Developer – Madmind Studio – Publisher – PlayWay – Available now on PC, PS4 (Version tested) & Xbox One – 1 Player
On the surface, Agony appears to be the kind of survival horror I’ve been waiting ages for. Part Shadowman and part Dante’s Inferno, it has a macabre aesthetic and setting that I’ve always found to be most intriguing in horror. Religion, or more specifically, the evil side of the Christian belief, is something that I’ve always found equally scary and fascinating. Films like The Omen, The Exorcist and Stigmata always feel like they’ve got an extra edge of terror, as they are driven by the most evil of supernatural forces, and technically can’t be stopped. This is the purest evil sent from Hell. And hell is where you’re traipsing through in Agony. Everything is blood soaked and squelchy, as if you’re walking through rooms made up of flesh, bones and guts, which is pretty decent imagery and probably one of the better depictions of Hell I’ve seen in a video game. You’re also never too far away from some poor soul either screaming in agony, or despair over something they covet. This builds up a great, disturbing atmosphere, which is designed to gross and freak you out as you slowly pursue the Red Goddess, one of Hell’s hierarchy, in a bid to return to the realm of the living.
The main stumbling block of your endeavour is the numerous demons dotted around that take great pleasure in making you suffer. If one of these big titted bastards gets hold of you, you’ve got limited time to try and possess another body, otherwise its back to the last checkpoint. Think a really manky Alien Isolation, only without the incredible design and amazing film licence. And here’s where it gets bad. This game is a glitchy mess, and where most of the glitches happen, is when reloading or following a possession. When I say it’s been a few times that I’ve been caught by those demons, that’s heck of an understatement. I’ve seen the game over screen more times than is healthy, and add to that an annoying save error that when you do restart at a checkpoint, it’s not necessarily the last one you activated. There have been several occasions where I’ve ended up too far back and have to find my way, yet again to where I last got to. Another major issue is when possessing another host body, is that once inside, that body is not going anywhere, as you’re stuck carrying out the animation that your new vessel was doing as an NPC, forcing you to reload the last checkpoint, which is a lottery in itself. This didn’t happen every time of course, but it’s frustrating when it hampers your progress in an already slow burning game
Agony has courted controversy with its explicit imagery and depictions, but to be fair, there’s been a lot worse in crappy old horror films I’ve seen. The game has the aesthetic of a gruesome and intriguing horror, but it’s as far as it goes. Dante’s Inferno had a great depiction of the underworld and also managed to be a great game. This is a slow trudge through some bad puzzles in an Alien Isolation rip off. Every game this has been inspired by was much better in every way. It’s a crying shame as personally, this is one I’ve had my eye on with keen interest for some time. I think it is called Agony, not because you’re descending the circles of hell, but because it’s an excruciating experience. For a game that looks like pretty much every heavy metal album cover of the 1980s, this is a crushing disappointment.