I wake up in a bedroom, and everything is silent, except for a radio that plays some tunes on the piano. I start to look around, and nothing this bedroom contains actually belongs to me. If this isn’t my room, whose is it? Suddenly, a voice begins to talk to me over an intercom, saying that I have a mission, to use my intelligence and escape. I am on a trial, where I have to unravel the mystery behind my captivity and escape whatever is going on.
The Initiate is a puzzle game with horror elements made by Deceptive Games Ltd. You are playing as Nathan Rockford, whom has lost his memory and has awakened in an unknown house full of traps and puzzles. Discover the truth. The rules are simple: complete the trial, and escape.
The puzzles are the main focus of this game. There are several phases of each trial, and you may only proceed if you have completed the previous phase. There are intricate puzzles within puzzles, and you really have to pay attention to everything around you in order to solve them, as well as listening to every single sound. Make sure you are wearing a headset when playing, or turn up the volume on your speakers. The ambience in the game was surprisingly good if you look away from the repetitive sounds of opening doors and cabinets.
The story is interesting. You find yourself in the midst of this trial, which is an initiation for a cult named The Enlightened. So either I join them or… what? Solve a puzzle, and you get one more piece of information. The story, in many ways, works as a motivator in this game. Which is fine, because that is just following the rules, but I wish that there was a little more story to it all. I felt that after all my work, I got paid by the minimum.
Considering the game’s main attraction is the puzzles, leaves a lot to be said in regards to gameplay. The Initiate is highly interactive, but I wish that instead of only being able to look at the items, I wish that you could move some of the things around, physically. Because I got stuck on objects a lot. There is the possibility of it being a texture problem because I also got stuck in doorways and cave exits and entrances. However, if you shimmy enough, you manage to get out, eventually. One of the things that really brought the game down for me, was the lagging. Lots of it, from start to finish. Playing around with the graphic settings didn’t help, and with my current computer setup, this problem should not exist.
Peering our view away from that, each room of the house changes as you solve the different puzzles so that you have to rediscover the rooms several times and really pay attention to new details because you unlocked something new about them. It’s a cool detail, and it’s important to acknowledge the awesome job on the level design here.
The narrator guides you through the house (or at least he tries to, with different degrees of success), commenting as you go along. Which is nice, because it breaks with the eerie, whispering ambience, and the voice-actor does a good job in making you feel like you’re doing the right thing… whatever that thing might be. He also works as a nice indicator when you’ve made it to the important parts, which is sometimes difficult to establish in this game. Since it’s kind of a puzzle-inception deal going on in this house, it became too easy to lose track of which ones you are solving.
A game that characterizes itself as a horror puzzle game should have more horror elements in it than The Initiate has. I wonder about this, because yes, the ambience definitely kept me on my toes, the narrator was a bit creepy. And a small section of the game also plays with claustrophobia. But nothing actually happens. The game never gave me a reason to be scared. Which to a horror-geek like me is disappointing.
Coming to a conclusion, I wish that there was a deeper, more immersive story here. The Initiate is a game about cult societies, conspiracy theories and mystery, which are all interesting themes. So give us more. I was left with more questions than answers, which always makes me sigh and rub my temples out of a light frustration. Aside from the lagging and getting stuck, we cannot look away from the fact that the puzzles were interestingly designed, with various difficulties – and were extremely satisfying if you managed to solve them. The Initiate should receive high praise for its level design, and its concept – which makes me interested in what Deceptive Games has in store for their next game.