Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is a first-person survival horror game developed by Pulsatrix Studios. You play as Roberto, a journalist investigating strange happenings at the hotel. Shortly after arriving, bizarre occurrences lead to monsters appearing and Roberto finding himself in a destroyed version of the hotel. Gameplay consists of exploring to find key items and supplies like ammo and med kits, solving puzzles, and shooting enemies.
Exploring is often difficult and uninteresting due to tight areas, a narrow field of view, and samey-looking environments. A few areas have a map on the wall, but they stay there, lessening their usefulness. The environments lack the interesting layouts or aesthetics to make exploring or backtracking engaging.
The range of puzzles is a good mix of simple things like having to complete a circuit or context-specific interactions you have to study to understand what to do. However, some solutions seem nonsensical due to a lack of context, such as getting an Allen wrench and not knowing what object needs it.
Combat feels awkward since there’s no way to change the speed of the camera when aiming, so making the camera fast enough to work during normal gameplay feels too fast in combat. Aiming feels useless since some enemies died after a few shots to the heart while others took five shotgun blasts. If enemies are in any animation other than walking, they won’t react to the hit.
The camera Roberto has is Fobia’s most unique feature. You use it to see through time, allowing you to do things like access items that were in that location in the past. Usually, there’s a signal that shows that you have to use the camera, and secondary objectives and extra items can be found with the camera in less obvious places.
The graphics for the environment look good in a stock-footage way, looking like an Ikea showroom version of a dilapidated hotel. The few people you see look passable but not great. Poor animations sometimes make enemies appear non-threatening or comical rather than intimidating.
The story starts as a complete mystery that eventually comes together but is ultimately unsatisfying. It uses common horror tropes in disjointed ways that never add up to anything new and enjoyable.
A few bugs or odd choices added some frustration to my playthrough. A slight delay of the interact icon made it easy to miss small items in the environment. Roberto wiggles after stopping, making it hard to pick up small items or select the right drawer on a dresser.
Fobia isn’t bad, but I found it rudimentary to the point of being mostly boring. While it has some fun puzzles and a few good scares, the majority of my ten-and-a-half-hour playthrough was dull. Every new story reveal failed to pay off in an interesting way, monster encounters felt basic, and wandering through the environment was disorienting. But if you’re interested in a new game trying to recapture the bizarre logic, unpredictability, and difficulty of old survival horror games, it might scratch that itch.
Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is available now for $29.99 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.
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