Horror games filled with jump scares or really bloody scenes are a thrill for a lot of gamers, but they also turn a lot of people away, either because they don’t like getting scared or simply because they don’t enjoy that kind of in-your-face horror. That is at least partially why two other horror type genres are on the rise because they can offer a horror type atmosphere without jump scares and with limited or no blood and guts.
The first genre is liminal horror, which is based on that odd feeling you get when something in your environment is out of place, or when you are in a location at an unusual time. For example, being inside a shuttered and closed mall might evoke those kinds of feelings by seeing all the empty store fronts and lonely amenities devoid of people. You might get the same feeling being in a subway station or even an office building late at night when nobody is around. Some titles that greatly represent this genre include Superliminal and Anemoiapolis: Chapter 1, both of which received high review scores on GiN.
The other popular new horror genre involves spotting anomalies. For those, players are generally tasked with watching camera feeds and then reporting when something in the rooms they are observing changes, like a chair moving to a different spot or a person in a portrait changing their expression. This generally happens when a player is away looking at something else, so spotting the differences can be tricky if players are not super observant. The hands down top titles in this genre are the I’m on Observation Duty series. Both of the previous two titles in that series, I’m on Observation Duty 5 and I’m on Observation Duty 6, received very high marks in our GiN reviews.
Now, having played most of the aforementioned titles, I can attest to the fact that they are much more accessible than, say, something like Resident Evil Village where you have to shoot at monsters or a title like Killer Frequency where you have to investigate events and successfully perform quite a few secondary activities. However, especially in the case of the liminal horror titles, you do need to invest a lot of time and mental resources into getting around the environment and kind of finding your way in order to advance. With Anemoiapolis, I really enjoyed the experience, but it’s certainly not for everyone. I can see some people getting either lost or bored in those empty, simulated environments.
I bring all that up because this review is focused on a game called The Exit 8, which blends those genres in a very compressed format so that you can experience most of the core elements of both liminal horror and spotting anomalies type gameplay without a huge investment in time or mental energy. Then if you like either one of those, you can move on to more advanced games in that genre. By contrast, if you already like either of those, then The Exit 8 can offer quite a unique experience that can be played and enjoyed in a short amount of time.
I said that The Exit 8 offers a compressed experience, and I mean it. The entire thing takes place in a single hallway of the Tokyo subway system. The catch is that you will be going down that hallway a lot in your travels – at least eight times, but probably many more than that.
The rules of the game are pretty simple. You walk down the hallway and look around. There are signs on the walls and ceiling, a fellow commuter walking down the path in the opposite direction, some maintenance doors on the right side and clean white tiles all around. The first time you head down that hallway, everything will always be normal, otherwise you would have no base to compare things with as you continue playing. After you walk through the hallway, you will round a corner and find the exact same hallway once more. Maybe. If the new hallway is in fact identical to the previous one, then you should just walk through it again and start over. However, if you see an anomaly, then you are supposed to turn around and head back the other way. When you do, you will find that the hallway is there again waiting for you in the opposite direction.
The only thing that should change every time is right before you get to the hallway, there is a yellow sign that tells you how many times you were correct so far in either spotting an anomaly and turning back or deciding that everything is clear and going through. You have to correctly guess eight times in a row to finally break the spell and find the exit stairs at the end which finally lets you leave the subway and win the game. However, if you fail to spot an anomaly and walk through, or turn back when everything is normal, then sadly the master counter resets back to the number one again. Yes, if you are on the seventh successful hallway and you mess up, it’s back to square one for you.
I know I said there were no jump scares in The Exit 8, but that is not exactly true. While the overwhelming majority of anomalies that you will experience are harmless or mildly creepy, there are a few that can kill. If you see rivers of blood rushing down the hallway at you or a creepy guy dressed exactly like the wall tiles, then run away as fast as you can. They can be lethal and reset your counter. However, those fatal events are rare, and I was on my third successful playthrough before I even experienced any of them.
The Exit 8 is on sale on Steam for less than $5, which makes for a good price for a unique title that can be played, if you are very lucky or very observant, in under 30 minutes per playthrough. For a mild horror experience or a gateway to liminal or the spotting anomalies type of horror genres, The Exit 8 makes for a fine choice and entertaining experience.