Review

Doorways Review

  • Game release: August 15, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

These terrors are tired

"I couldn't believe he saw himself that way, but this place was governed by his rules, so I had to accept and try to survive at all costs."

The narrator of Doorways imparts this potentially heady information near the end of its second chapter--and the latest chapter of this episodic wannabe creepfest to be released. Most of the information you learn about your circumstances comes via pages you discover which your own character reads aloud, telling you his tale in an unwavering baritone. He tells you of murderers and dangers, evil contraptions and vengeful victims. He talks of tainted souls, poisoning curses, and grave suffering. Doorways wants so desperately to get into your head.

Sadly, Doorways is all talk.

If only the game could live up to the description in the note.

The gameplay itself is shallow, which is no crime in a horror game in and of itself. You move through dark forest corridors and dark castle corridors in a first-person perspective, avoiding a few traps and collecting various objects so that you might in turn pull levers and activate switches. Slender: The Arrival and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs are two recent examples of games that use such simplicity to their advantage. Horror isn't just about what you see on the screen or how you interact with the world, but also about the workings of your mind. The dark is frightening because you believe there's something lurking in it worth fearing.

Doorways is dark, at least, but forgot to fill the murk with anything to be afraid of. Its failure to evoke dread is best represented by an early trek you make across a series of boards, making precise leaps to avoid falling in the abyss beneath. A figure of a girl appears in front of you, stiff-straight, impeding your progress. Should you make contact with her, a high-pitched sound effect pierces the air, you see the gruesome girl's face up close, and you die--which means restarting at a checkpoint just seconds before that moment. A couple of such figures appear during this platforming segment, but they don't pursue you. They are simply screaming walls to avoid.

Doorways? More like Hallways.

And so it goes with Doorways chapters 1 and 2, which assume that "being dark" is the same as "being atmospheric." If the screaming girls represented actual danger, or if Doorways had ramped up the tension before this sequence, your encounter with them might at the very least provide a good jump scare. But nothing you see or hear communicates the foreboding needed for a jump scare to work. The soundtrack's soft droning and occasional cymbal swipes are par for the course, but ambient noise is lacking. There are no quiet pitter-patters or vague moans to intimate any kind of malevolent presence or any lingering souls.

The art design is also too meager to communicate the cruelty you're meant to see on display. A few instruments of torture spread across otherwise brown and empty rooms does not a torture chamber make. The spaces you explore are more allegorical than physical, but even so, without detailed visual evidence of past terrors, Doorways is more like exploring a well-secured museum with the lights off than delving into the inner workings of psychopaths. The game makes a few mildly successful attempts with its visuals to evoke unease, with some brief flashbacks and sculptures in various disturbing poses standing out among them. But by and large, nothing you see or hear gets your pulse pounding, and the odd visual refreshes that occur when you walk into certain rooms distract from any potential buildup of tension.

That machine is either used for torture or ab crunches. You decide which.

This leaves the notes and voice-over to do all the work at getting you invested, but because the game's tone doesn't mirror the messages, the script comes off as a desperate attempt to convince you of Doorways' scariness. "How did they overcome the mortal chill that lurks in the darkness?" one note asks. "Their souls went astray and got lost forever in the shadows." The same note later adds, "They fled the place I'm entering." But the disparity between the richness of the writing and the hollowness of the adventure leaves you with a desire to explore the places the narrator is describing rather than the bland ones you're left with. The plot itself, a by-the-numbers look at bad people doing bad things, is left dangling without any interesting characterizations or background to embellish it.

The end of the second chapter introduces a few actual, sentient enemies, but it takes little more effort to avoid them than it does to sneak around those stationary girls that stand there, hoping you'll walk into them. Without gameplay to challenge you, horrific atmosphere to envelop you, or narrative worth uncovering, Doorways is dead in the water. Don't think of it as a horror game. Think of it as the simplest of first-person puzzle platformers in which someone forgot to turn on the lights.

The Good
Evocative, flowery writing
The Bad
Fails to instill a sense of danger
Bare art and sound design never communicate terror
Boring exploration and puzzle solving
4
Poor
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

In the 90 minutes it took to complete the first two chapters of Doorways, Kevin VanOrd pined for all the great scary games that he could have been playing instead.

Discussion

20 comments
nait2k4
nait2k4

"And then he booted up the game, and after two hours he realised... IT WAS A WASTE OF HIS $9!"

*everyone around the campfire screams*

See, this game CAN be pretty scary.

No_SuRReNDeR
No_SuRReNDeR

I want my 9 dollars BACK..... you hear me STEAM????

-This looked cool.... IT WAS DOG CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BLaverock
BLaverock

I know how to make it sell... WHOREWAYS!

chibistevo
chibistevo

"Sadly, Doorways is all talk. "

 "The gameplay itself is shallow "

"This leaves the notes and voice-over to do all the work at getting you invested"

"Without gameplay to challenge you"

Pretty much everything said here could apply to Gone Home, yet, that is apparently a masterpiece. Go figure.


wizardboyus
wizardboyus

i have a bad feeling that there's about to be a whole lot of amnesia clones..

yeah_28
yeah_28

Oh well, i was hoping this game from my fellow countrymen would do good, but i guess it lacks quite a bit to get there.

oOhedzOo
oOhedzOo

I played this game or at least the beta. Surely it's weak with it's horror elements and the puzzles are a bit awkward, but there is a story and there is an adventure. I liked how the story tells itself. You don't have to read as the narrator reads every message for you. The price is 9$ on steam. If you want adventure you'll get it. If you look for horror.. well.

skipper847
skipper847

The Bad

  • Fails to instill

Thought it said The Bad

  • Fails to install

SunicoXD
SunicoXD

Only 0.5 point worse than RE 6? Is this game THAT good? 

Hurvl
Hurvl

More like Boreways, according to this review, heh.

JDFS
JDFS

@Thesuperstar2k LOL I've seen retarded in my life but you are more than that, I'm not even going to tell you why because you probably wouldn't get it anyway.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

@chibistevo Except that the whole concept of gone home is completely different with the focus exploration and investigation where as this is a dull corridor of easy platforming, poor quality puzzles and even poorer quality scares. Games are viewed as a whole not on the basis of comparing similar mechanics.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@SunicoXD I don't think you can compare them, even though they were reviewed by the same person. The score doesn't say anything about how good the different parts of the game are together or separately. Doorways just happens to have a lower score than another game.

Doorways (2013) More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • Unix/Linux
    Doorways is a survival horror game in which nothing is what it seems. With diverse enigmas, changing gameplay and the scariest environments, you will have to overcome your fears if you want to get to the end and discover the truth.
    5.1
    Average User RatingOut of 34 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Doorways (2013)
    Developed by:
    Saibot Studios
    Published by:
    Saibot Studios
    Genres:
    Survival, Adventure