Checking into Terror! “Propagation: Paradise Hotel” by Wanadevstudio
Wanadevstudio gave VR players the popular Viking rhythm and music game “Ragnarock,” Now they have entered the horror genre. But they aren’t just dipping their toes in VR horror; they are diving headfirst! “Propagation: Paradise Hotel” by WanadevStudio skillfully incorporates classic VR horror elements to leave players delightfully exhilarated and on edge. A terrible disease outbreak that turns people into flesh-eating monsters has spared almost no one.
You play as Emily Diaz, one of the few remaining staff members at the Paradise Hotel. The tutorial occurs in the kitchen, where you are barricaded by another staff member who teaches you how to shoot.
You don’t know if any other staff members have survived when a message on the radio comes from the military urging survivors to make their way to the base; you hear your twin sister Ashley call in, saying she is trapped on the top floor of the hotel. Overjoyed that she is still alive, you decide to make your way through the hotel and meet up with your sister and get help.
Rooms full of Terror
Playing as Emily felt natural to me. Looking at her/my hands felt realistic as she has chipped nail polish and a name bracelet around her wrist. Even though the game uses controllers, the movements look and feel fluid and natural.
You can move by teleportation or smooth locomotion and run and crouch. To survive, you must find and gather ammunition, batteries for your flashlight, antiseptic spray for your wounds, and find your way through a hotel littered with the bodies of the dead…and the undead! Indeed, the most vivid and impressive character in the game is the Paradise Hotel itself.
Like Emily, I worked in a big resort hotel for many years. The Paradise Hotel has everything and is very realistic. The grand hotel lobby, reminiscent of “The Shining,” elevators and stairs, janitor closets, a gym and dining hall, an industrial kitchen, and even staff locker rooms. Because of the zombie outbreak, the hotel is transformed into a nightmare liminal space. Deserted but for the bodies of the dead.
It’s also very dark, and I quickly realized that I would have to enter some pretty dark and uncomfortable spaces without batteries for my flashlight. For such a vast hotel, things can get claustrophobic and oppressive when you have to crawl through an airshaft, squeeze past barricades of piled furniture, and explore pitch-black rooms with only the halo of light from your flashlight to guide you.
You can choose to play at different skill levels. I started with easy mode, meaning I can access more ammunition, and enemies are slower and easier to kill. It was still very challenging. I panicked the first time I used my gun; I couldn’t remember how to reload and ended up in a slapping match with a zombie that went on and on until I was a sweaty mess gasping for air. Another time I managed to shoot him in the head, and then I practiced loading my gun.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the dead would reanimate if I stayed around long enough. Some move slowly, and some move fast; they are all the stuff of nightmares and made me scream out loud a few times. You can search certain drawers and cupboards to find clues when you aren’t fighting the monsters.
There are some puzzles to solve along the way and some mystery items to collect. I have yet to find them all, but I’ll keep trying. But like any good horror game, you are constantly on edge, always listening and watching to make sure nothing creeps up on you.
Whispers in the Dark
This game does sound very well. Reminiscent of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the sound design makes this game so special. More than the horrifying visuals, the auditory sensations of this game, work very well to create an eerie immersive experience: From the buzzing sound of a dying fluorescent tube light, the drip of a faucet, or the creak of a door swinging shut behind me, I was constantly aware of the sounds and wondering what they meant and where they were coming from.
This was particularly unnerving when my flashlight ran out of battery power, and I was in a pitch-dark room. Was that a rattling breath? A soft whimper? Am I alone in here?
There were a few issues with the character voices. There were some strange pacing glitches when I interacted with speaking characters. They would start talking with me when I was too far away to hear them, and sometimes our interactions were a bit off-kilter and broke the immersion. The dialogue was solid, though.
The inventory screen was irritatingly large and difficult to touch without putting down my weapon, which made me very anxious ( maybe the intended effect of a good horror game!) These were minor “bumps in the night,” though, and did not significantly impact my enjoyment of the game.
I played this game on my Meta Quest 2, and it’s one of the best VR horror games I have played on the platform. I am excited to play it on PCVR, as the visuals will be even better. If you are a fan of VR horror games, I highly recommend “Propagation: Paradise Hotel” for a thrilling and immersive experience.