REVIEW: ‘Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel’ Is a Stellar Horror Puzzler (PS5)

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Fobia - But Why Tho

Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is a first-person, survival horror game developed by Pulsatrix Studios and published by Maximum Games that offers a specific type of horror—the puzzle-heavy, low-ammo, item-management kind. And while there are certainly some points about the game that could be bettered, for the most part, Fobia is a whole lot of fun and pretty difficult.

Fobia puts you in the shoes of an amateur journalist by the name of Roberto Leite Lopes. Invited to investigate the St. Dinfna Hotel, a site where numerous people have disappeared and subject to numerous rumors of paranormal activity, Roberto shows up just to find out that his contact, Stephanie, is nowhere to be seen and stops answering his messages. On his last day at the hotel, he witnesses something supernatural, promptly passes out, and wakes up almost a year later in the same hotel but so much has changed. The decadent building has been torn apart and monsters lurk in its halls.

Players are tasked with not only surviving these monstrosities but solving puzzles and getting to the bottom of why you’re here and what’s happened. You’ll explore St. Dinfna Hotel across different timelines and uncover its dark history and how it unknowingly involves you. The story easily sucks you in; there are so many different elements from the supernatural to human and inhuman horrors to investigate. From the cryptic Stephanie and a fanatical cult to the gas-masked child that occasionally helps you, the mysteries you uncover will keep you engaged. 

The main gameplay is all about exploration—many of the best, juiciest details about the hotel will come from documents or tape recordings that you’ll really have to work for. You’ll be given a camera immediately which not only acts as a way to see in the dark with its night vision—very similar to Outlast—but also lets you see things that are hidden in a different time period. A wall may become an open doorway or a safe will suddenly appear. Ghostly hints and objects may only be apparent through the camera lens. It’s a fun mechanic for not only puzzle purposes but the aesthetic—it’s rather creepy when you walk into a room that’s being used for storage now, but you realize in the past was used for medical operations just by looking through your camera.

The camera isn’t the only tool in your pretty literal arsenal. Along with some other tools like a flashlight and bolt cutters, you’ll find plenty of guns. Once again, the game takes on very similar gameplay to the Resident Evil games with limited item space, guns that often take up more than one space, limited ammo, universal stashes to store items, and limited save stations in the form of clocks. It’s not a bad thing that Fobia looks and feels a whole lot like Resident Evil—there are even some tongue-in-cheek references to find. However, where Fobia stands out is in its location, story, and puzzles.

You’ll have to look in every nook and cranny for items that will either directly relate to the backstory or aid in advancing the main plot. This is also where a lot of the puzzles come in and where my only real big gripe with the game is. The puzzles are reminiscent of games in the same genre—finding keys and tools, repairing objects, finding ways to open new passageways, and a whole lot of backtracking. It’s a lot of fun and satisfying when you figure out how to solve these puzzles. But finding essential items is, at times, infuriating.

The game is dark, even when you put the brightness up, which makes sense because you have both a camera and, eventually, a flashlight. However, on top of that, interactable items are only distinguished by putting the cursor (which is a white dot in the middle of your screen on a console) on the object and seeing if a bubble pops up. You can change the size of this bubble in the menu, which helps. But many of the items you need are very small so they’re really easy to miss since you have to focus directly on them to see that bubble pop up. There were one too many times when I had to search areas over and over again until I found what I had missed the first time because the item was just so small. Even if it was just an accessibility option, it would be nice to see some sort of highlight around important items.

But just the feel of the entire game overcomes this gripe. The dark hallways, limited light, eerie noises, and blind corners make for a wonderful horror experience that puts you on edge from start to finish. The hotel is beautiful in both its decadence and disarray. The whole atmosphere from the graphics to the music and sound effects brings the game together for an experience that I would recommend to any horror fan.

The puzzles are challenging but satisfying, the spooks are wonderful, and the story draws you in from the very start—Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel has all the right elements, just may need a couple of gameplay tweaks for the console. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a horror game with all the puzzles you could ever need, look no further.

Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is available now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC.


Fobia
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

The puzzles are challenging but satisfying, the spooks are wonderful, and the story draws you in from the very start—Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel has all the right elements, just may need a couple of gameplay tweaks for the console. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a horror game with all the puzzles you could ever need, look no further.

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