Amnesia Collection for the Nintendo Switch Review
About a year ago, the developers behind the Amnesia series expressed their interest towards porting the series on the Switch. After a surprise shadowdrop, it’s finally here. Now you can get scared on the bus!
The Amnesia series is a three first-person survival horror game series developed and published by Swedish independent developers Frictional Games AB. It’s composed of two games and a standalone DLC: Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the DLC Amnesia: Justine and then their sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. All of those three games share many characteristics. They all revolve about the main character losing their memory (hence the Amnesia in the title) and they must use their wits and stealth abilities to avoid and escape from monsters.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Justine
In Amnesia: The Dark Descent you take the role of Daniel, a young man that mysteriously awakens in the Prussian Brennenburg Castle. He doesn’t remember anything, except for his name and that something is chasing him. Shortly after, he finds a note from his past self stating that he drugged himself in order to forget everything. It also states that he must kill the baron of the castle, Alexander. Shortly after that, Daniel begins his horrifying adventure.
Much of the gameplay is revolved around exploring the castle and solving various puzzles. The player is able to interact with the environment in various ways, such as opening any drawer, closets or pushing various objects around. Almost everything can be grabbed and thrown, including chairs, barrels, and buckets.
The scary part begins when you start to encounter the Gatherers, the main enemies of the game. Those monsters will chase Daniel around the castle, and they can’t be killed in any way. Whenever Daniel looks straight into one of them, his sanity will lower, and after a bit, they will start sprinting towards him at full speed. Daniel will also have to worry about the Shadows, a mysterious entity that follows Daniel in the form of red tissue that hurts whoever touches it. It will slowly absorb the castle’s rooms, making it impossible to go back.
Daniel will find various notes in the castle, that will either help him to solve puzzles, explain what happened to the castle or who Daniel was in the past. While most of them are not essential to complete the game, I highly encourage the players to read them, as they help to fully immerse in this gruesome experience.
One of the main mechanics of the game is the sanity level. Whenever something scary happens, or when the player is left in the dark for too long, Daniel’s sanity will decrease. This will make him dizzy, his vision will become blurry and he will have hallucinations, such as monsters chasing him.
To make his sanity go back to normal, he must find a source of light. Usually, he can light up a candle or a torch with a tinderbox, which is found throughout the game. He will also find a lantern early on that will light the environment up at the cost of oil, another valuable resource much rarer than tinderboxes.
Amnesia: Justine is the standalone DLC for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It plays mostly like the main game, but it’s much shorter and it has some different mechanics.
The player wakes up in a locked room with a phonograph. After they activate it, a voice will greet the player, saying that their name is Justine Florbelle and that the player has been put in a psychiatric test, where they must choose to find a way to save three prisoners or kill them.
Justine shares most mechanics with The Dark Descent, although some things have been removed or changed. First of all, while there is a lantern, it won’t be usable, as there is no oil to find in the game. The Gatherers have been switched with Three Suitors, that will only appear in certain areas of the game. The sanity effect has been mostly removed, as the player will only lose sanity when looking straight into a suitor and will regain it shortly after. There are no paranormal events to be found in the game, just other mutilated people trying to kill you.
Those two games might be classics in the survival horror genre. They made me anxious and scared, always on the lookout for something trying to kill me. It made me wonder what was going on, even though I wanted to get out as soon as possible. The ability to move any object is weirdly fun, even if it’s mostly useless except for some puzzles (yes, I like to pretend that I can barricade a door). The puzzles are intriguing but usually not too hard, although I had to use a guide every once in a while.
One of the things I liked the most is that the game is not as scary as it pretends to be. Most of the fear is upon the anxiety that the game puts on the player, maybe with the music, with the low sanity effects or by weird sounds you hear across the halls of the castle. It’s built on the possibility that there MIGHT be something waiting for you just behind that closed door, and the developers did a really good job with that.
— Atelier Senpavo (@Senpavo_) September 24, 2019
While the Switch port runs smoothly both in handheld and docked, there are two rather annoying issues.
First of all, it’s hard to grab some objects. Since it was originally a PC game, grabbing small objects becomes a bit of a hustle. I spent quite some time trying to grab an object I needed for a puzzle, unsuccessfully.
The other big issue is a weird bug I found while playing. Sometimes, whenever I put an object on the ground it will just…jump out of the map.
This doesn’t always happen, but it was rather annoying, especially when I lost a key I needed to proceed because of this bug.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is the sequel to The Dark Descent. While it’s not a direct sequel, it’s set in the same universe as the first one, with some mentions of things from the first game.
The story follows a wealthy industrialist called Oswald Mandus, and it’s set 60 years after the events of the first game. After being struck by a bad fever, he loses his memories and awakens in his mansion. He tries to find his twin sons, Enoch and Edwin, which are eerily running around the place. After his continuous search, he hears the sound of a machine beneath his feet. A mysterious phone call tells him that his sons are stuck inside the machine. During his search, he finds out that the whole city of London has been invaded by the Manpigs, humanoid pigs. It’s up to Oswald to find his sons and remember his past.
Many of the mechanics from the first game have been removed or heavily changed. There is no inventory or status bar, making it impossible to see the player’s health and all key items must now be grabbed. The sanity effect has been removed altogether, so the player can look at the Manpigs freely. The lantern no longer uses oil, as it now runs on electricity, but it will flicker whenever a Manpig is near. The ability to grab and throw object has been reduced to just a handful of them, such as chairs and key items. Other main mechanics, such as hiding in the dark to not be seen or using a journal to keep track is still in the game.
Unlike the first game, where Daniel is stuck in the castle, the sequel has much bigger areas. There is Oswald’s mansion, the streets of London or factories to explore. The ability to look into enemies without having your vision become blurry is a great improvement as it allows for more strategizing. Also, the story lives up to the standards of the one in the original game, being just as macabre.
While sequels usually improve from the previous game, A Machine for Pigs struggles to do that. The removal of many mechanics from the first game make the game less interesting compared to other games of the same genre. To add to that, while in the first game you could explore almost every area and open any drawer or locker, now many doors are closed and unable to be opened, and many drawers will stay shut. Due to the bigger maps, the loading times are quite long, sometimes taking more than a minute. Puzzles are now less difficult, mostly due to the removal of the inventory.
— Atelier Senpavo (@Senpavo_) September 24, 2019
All of the three games run smoothly. I never had a problem with frame drops or such. The music is spot on, and the atmosphere is just as creepy as it should be. The fear the player feels is always high, and the story, while a bit complicated to understand at first, works. The monsters are as gruesome as possible, making sure you don’t want to encounter them. The addition of the HD Rumble makes everything more realistic. The price for those three games is fair, and no big downgrade has been made for the Switch version, making it a great port.
On the downside, as I already mentioned, grabbing objects is difficult. The Dark Descent’s graphics are showing their age, as the game originally released in 2010. A Machine for Pig doesn’t live up to his predecessor, as it has been oversimplified.
Overall, despite its issues, the Amnesia Collection is still a true survival horror gem, and if you are interested in the genre, I definitely suggest playing it. Even if The Dark Descent is the best game out of the three, A Machine for Pig is still interesting and worth playing. But make sure to not play it on the bus, as once I screamed while with my friends due to a surprise encounter with a Gatherer.
Enjoyed this review? Check out Micramanic’s review of Redeemer: Enhanced Edition and mine for The Tenth Line Special Edition! If you enjoy our content we hope and encourage you to check out our Ko-Fi page. We need all the help we can get to start a podcast and to further our site’s quality! Thanks!
Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch by Senpavo. Game provided by Frictional Games.