If it weren’t for the light skidmarks, the lowly-adjusted volume of the TV, and the PTSD each time I looked towards the stairs, I’d say that Stray Souls isn’t that scary. Then again, the sheer volume of bugs in this game soured the experience, so I was more disappointed than sleeping with the lights on.
It’s the games we anticipate the most that fall the hardest. Compared to Silent Hill 2 (notably because of the same composer, Akira Yamaoka), Jukai Studio and Versus Evil’s game was set for failure if it wasn’t as good. But it’s not Silent Hill 2. There are similarities, but it’s not a remake, remaster, or reimagining. It’s a new IP. Get over it.
Stray Souls has its influences, but let’s take it for face value: a scary-as-hell third-person adventure that promptly shifts to a Resident Evil 4 shooter with a Souls-like fragrance and lots and lots of fog. Alright, it is borrowing on those influences, but as I said, get over it.
Stray Souls PS5 Review: Scaredy Cat
Stray Souls, more like Scary Souls. AmIright? The premise is vaguely familiar: a young lad inherits a property from a grandmother he never knew existed, promptly moves in, pops the Kleenex on the side and logs into a dating app on a flashback PC – with a 3D monitor.
Daniel is turning 18 tomorrow, and he’s just met a potential date named Martha. She promptly informs him that his grandmother fraternised with a cult and he should explore his new home. Short story shorter: his grandmother’s spirit returns around every corner, and seriously, it’s some scary shit.
I was impressed and doubting whether I had the cojones to hold out, but wondering how long this would last. The house is smaller than Silver Chains. Ah… chapter two is taking us out into the sticks. Martha will hand Daniel a gun, which he’s never used, and then say she has some things to do and split up. At least she remembered the fireworks.
It’s Like Pea Soup Out Here
Visually, Stray Souls is impressive, though I was disappointed with the lighting. Daniel’s hair would go from brunette to grey, and everything looked washed out. That’s the last of my worries – there are chimaeras in the woods with multiple arms, and they all want to hurt me.
To say Stray Souls upped the danger by the time you leave the house would be an understatement. It goes from freaky as hell to mindless, half-arsed running. There are no mini-maps or objective markers, just the occasional written objective. Suddenly, there’s this bloody great boss – completely unexplained, but it’s like a creature from Where The Wild Things Are, only on steroids and is virtually bulletproof.
The combat is bizarre. It follows the principles of the classic survival horror game, but here, ammo is in abundance but in the wrong places. There’s no need for that much ammo, only for the bosses. Where’s the health? At least there’s an evasive roll.
This Experience Is… Foggy
The puzzles were ok, but there was too much wandering. A car blocks your path early on, and rather than step over a curb, Daniel wants the key. You search the bins, although told ‘it’s not necessary’, until you trigger a scene or look at the right time. In short, Stray Souls is currently very buggy.
Read a handful of my reviews, and there will only be a mention of glitches if it spoils the gameplay. I had to return to the menu at least ten times because Daniel stopped aiming with the gun, would not interact with items, or got stuck in an invisible wall. Worse would be mid-battle and being unable to shoot with a loaded gun, followed by transparent floors through Daniel’s glitchy rolling.
Redeeming qualities? Daniel is a good protagonist. The character modelling is excellent, and genuinely looks terrified… until he makes a random comment, or engages in overfamiliar banter with Martha. Who he’s just met. Stray Souls’ presentation is impressive in places, but the animation is clunky and undoes what preceded it. The story is alright, and it doesn’t rinse other titles; it just muddles it all by being genuinely scary in the opening 30 minutes to going to a clumsy game of wandering, glitches, and fog. Lots of fog.