A Wake Inn Review – Still Dreaming
A Wake Inn
Developed By: VR Bros
Published By: VR Bros
One of the perfect outlets for horror is virtual reality. When the immersion of VR is combined with the right use of visuals and atmosphere, you can create a chilling environment that puts the player on edge. For me, horror is one of my favored genres, even if I am prone to my fight-or-flight responses. However, I’m pretty picky about my horror games. I’m not a fan of jump-scare fests, which seems to be the only kind of horror game some people will make for VR. One game looked like it wasn’t a jump-scare fest, looking to be focusing on atmosphere and environments rather than its scares to fill you with dread. That game was A Wake Inn, a VR horror title developed and published by VR Bros.
A Wake Inn takes place in an abandoned hotel during the early 20th century, where you play as a recently awakened human-sized doll restricted to a wheelchair. You aren’t alone in this hotel, as the halls are stalked by dolls, similar to you, though they see you as hostile. The only hint of a friend comes from your crackling walkie talkie, a man named Doctor Finnegan, who enlists you to help make things right. However, Finnegan isn’t the only voice you can hear.
The story of A Wake Inn starts with an interesting premise, one that got me looking forward to experiencing it even before the game itself was released. There was enough intrigue to keep me going, pushing me forward to the end (and fight through some glitches), but there were things along the way that caused this intrigue to wane, including the story itself. You gather info about the plot through mostly notes and Finnegan, building up this mystery that felt like it would lead to a thrilling horror adventure.
Then it ended. When I thought things were just getting started, they ended, and in a poor way too. There isn’t much to the ending, just a choice between two endings that were quite lackluster in their content. I was left confused, as the entire game just didn’t even feel like it was reaching either a middle or end point. It still felt like the beginning.
What makes it all the worse is that the game was a chore to get through, mechanics wise. As I mentioned, you play in a wheelchair. You can move with either a joystick, or by manipulating the wheels with your own hands. Your wheelchair is equipped with hooks that hold a flashlight, weapon, and film reel. The only inventory you have is a cigar box in your lap that you have to open and organize things by hand. Now, I get what they were going for, making everything more tense by restricting you and adding immersion by taking away the HUD in favor for physical manipulation of your equipment. However, it wasn’t executed well.
The wheelchair movement just ended being a hassle in the end, and there was really no point to it besides what I listed, as well as the extra restrictions that come with it. It’s a neat novelty that wears itself thin pretty early as you just sit there relegated to using the joystick because having to move the wheels yourself became boring. It all just felt restricting without adding to the horror. Not to mention the added bonus of getting stuck in doors because my collision box is jutting outward.
Moving on, the inventory system is also poorly designed. First, the box is quite small, so it can’t hold a whole lot. The items inside are still affected by physics, even when the box is closed, so they will sometimes just clip through and fall out. When the game loaded, sometimes the items in my box would just go flying, and I would have to spend time picking it all back up. Additionally, the box also contains the Save, Load, and Exit buttons, which I have accidentally pressed multiple times, like when things get “hectic” and I’m “fighting”.
Yes, there is combat, though A Wake Inn encourages stealth, telling you to not try to fight when there are too many enemies. This is a silly thing to do, for whatever stealth there is in this game seemed non-existent and frankly useless to try. As soon as you wheel yourself out there, you’d either be caught by the eye sentries (some of which can’t be turned off quickly, or at all), or found by an enemy. I just don’t think there are enough options to make stealth viable.
When it came to bigger rooms with larger groups of enemies, which were supposed to be the more stressful parts of this here horror game, there was usually a machine that controlled them. What worked best for me was either rushing in to shut the machine off, deactivating all the dolls, or fighting my way through, since the enemy AI was so laughable, like the enemies themselves.
So, I usually have a fear of things like dolls or mannequins, but A Wake Inn did nothing to make me fear them. The build up to them was lackluster, they just show you them and that’s it, there’s no teasing or little scares. You just open a door, and there they are, for you to look at as much as you want. And when they actually start to become threats, there isn’t much to find scary either.
The way they act, the way they move, and the way they attack are all amusing to me. They move like marionettes being controlled by a drug addict on withdrawal, where every tiny movement is accompanied by a wild swing of their limbs. It was hard to be even a little bit scared when enemies were around, as they would just wiggle violently at me upon detection. Not to mention that their AI breaks. Sometimes they’ll attack, then turn around and walk away a meter or so, just standing there, before coming back to continue their wiggling.
The melee combat, which is supposed to be a last resort, was actually the only resort for me, considering how poorly thought out the stealth was. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of melee combat, but what they have here is lackluster. The weapons don’t physically hit the enemies, they only cause damage but pass right through, ala Skyrim. This made the combat feel horrible, as I didn’t feel the impact, the satisfying slam into a body. All this did was make it easier for me to kill dolls, as I just held my hand out and wiggled it until the enemy went down.
That’s not the only side to gameplay though, as this is a horror game, and horror games have puzzles. Sadly, the puzzles weren’t all that much interesting to me either, as most of it was just switching out fuses and flipping switches, or finding the right combination of wires for the correct results. I can’t say any of them were mind-numbing, or even made good use of the medium to make it feel like a real VR game.
A Broke Inn
And then there are the glitches and the bugs. One thing I neglected to mention, which is what makes my disappointment in the ending all the more depressing, is the fact that my first playthrough glitched. There was a moment where I had to install three modules into a machine, and once I did, nothing happened. I reloaded a save, and I suddenly started to hear a one-sided conversation, then nothing.
At this point, I had played the game on and off, finding something else I disliked every time I played, and just wanted to quit. However, my journalistic integrity won out, and I started a new save. Two and a half hours later, I found out that moment was literally 15 minutes from the end.
And that playthrough glitching wasn’t the only one I saw. Beyond the items flying everywhere, the AI bugging out, and the moving being a hassle, there were some strange occurrences.
The one that I remember the most is that there was a point in the game where I had to drop a gate hanging from a hook to make a bridge so I can cross a gap. I had no idea how to move it, so I just gave up for that day. Once loading back in, it just dropped. On my second playthrough, I found out that loading messes with the physics. If I loaded enough, the gate would just break free and fall down. I still don’t know how to solve that, but I guess I did.
However, despite all the problems I have with A Wake Inn, there are a few things it does well, starting with visuals. This game looks pretty great for being able to run decently on my laptop with VR. The environments have plenty of details, and definitely make you feel like you are in some old-timey 1920’s art-deco inspired hotel. Details in other places are also well accounted for, including the items you pick up and even the notes you read.
In addition, the one horror aspect this game does well is its audio. Audio design is spot on most of the time, which does truly immerse you in this setting, while the ambiance does create a dreadful atmosphere that makes wheeling down the hallway somewhat unnerving. And while the music is pretty good, and tried to do its job, it just couldn’t with how silly enemy movement was.
Unfortunately, none of this changes what is a rather disappointing horror game. It sets itself up for some interesting ideas, and just stays at that set up. You find out what happens, but there doesn’t seem to be any payoff, neither in story nor gameplay.
Overall, A Wake Inn is an interesting, yet unfulfilled premise ruined by its unorthodox movement controls and subpar gameplay. I was genuinely looking forward to this game, as a VR horror game not depending on jump scares with an art-deco inspired environment actually interested me. What makes it sadder is that you can see passion in how they crafted the map. As much as I can’t recommend A Wake Inn, I am going to keep an eye on these devs to see what they make next.
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Reviewed by Freelance7. Game received by VR Bros.