DON’T SCREAM is an indie horror where you can’t scream or you’ll instantly lose. The game is currently in early access, and we’re here are the DON’T SCREAM early impressions.
DON’T SCREAM- it’s all in the name
DON’T SCREAM is a horror game with a simple premise: calibrate your microphone and then try to survive for 18 minutes without screaming. You wander through a forest with no objective beyond this, but time only moves forward when you move.
It’s an interesting – and potentially terrifying – premise for a game. But does it work?
Gameplay and Game Design
The gameplay is about as minimal as expected for these types of horror games. You walk and sprint around the map, and you can sometimes interact with objects using left click. Otherwise, you’re exploring the map for 18 minutes and trying not to peak your microphone in the process. The game instantly ends if you do.
DON’T SCREAM early impressions: Graphical and sound design
In terms of execution, I think DON’T SCREAM is on the right track. There’s a concept here that comes out best in the sound design, graphics, and environment. The game makes the right move by styling the graphics as a recording on a video camera, making DON’T SCREAM the ultimate Found Footage gaming experience. The pixel feedback leads to discomfort and makes it organic when the scares intentionally glitch out the screen. But the graphics are also realistic enough to sell the video camera look, and this quality makes wandering through a forest at night very uneasy.
DON’T SCREAM throws out a lot of noises, both small and big, that don’t directly lead to a jumpscare. A distant siren, screaming, footsteps that aren’t yours, sounds of that nature. These work great to put you on edge in anticipation of something occurring. At the same time, the game uses the same scream audio file for multiple pop-up jumpscares, which gets distracting quickly.
The forest map you’re put into is massive, with a few creepy areas to wander into like an abandoned mini-mart and a house that stops the timer when you’re inside – a great touch. However, most of the time you’ll be wandering aimlessly through the forest. And while it feels realistic, interesting explorable areas are a little tough to come by. It’s noted in the developer’s improvement plan for the game, but more creepy areas are an absolute must to balance the ratio of forest.
Because there is no objective and nothing can hurt you, you can easily cheese the game by staring at a wall and moving back and forth. It’s a boring way to play, but the sound design still unnerves me even then, which is more props to the sound design.
The game is still quite buggy. I got stuck with an unmoving timer in the day and then outright unable to move on repeatedly starting the game back up.
DON’T SCREAM early impressions: Is it scary?
Some will probably say no. The game runs on a lot of cheap jumpscares that won’t faze genre veterans. For me, however, it was scarier than The Mortuary’s Assistant, and that’s my current baseline. There was one specific jumpscare involving the plane location that got me so badly that I was on edge for the rest of my time with the game, even while exploring under daylight while nothing scary was happening. That’s potential right there.
The jumpscares are fairly basic and repetitive beyond that, though a jumpscare involving a spider sticks out as particularly effective. Mostly, DON’T SCREAM is at its best when it’s creating a tense atmosphere. The developers have noted that they wish to add more dynamic scares, and I think if they focus on that and, coupled with more explorable environments, that’ll elevate the entire experience. But for now, most of DON’T SCREAM’s frights stem from its abundantly creepy mood with little to heighten the tension.
There isn’t a clear story to the game, but I’m interested in the little that exists. The game takes place on October 31, 1993, and for some reason whoever is recording is in a forest with a crashed plane. I suspect the forest is not literal, and instead, everything in the game is some sort of mindscape. Nothing logically fits together enough to be real. There’s a lot of potential for environmental storytelling by examining the areas and through the scares. I do hope the scares that pop up are in some way tied to a story and not just purely random.
DON’T SCREAM early impressions- a rough premise with potential
In its current early access state, I’d give my early impression of DON’T SCREAM a 5.8/10. It’s a solid effort so far, with good building blocks on which to refine the experience. There’s a solid understanding of the horror genre at play here that I’d like to see built upon and fleshed out to elevate the solid foundation into something truly memorable. But the game is only at the beginning of its journey. In a year or two it could be one of the best horror titles around – or it could be more of the same. We’ll just have to see how it develops.
If you think the premise sounds fun for half an hour to play with friends or challenge yourself, give it a try and see how the game develops. Otherwise, come back to it later and see if it still intrigues your fancy.