Phobia: St. Dinfna Hotel is easily one of the most frustrating games I’ve played in a long time, though not for lack of quality or excessive difficulty. Instead, the game left me wishing its developer Pulsatrix Studies it had adopted more original ideas instead of leaning so much on concepts and norms of other franchises.
a promising start
To be clear, this is not to say that Pulsatrix has produced a bad game. On the contrary: Phobia: St. Dinfna Hotel it’s an impressive debut from the studio, and it holds up remarkably well considering that few people built every element that went into the title. Most of this is due to the fact that the studio focused on simplicity across the board, ensuring that the game’s core elements and themes shine through.
The main story beats are a perfect example. After receiving a tip from a woman named Stephanie, aspiring journalist Roberto Lopes travels to the Hotel St. Dinfna to find out what happened to various missing people over the years. However, shortly after his arrival, he is dragged into a dilapidated version of the getaway, filled to the brim with monsters and paranormal phenomena.
Left with no other choice, Roberto is forced to fight his way through the ruins of the hotel, gathering clues that will lead him to the truth of how he ended up there and why he was dragged into this hell in the first place.
It’s pretty standard for a horror setting, but it works well enough to get the game moving and set the player up in the environment they’ll be stuck in for the next twelve hours. This remains true as the story progresses and more of the larger plot is revealed, and almost everything falls into place until the final third of the game.
atmosphere is everything
The same can be said of Phobia: St. Dinfna HotelThe art and sound design of .
While the dilapidated corridors of the St. Dinfna hotel are nothing horror fans haven’t seen in past survival horror series, it’s undeniable that the game has created a great setting that draws players in with ease. Every wrecked room or hidden library seems to have a story to tell, and the cause of its degradation could be waiting around any corner.
This remains true in most places the player goes. Although there are a few jump scares to be found throughout, most of the game’s terror comes from the solo journey through the hotel, discovering what happened before Roberto got there. The splash of monster shrieks erupting from the flesh a few rooms away; bloody streaks leading to abandoned body bags; and a brief power outage that leaves the player in complete darkness serve to sell the game’s scariest elements in a subtle and nuanced way.
About the only thing that took me out of the experience was the voice acting. Although it is clearly a tribute to horror series like demonic resident Y Silent Hillcheesy one-liner installments frequently sucked up the drama and tension of serious or somber moments.
unraveling the truth
as for Phobia: St. Dinfna HotelThe gameplay is very well done and it’s easy to get sucked in. Once again drawing clear inspirations from series like demonic resident Y Silent Hillit is divided into three ways between exploration, puzzle solving, and combat.
The first two are the high points of the game by far. With each new part of the hotel that I discovered, the game always brought me back to the experience, no matter how long I had been playing.
He wanted to see where he could use a newly constructed puzzle key and how it would further open up the hotel. Uncovering hidden passageways with a dimension-splitting camera had me dying to go back and re-explore every inch of past areas, and each new number puzzle thrilled me to rack my brain for past clues I’d noticed in passing.
These items never feel unfair either. Although some backtracking is required for certain puzzles and some solutions can be very difficult to discover, it is more than possible to speed around the hotel and find logical answers to each puzzle.
as for Phobia: St. Dinfna HotelCombat is probably the weakest aspect of the game. While it works pretty well technically, there were only a couple of combat encounters that felt well designed. The rest was silly and boring in comparison, with repetitive enemy design and stiff gunplay that made each one feel indistinguishable from the others.
falling apart in the end
If this were the biggest flaw found in Phobia: Hotel St Dinfnal, it would still have been a very good game. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the experience falls apart entering the last third of its runtime.
Without going into spoilers, the story loses most of what made it interesting and turns into a lackluster rip-off of demonic resident Y Silent Hill. Elements that at first seemed interesting and unique are crammed into a larger plot that feels rushed, poorly thought out, and like a cheap knock-off.
Likewise, the puzzles become less complex and are almost entirely about getting an item to another location. Exploration is more focused on bypassing large, bland areas, and there’s no longer any reason to poke around in every nook and cranny. To top it off, a greater focus is placed on combat, seemingly to fit more into what Pulsatrix is trying to mimic from inspirations of him.
It was incredibly depressing and left me wishing the studio had more faith in their own ideas. If they had, I have no doubt they could have created something that ended up being more than just a cheap imitation of other horror mainstays.
Phobia: St. Dinfna Hotel Review | final thoughts
Phobia: St. Dinfna Hotel It’s not a terrible game. While it has its flaws, horror fans will really like it and will probably love it most of the time they spend with it. I just hope that Pulsatrix can find the confidence he needs to fully embrace his own ideas and spend less time mimicking series of forms that only drag his own work.
Tech Raptor reviewed Phobia: St. Dinfna Hotel on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC.