This Strange Realm of Mine by Doomster Entertainment
Picture the following elevator pitch: “It’s a game… that’s like DOOM…but also psychological horror…and the characters talk about philosophy.”
If, like a friend of mine, your response to this is “sounds…indie,” then congratulations, you kind of already know what you’re in store for here.
Deeper Down into the Mind
Originally released for PCs in 2017 and available on Switch as of earlier this month, This Strange Realm of Mine casts the player as a dead person diving into their own psyche, assisted along the way by a strange cast of characters who may or may not actually exist. How does this kind of thing play out, you might ask? Why, through retro first-person shooter levels, of course!
From the get-go, you’re dropped into a series of dark corridors with only a torch for light and a gun to fend off a series of creepy creatures. So far, so standard.
However, the game very quickly starts throwing new things your way as you dive further. You’ll visit a metropolitan city populated by bipedal rats, a mysterious castle full of cultists, a sunny farmland and the inner recesses of a hellish asylum, just to name a few. The game does an excellent job of creating a genuinely uneasy atmosphere through its locations, and the creativity on display is definitely commendable.
Nonconformity in My Inner Self
While the atmosphere is great, the rest of the game’s elements are a bit of a mixed bag. Between levels, you’ll visit a snowy inn populated by characters you meet throughout the game. While they’re each visually distinct and have their own personalities, your experience with dealing with them is much the same. Interacting with any of them results in a long text-crawl of philosophy discussion, which, while well-written, ultimately begins to drag very quickly.
“Drag” is a word that actually came up a lot for me during this game. For instance, while the levels are presented in very unique ways, they end up playing nearly identically, with the occasional different objective.
The shooting in the game is functional but quickly becomes very, very repetitive, as all enemies behave the same way. I understand that these things likely aren’t the intended focus, but you spend a LOT of time interacting with them.
The game’s technical merits are a mixed bag, too. While the pixel art and design are both gorgeous and legitimately unsettling, the music is repetitive to a point of being grating. The controls also seemed to alternate between far too lose and occasionally unresponsive, at least on the Switch.
I Need To Seek my Innervision
This Strange Realm of Mine is nothing if not ambitious, and it gets points for that. The game manages to echo other lo-fi horror games like Home while also adding its own personality.
I was fascinated by the experience for a while and definitely don’t regret checking it out. Unfortunately, my least favorite part of this game was actually playing it.
This Strange Realm of Mine is available via the Nintendo Game Store and Steam
Watch the official trailer for This Strange Realm of Mine below: