Shutter – What We Think:
So many horror games are about scaring the pants off of you. Games like Five Nights at Freddy’s or Slender rely on jump scares to create an engaging experience where surprise is just around the corner. Not very many games try and take cues from the survival horror games which relied more on offering a creepy environment to explore and a disturbing narrative to sink your teeth into.
From game developer Cosmic Logic Inc. comes Shutter, a paranormal investigation game that successfully makes what would otherwise be a tense experience into a fun, short, enjoyable ride.
In Shutter, you are tasked with investigating a cabin because of reports from neighbors that there have been break-ins and noise issues. You take control of a small robot known as the R.A.V.E.N. Shield, which stands for Remote Access View of Environment and Navigation system, and after some investigation, quickly learn from floating books, doors opening at will, and disembodied laughter, that the cabin is being haunted by a ghost.
The game’s narrative serves its purpose but isn’t necessarily all that interesting. The tale takes an interesting turn during the last chapter, but overall the narrative is the weakest aspect of the game.
Snap To It
The main way you advance the game is by investigating noises and other irregularities by uploading the pictures you’ve taken to the unnamed company you work for. Taking pictures of oddities in the cabin, ghostly apparitions, and diary pages—which is how the game delivers its narrative—all drive the game forward.
The R.A.V.E.N. Shield is equipped only with a camera and flashlight. The game relies on a lot of simple, environmental puzzle solving. You’ll do a lot of taking pictures, which activates the next object for which you need to take a picture. Figuring out what to do next or where to go is hinted at by words highlighted in the diary pages and by environmental audio clues.
As a game, Shutter is really easy and very linear. As I was playing I was hoping for more challenging puzzles, but nothing really strays from the straightforward, simple mechanic of taking pictures of things in the cabin. The game’s linearity didn’t bother me personally, but I can see it turning off a lot of people who are not looking for such a guided investigation experience.
With all that aside however, the game was a lot of fun to play, in part due to the fact that it’s not a scary game, even though it does have a couple of very tame jump scares. When I finished the game, I felt like exploring a new haunted locale.
Shutter is not long by any means, since it only takes around two hours to complete. Even though I wanted to experience more content than what was there, I felt that the game had a good length as is because its straightahead storytelling, coupled with its camera mechanic, would have started to feel tedious without a drastic change of scenery or new location.
Since most modern games are so centered around the idea of giving you power to defeat whatever steps in your way, you’d expect this robot to be some kind of ghost-busting machine, but it isn’t at all; I really appreciated that the game wasn’t about catching or battling ghosts, but instead about the experience of ghost investigation. Shutter is a more passive experience, and that limited power makes the game a heck of lot more interesting and at times a little tense.
Not knowing what to expect or how to deal with this haunted cabin made it more exciting. It’s also a lot of fun being so powerless, since there is basically no fail state in the game.
Fly On The Wall
In your ghostly investigation, you are also aided with fixed cameras set up all over the cabin. The cameras play a big role because they are the main way you experience the game.
Much like the early Resident Evil games, Shutter is played through fixed camera angles. There is another viewpoint which lets you go into first person view for a limited amount of time – which is helpful when you’re trying to focus on something in the environment – but since it’s limited to a certain amount of time, it’s discouraged as the main way to play the game.
The fixed camera may turn people off since it does take some time to get used to, but once you do, movement is easy to grasp. Unlike fixed-camera horror games, movement is fast and not sluggish at all.
Hold Me Closer Tiny Dancer
Another fantastic thing the game is able to do with its fixed camera angles is create ambiance. Much like fixed-camera angle games will be placed a certain way to emphasize a certain object or area of a room, it does a good job of making some disturbing silhouettes.
This may fall under a small design choice that wasn’t really meant to be a big deal, but these silhouettes helped make the environment more creepy: In one room there was a broken music box dancer horizontally spinning around in place. The position of the fixed camera and the lighting in the room created a silhouette of a woman spinning and floating in the middle of the room. Another silhouette involved two ravens which looked like two tall humans with raven heads. The lighting and environmental detail is cleverly done. It’s easily one of the ways in which the game shines.
The game looks and sounds great. It’s not the most graphically advanced game out there, but it’s detailed enough to the point that nothing sticks out like a sore thumb. Sounds like the bellow of thunder to the ambient noises, all sound great and believable. Thanks to imaginative details, Cosmic Logic, Inc. does a great job of creating an immersive, eerie atmosphere.
Quoth the R.A.V.E.N.
Shutter is a unique game that successfully makes paranormal investigation fun. There is not a whole lot wrong with the game, but it feels like there could have been more content or variation with its gameplay. Though the game’s narrative may not be exactly gripping or give you a whole lot of interesting scenarios to tackle, don’t let it stop you from experiencing this fun little title that’s enjoyable from start to finish.