After archaeologist Tasi Trianon’s plane crashed in the Algerian desert, she went in search of help across the glowing sand. However, Tasi quickly discovers that there are holes in her memory. As she slowly reveals the remains of her fellow party, she puts the pieces of her fragmented past together. Tasi’s suppressed memories are almost as terrifying as the creepy creatures that now haunt her from the shadows. Tasis trip is one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in a long time. Unfortunately, Amnesia: Rebirth’s puzzle design is just as terrifying.
Similar to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, light is your greatest tool. As you help Tasi find safety, you’ll hike through desert caves, ancient burial sites, and mysterious archaeological sites. Light bounces around bizarre rock formations in an unsettling way and strange creatures scurry around in the walls, which makes me shiver over and over again. Almost all environments are dimly lit, so your tiny lantern and the dwindling supply of matches you remove from the area are a constant convenience.
As you move through the darkness, Tasi’s fear level increases. While they are building, she hears whispers in the dark. These voices are entirely made up, but they still make it difficult not to run towards the light. When Tasis fear gets out of hand, she sees grotesque images that feel like cheap fear of jumping. Even so, they’re incredibly effective at getting your heart racing. Regardless of whether I was exploring an abandoned oasis town or sneaking past a group of sleeping monsters, Amnesia: Rebirth was continuously producing one pulsing sequence after another. It doesn’t help that Tasi has no way of defending himself. When you see an enemy, your two choices will be executed or hidden. This impotence sent my own anxiety through the roof.
Praise amnesia: Rebirth as a horror experience is easy. However, as a game it falls short in many areas. One of the biggest problems is the puzzles that jolt the pace and reset tension, even though they stall as standalone distractions. When I was exploring Amnesia: Rebirth’s world, the game was often unclear about my goals or the steps I needed to take to progress. For example, one puzzle asks you to attach the wheels to a cannon and then slide it down a ramp to slam through a rotten floor. The game never clearly communicated that goal, so I spent almost an hour exploring a completely different floor of the building. The environments are also so dark and maze-like that you can easily miss your target even if you know what to look for. I regularly ran through environments four or five times before stumbling across everything I needed to move forward. The feeling of being trapped and wondering if the game had attacked me filled me with almost as much fear as the creatures that were hunting me.
Amnesia: Rebirth’s frustrating puzzles undermine his horror, but bizarrely, so do his monster encounters. Amnesia: Rebirth features several otherworldly creatures chasing Tasi through a series of damp caves, and these creatures scurry through the shadows in increasingly unsettling ways. But the deeper I got into the story, the more I got the feeling that these monstrosities were drawing their blows. Enemies often turn from your position at the last moment, are incredibly easy to escape, and quickly lose interest in you. Even if you get caught, the effects aren’t steep. Tasi wrestles with the creatures and then we see a cutscene of her running back into a safe room that is usually just a few rooms back. There are no game-over screens and Tasi can’t seem to die. That’s nice from a convenience standpoint, but it takes some teeth off the horror.
Even after feeling like I looked behind the curtain and knew how the machines work, I still shyly moved through Amnesia: Rebirth’s World, which is testament to the excellent environmental design and solid work of Frictional Games. Tasi Trianon’s journey is a surprisingly emotional roller coaster ride, and I’m glad I saw this story through to the end. The cave full of horrific monsters to deal with, but I never want to see those angry puzzles again.