Noosphere by KOEX Studio
Survival horror games have had a second renaissance in the past few years. Between the AAA industry rediscovering the passionate fandom for the genre and the indie scene continuing to produce great experiences like Pathologic 2 and Lust From Beyond, spooky gamers are spoiled for choice.
Unfortunately, this means that fledgling titles have steep competition from all sides. Some will continue to rise to the challenge. Others, like Noosphere, might have to struggle for recognition.
The Mind’s I
After surviving a car accident that killed his wife and child, Vincent Martin is anything but okay. He is seemingly becoming possessed by a mysterious entity called Maria, and it’s getting worse. To rid himself of her, Vincent builds a machine called the Noosphere to dive into his subconscious. Of course, his mind is a twisting pathway of nightmares and monsters.
Noosphere’s premise is about as predictable as horror games get. I’m sure fans of the genre reading this have already started making some guesses about the plot, and I guarantee they’re almost definitely correct. It also, unfortunately, plays into a lot of horror tropes that are not only cliché but problematic. Things like mental illness and domestic abuse are used as driving story elements (with little to no commentary on either), and in 2021 it feels like the kind of plotting we should have moved past.
Gameplay-wise, Noosphere fares a little better. Exploration is done via a first-person perspective with the standard array of clues and puzzle objects to find. The twisting pathways of Vincent’s mind are visually interesting and unsettling, assisted by a legitimately great score by composer Vivian Z. “VVN” Quan.
Exploring them is also enhanced by one of the game’s core mechanics. Vincent can access the most recent object he’s touched in his house while in his subconscious. This leads to the player needing to return to the house periodically to bring something else back, depending on the puzzle at hand. It’s a legitimately interesting mechanic I wish was expanded upon further.
However, these positives don’t outweigh Noosphere’s shortcomings. On a technical level, the game’s low budget shows, with unwieldy interfaces, poor sound mixing, and unresponsive controls. Design-wise the game also suffers from a lot of typical horror game issues. Scares are almost entirely of the jump-scare variety, which feel cheap. Combat is also unsatisfying, usually involving wildly swinging an axe at the same enemies that die in a single hit. Most of all, it’s the kind of experience that feels a dime a dozen on Steam.
There are some interesting ideas at the core of Noosphere. It also feels like a labor from someone who’s a legitimate fan of the genre. Unfortunately, they’re ideas mired in technical issues and dated design. When horror game fans have so many options, even at the $8 price point or lower, it’s hard to recommend.
Noosphere is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Noosphere below: