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  • Writer's pictureFernando Da Costa

Review: Reveil



Developer: PixelSplit GmbH & Co. KG

Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment

Available On: Playstation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & S, and PC

Review Console: Playstation 5


SPOOKY SCARY!


About three weeks ago, I went to PAX East for the first time ever. It was such a rush to be there, checking out the various games on display. One that pretty quickly caught my eye was a horror title known as Reveil. Coming to us from renowned publisher Daedalic Entertainment, the company responsible for publishing Godlike Burger, I was intrigued. Sadly, I didn’t get to play it as much as I’d like while at Pax, but they were gracious enough to offer me a chance to cover it, and cover it I will. Please sit back, relax, and take in the inane rambling that is FerniWrites.


Reveil opens with a disclaimer: if you’re susceptible to flashing lights and suffer from epileptic episodes, proceed with caution. There’s a section in particular that’s insane with the periodic blinking. We’re also warned of the sensitive subjects it'll mention, such as suicide, domestic violence, and more. If you haven’t already guessed, we’re going to a party draped in psychological terror, so let’s RSVP.



WHERE'S MY DAUGHTER!?


I want to begin by stating that I finished Reveil in a single sitting. It won’t last long, going for only a few hours. It’s a short experience, to be sure, but it frankly thrives because it never overstayed its welcome. I did notice that the pacing could’ve been slowed down a smidge, but even then, it isn’t a detriment. What could be a problem is how Reveil adopts the notion of show, don’t tell. A quarter of the storyline is told through object positioning, as well as some emails. It asks the player to be diligent with their surroundings, piecing together important context of the events. I don’t mind this execution, but I fear a few will, meaning the plot's intrigue is at risk of being muddled. 


Now, when I say I was absolutely enthralled, that isn’t me being hyperbolic. I’ve got to applaud how the developers continuously subverted my assumptions. Look, I was fully prepared to chastise the literary aspect as predictable after half an hour. If I had and not waited to roll credits, I’d have an egg on my face. My speculations were constantly being tested, bouncing between one possibility and the next. I was firmly glued to my seat, eager to see the narrative unfold, and that was a great sign. My only complaint is the ending - it feels rushed. It leaves behind a handful of loose threads. It felt unfinished, and my curiosity lingered, but the ride to get there is stupidly gripping.



PEEK-A-BOO, I SEE YOU!


While we aren’t dealing with a traditional nightmare, this game definitely flirts with a healthy dose of jump scares. Given the Funhouse aesthetic, it makes perfect sense. It fits into the setting and even got me once or twice. I was caught off-guard, eliciting an F-word being bellowed out loudly. Plenty of folks may consider it cheap frights, but for my money, it does a lot of heavy lifting for immersion. Reveil depends on a person to be utterly swallowed into this world for the spooks to be effective. Without it, the appeal would dwindle to zero, and I’d be keen to move on. Thankfully, that worry just doesn’t compute as it does a more than adequate job of building tension.


Speaking of the Funhouse theme, I did encounter a few puzzles. Nothing that’s overly tough. I could readily solve them without much fuss. There is one that might prove troublesome due to the deciphering it utilizes, but I found PixelSplit did a fantastic job at communicating the steps to take to solve it. I could put two and two together, knowing precisely how the clues and objects I'm given correlated. I will admit it didn’t immediately click. It wasn't until I saw the layout of an item that it would. The pieces fell right into place, and it was no longer a question of what I needed to do but how fast it could be done. It kept the flow of the plot going seamlessly, ensuring I remained engrossed.



If you’ve enjoyed genre gems like Resident Evil or Tormented Souls, the gameplay loop won’t be too unfamiliar. They share a ton of similarities, with the single difference being the absence of guns. Fighting back isn’t in the cards with Reveil. For better or worse, this is a walking simulator. It’s the biggest reason I have no issue with the short duration. With it having such a limited scope, this title feels highly focused. Don’t think that just because it clocks in at a paltry 5 hours, it means it doesn’t try shaking the formula up, though. It certainly does; in one minute, I might be hurrying to power a generator, while in the next, I’m entrenched in a section with stealth elements. 


My favorite portions, however, are those that see me being chased. The adrenaline it causes to rush through my veins is intense. When I noticed the entity plodding towards me, I turned fast and furiously, screaming profanities - I swear when I'm scared. For a brief moment, I’m a chicken with its head cut off. That brings me to a hiccup. You see, I’m in a forest in the dark of night. Because of that, it isn’t easy to know where I am. My spatial awareness is low, and I’d get disoriented. I will note that there’s a method to realign myself to the correct path. The caveat is that it took me a while to discover. That said, don’t be afraid to illuminate the vicinity by raising the brightness option, as it did help.



What blew my mind was how Reveil toys with perception. There are parts where I would have to fidget with the right stick to shift my viewpoint, thus gaining access to a new area. What’s likely to be the most shocking aspect is it didn’t actually take me long to realize what had to be done. It’s intuitive, which, from an accessibility angle, is everything I could ask for. My eyeballs were directly guided in the direction I had to go. I’m not too positive about the sort of witchcraft PixelSplit had a role in, but the ease that I felt is a testament to how well-crafted the level design is, even if they’re quite linear to begin with. Regardless, I’m ecstatic to see it expanded on further in a potential sequel.


LOOKING GOOD, REVEIL!


I’ve got to give kudos to the accuracy of the Funhouse motif. There’s even a mirror maze that made me anxious. I should preface that with the fact that I got lost in one when I was younger. I can acknowledge that it might have had a hand in the nerves, but it also alludes to its authenticity. In general, a fine bit of attention to detail was given when attempting to nail the environment - from the simplicity of a train’s exterior to the intricacies of the interior. My sole gripe is, as you can see from the screenshot above, how a couple of models look flat from afar, but up close, they have a flourish of texture. While on the subject, and perhaps it’s just me, I swear the characters here share potent DNA with the Bioshock series.



WHAT'S THAT CREAKING!?


Reveil doesn’t have an extensive catalog of music. The soundtrack is basically ambient with the tiniest sprinkle of songs. What it does have, though, is hauntingly beautiful. It’s difficult to articulate the wonder without properly listening to it yourself, but I’ll do my darnedest. Imagine, if you will, a vocal cadence resembling Billie Eilish. The creepiness is hanging overhead as you play, but it’s simultaneously soothing. Of course, the voice isn't her, belonging to songstress Arina Tora. I implore you, if you’ve no actual drive to try this game, to make it a priority to search for the OST, at least. Arina decimated these musings and made them her own. Her performance is easily the highlight, and even now, her singing blasts from my speakers.


AND THE CHILLING VERDICT IS...


Reveil is a sublime experience that stuck me in a perpetual cycle of second-guessing my predictions. I was enamored by what was on my screen to the degree of going through it in one session. I simply had to know how things would transpire. There isn’t a soul that can deny the passion poured into this project. The love that PixelSplit put in is showcased through the crisp quality.


Contrary to how it might seem, the biggest blemish has nothing to do with how hasty it is to get to the last moments. Bluntly, it’s the fact that it finishes too soon. Also, to get the total experience, please shut off the lights. I wish upon the stars that the reason for the abrupt ending is because a sequel is indeed coming. I can wholeheartedly recommend Reveil, but I'd probably only be comfortable with dropping $25 USD.


REVEIL IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


A code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.



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