AMONG ASHES – PC Demo Review

Among Ashes

Among Ashes, by one-man game studio Rat Cliff Games, caught my interest amongst the flood of horror gaming titles being release due to its retro-setting. The year is 2001, the early stages of the internet where it was becoming more accessible by the masses and with that the connections being made over internet message boards and various programs. The rise of the best Windows operating system to date also took place that year and thankfully that too gets a nod inside the game. Having lived my teenage years throughout this period of time, and having been a keen gamer since I was young, I was excited to see what the developer had in store to recapture that time and place in this demo for first-person horror videogame, Among Ashes.

The demo opens up with a Quake-inspired game called Demon Blood where you have to defeat a load of demons launching fireballs at you and a floating, bouncing mask that fire purple energy blasts. It’s quite a fun little game and is challenging enough, and although I reached the boss, I died for the fourth time. It was at this point a friend popped up on the PC’s Instant Messaging program notification, reminiscent of AIM and MSN Messenger (it is set in 2001 after all). As I tabbed out of the game, I was greeted by another nostalgic hit from the past – a Windows XP-inspired green hill with blue sky and clouds wallpapered desktop screen! The developer has gone to great effort to recreate the programs of that time to keep you immersed in the time-period setting.

Demon Blood in Among Ashes
Demon Blood giving Quake vibes

After a bit of of back and forth on IM, my friend tells me about a really cool game they’ve discovered on a forum and sends me a link. After reading the ominous first post by the OP, who tells everybody about a game they’ve created called NIGHT CALL and how they wished to share it albeit with a cryptic apology alongside, I decide to download the game and give it a go.

Launching into NIGHT CALL, I found myself playing the role of police officer Jack King, accompanied by officer Amy Lovecraft, who are driving down a dark country lane to Stoker Manor after a report came in about hearing a woman’s screams at the property.

The game’s graphics utilise art design very reminiscent of the games you’d see from that era and instantly piqued my interest.

Arriving at the manor, my character Jack is greeted by a house keeper maid who invites us in to look around, adamant that no screams have originated from the property. Crossing the threshold, I set about investigating the house, speaking with Mr Stoker and generally solving the riddle of the mysterious woman’s scream.

Among Ashes Night Call
Greeted at Stoker Manor by the housemaid in Night Call

Night Call has all the hallmarks of a horror game of the early noughties, with limited save opportunities via notebooks scattered around the property, limited weapons and ammo to protect myself, and limited painkillers and first aid kits to replenish health. It ain’t long before things get a bit Resident Evil/Silent Hill and I find myself facing threats from within the manor. There’s puzzles to solve too which, combined with the other elements, make the game a real blast of nostalgia. The retro gaming mechanics and visuals, engaging storyline and unsettling sound effects kept me hooked on this game within a game scenario, until I was brought out of the Night Call game into my in-game bedroom space (this game is like Inception – a game within a game within a game).

Rat Cliff Games has created something very special if this demo is anything to go on. Although billed as a 30 min demo, as someone who likes to explore, the demo took me 70 minutes to complete and was thrilling to play right from the get-go. The fact that the solo developer has created three distinct gaming styles in one, with fictional games Demon Blood and Night Call in addition to the ‘real-life’ scenario is nothing short of genius and he’s pulled it off brilliantly from what I’ve experienced. Night Call is a genuinely engrossing game and sucks you in, so when the lines start to blur it becomes even more frightening. Add into this the fact it’s set in 2001, which for me holds a lot of horror promise thanks to the technology around at that time, ramps up the fear factor and terrifying possibilities, as well as being a wonderful hit of nostalgia from both the gaming and technology side of things.

Innovative and exciting, with the right amount of dread luring you in, Among Ashes is one horror game to keep an eye on in 2024.

The demo is being released on Steam on 15th April 2024 to coincide with Steam’s FPS Fest

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About Bat 4417 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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