“I hoped I had forgotten you forever…”

anna

The human psyche can be a delicate creature; a creature that should be kept safe from the world’s horrors and told that monsters simply do not live in dark places nor come out into the light. But there always comes a time when the pieces seem to fit together just right and we go against all common sense and knowledge to follow a faint, yet sorrowful, curiosity. A lost love, a forgotten memory; will these lead you to the answers you seek…or to regret?

The psychological horror adventure game Anna, by Italian game developer Dreampainters, takes you to the remote location of an old sawmill. Lead by photographs you have no memory of taking and distant thoughts of a woman held dear; you must make your way through the abandoned building to recover the lost fragments of memories.

As many adventure titles go, Anna maintains the core concept of collecting any and all applicable items for use in furthering your journey and uncovering dark secrets. However, while this may be a staple to the genre, Anna‘s use of these items leaves much to be desired. A journal, a lighter and a few other random items adorn your person from the beginning…yet their use and significance is left rather unexplained and some even untested. The plethora of other items you encounter and pick up all have a purpose either of their own accord or when combined together…but that, in itself, often leads to another bout of frustration as you traverse the decrepit mill house.

Sadly, one of the most cumbersome aspects of this game lies within its controls. While certain options can be toggled to your fancy, the majority of this title relies on basic movement (which is at an alarmingly slow pace, making backtracking and exploration a time consuming ordeal) as well as mouse clicking and grabbing. Doors provide an exceptional focus in that you do not merely click on them to open and shut, but must push and pull them at just the right angle in order for them to open enough to glance inside or move through. Additionally, when combining items together, many of the combinations must be done in an exact order at the right time; or you are merely given the inner thoughts of yourself calling you quite crazy for even thinking the two would ever work out.

On a positive note, Anna did accomplish a dark and haunting atmosphere that leaves you questioning just what really occurred within those decaying walls; and oftentimes make you regret staying put for any longer than you have to. Without notice, unannounced specters, sudden shadows, inanimate objects hurled around the room, and alarming screams and crying pierce the darkness and leave your mental state a tad worse off than it already was. Even without the supernatural occurrences, the dim candlelit rooms and disturbing images that occur due to your involvement add to the overall suspense and you scour every inch of the mill house for items, clues and puzzles.

Additionally, the music and sound effects do add a considerable depth to the title. From soft ambiance to climactic swells to the muffled words and arguments of those who resided in a time long gone; the dark mood and atmosphere of the game remain in tact, if not enhanced, by not only what is seen, but also heard.

Anna is a game based off quite an intriguing premise and even despite its numerous flaws, does incur some shining moments. One such moment for me, without giving away too much, involves a somewhat disturbing ritual mask and a black mourning dress and veil. The feeling of being thoroughly and demonically watched has never been so strong and it is a feeling and image that has stayed with me long after playing it.

In the end, the game wants to accomplish its goal of fear, suspense and intuitiveness – but just misses. Three distinct endings give players a chance to see as much of the story as they wish to reveal and may even offer multiple play-throughs should they so wish. Only taking about three hours to complete the first time (and getting the final and longest ending), Anna is certainly worth playing at least once…for the right price that is; though I would truly only recommend it to those who are avid fans of the adventure or psychological horror genre. Otherwise, you may be better off letting this one slip back into the dark and haunted crevice from whence it emerged and carrying on with your life as if nothing ever happened.

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