reason I couldn’t go through it.
Still, I thought Ad Infinitum was a smart approach to the horror, with superb writing and great voice acting. I chose to go authentic with German actors, and I’m so glad I did. The parallels between WWI and your home are closer than you think, with everything blending together to leave you on edge, never knowing if you’re safe in the silence or not. The puzzles are smart and enjoyable to solve, and I wanted to absorb every new note and voiceover moment because I loved the story. The horror elements grow more bombastic as you play, offering something for every kind of fan.
Great use of horror
Some AI issues with enemies
A few bugs
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