Candle Reviews: Anna

Anna

The best thing that can be said about Anna, a first person, horror adventure game recently released to PCs via Steam, is that it isn't terrible. Sadly, though, neither is it good in any sense of the word. In fact, Anna is just one of those games that seems to be mediocre in everything it does. It claims to be a horror game, but doesn't even have a creepy atmosphere. The game is set in an old and abandoned sawmill somewhere in the Italian countryside, but the outside is beatific, and the inside looks just as you would expect any old, abandoned building to look. The furthest it leans toward horror is a few little jump-scares.

The puzzles can also be a sticking point as they tend to fall into the design traps that are so common to point-and-click adventures. You could end up wandering around for hours with no clue as to what to do until you hit on that one solution to a puzzle that makes you question the designer's own sanity. Luckily, this is mitigated somewhat via the inclusion of an in-game hint system that can be set to guide you every few minutes or whenever you press a button.

However, being able to open doors by holding and dragging with your mouse seems a bit of an odd mechanic since there are no actual physics-based puzzles to be seen, and not all the doors work this way. In truth, it almost makes me feel like that mechanic was added because that was how another, much more popular and much better indie horror title worked.

Now, you may be wondering about the story for Anna. To be quite blunt, there isn't one - at least, not in the sense that you normally see in a video game. There are no cutscenes, and nothing really happens as you progress through the game. Instead, it seems as if the entire game is just you walking through the aftermath of what the developers would have you believe is some great tragedy. What happened before the game is told to you via overhearing disembodied voices hold disjointed conversations with each other as you move about in the game.

I can only surmise that the main character - who is never mentioned by name, or even described beyond being a man - is either insane or has amnesia. I prefer to believe the former, but I think the developers were trying to go more for the latter, and that his experience in the sawmill slowly drives him crazy. Then again, from some of the exposition during Anna's true ending, maybe he was crazy before hand, and that amnesia brought some of his sanity back, if only for a short time.

Yes, true ending. It is worth pointing out that Anna has three different endings depending on when and how you complete the game, all available from your first play-through. What is confusing, however, is that the game doesn't tell you this, and so the average player could stumble across the second ending by accident, and think that it was the real one, never knowing that they still had yet to play through one final area.

There are two final things to say about Anna in its favor, though neither could pull this game out of the depths of mediocrity. The first is that it is blessedly short. A single uninformed play-through will last about three hours, while knowing how to solve all the puzzles will let you complete it much quicker. The second is the music of Anna. It is surprisingly well done, and the harmonies and melodies of the various string instruments, mostly wordless vocals, and soft piano fit wonderfully inside the world of this abandoned Italian sawmill - even if they don't evoke that desolate or creepy feel the developers obviously tried to go for. Luckily, the whole soundtrack is included with the game, provided you are willing to hunt through the Steam folders to find it.

All in all, Anna is a flawed game that feels like it's trying too hard to be something it isn't. It misses the mark on setting the proper tone for the story Anna is trying to tell, and ends up coming off as mediocre and pretentious. I almost feel like it is trying too hard to be Amnesia: the Dark Descent.

Game: Anna
Developer/Publisher: Dreampainters/Kalypso Media
Platform: PC
Genre: Horror/Point-and-Click Adventure
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Reviewer: Michael "candle" Mazzaferri
Score: 2/5

It's kind of sad to see such wasted potential, especially for a type of game (indie horror) which is doing really well due to more mainstream exposure.

Sadly, the way I found out about how bad the game is was by watching the PewDiePie LP of it. At first I thought it was just going slow because PewDie kind of sucks at puzzles, but when he finally did solve them, I just sort of stared at the screen trying to figure out who would logically do the things expected of the player.

Also, it had 2 scary moments for me (the black figures and the initial mask scare), and that's about it. Overall, a bit boring to sit through.

 

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