Reveil Early Impression Review Tower
Screenshot: PC Invasion

REVEIL early impressions review: Ambiguously promising, for now

Another psychological horror about a ruined family comes around to this circus.

REVEIL is another first-person psychological indie horror game wanting to toss its hat into the ring with a neat little trailer and a short demo I got to play. If I were to compare it to another of its kind, I’d say it reminds me most of Devotion in terms of the feeling and aesthetic it’s going for. But what does REVEIL have to offer to the circus that is horror? This is my REVEIL early impressions review.

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Gameplay

Like with most first-person horror games where you walk around, the gameplay is minimal and simple. You walk around and interact with objects, you have F to press for a flashlight. The most intimate and engaging part of the gameplay was examining certain objects and minigames. You sometimes have to drag your mouse and look all around an object you’re zoomed in on, examining it to figure out how to solve a puzzle. It’s a good setup for the mechanic that left me having to think at times.

Reveil Early Impression Review Tower Puzzle
This little puzzle made full use of the angling. Screenshot: PC Invasion

Then there were minigames I had to play for puzzles, which used the controls in different ways to make for a more involved experience. The big highlight is the marble box puzzle. If you ever went into the fishing hole in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you’ll have instant nostalgia like I did. This one is more merciful in a creative way: as your marble falls into holes and has to reset, ominous and creepy black eyes start covering the holes you fall into. It’s an effective way to prevent frustration and unsettle the player. I wish I saw more of it in the demo.

Reveil Early Impression Review Marble Puzzle
See, THIS was creepy. Screenshot: PC Invasion

The actual puzzles themselves are what you’d expect from a horror game. I think they were exactly what they needed to be. None of them were particularly complex, just a matter of observing the environment in enough detail. And in a horror game, the last thing you need is halting the flow by getting stuck on a puzzle. If anything, making the player look more at your in-depth environments and objects is to your benefit. Also, the graphics are gorgeous, which helps add to this effect.

Story

REVEIL’s story is quite ambiguous to unravel. As per typical horror game fashion, a lot of notes are around to try and decipher it, but the game doesn’t outright tell you much, instead providing context clues. Which makes sense for the type of psychological horror it’s trying to be; it’s common and fits the story structure to slowly reveal what’s going on. What I can piece together goes something like this:

The main character is Walter Thompson, a guy with a wife and daughter. His wife and young daughter perform at a circus together in a mother-and-daughter act. However, his daughter seems to be suffering heavily emotionally based on her failing grades, multiple birthday party invitations she couldn’t make due to shows — telling us she’s alone — and a revealing sketchbook. It becomes clear quickly the game is not a linear series of events. Instead, it seems like we’re in some kind of nightmare or delusional psychological journey as we jump from inside houses to out in the woods through doorways and reality gets screwy with jumpy fabric. Something definitely happened with his daughter and wife, but the demo isn’t willing to tell us what, only leaving you to speculate.

Analysis and thoughts

There is a reason I immediately thought of Devotion. Devotion is a top-tier horror game story in my opinion, managing to feel very real with a story close to reality underneath its layers of psychological horror. This story, too, doesn’t feel fantastical or supernatural in any way, which makes me hopeful for it. “Family man screws over his wife and daughter” isn’t exactly original by this point, but it is a basic premise that can go in so many unique directions. We can ruin the people around us intentionally or unintentionally in different ways, and lead to a thousand different-flavored psychological horror experiences.

While I cannot say if the story is good or bad — there is too little given — I want to engage with it. I want to know if REVEIL manages to deliver another slowly unraveled gut punch with something too real behind it. If it can do that, I’ll consider it worth the time. At the very least, I love the engaging circus theme and aesthetic. For being such a staple horror aesthetic, it feels like there aren’t many circus-themed games.

Is it scary?

Reveil Early Impression Review Starting Area
The demo kind of peaked early starting you off in this room. Screenshot: PC Invasion

Related: 10 best spooky cozy games to play in the fall

No. The demo ended just as it started to get more unsettling, which is unfortunate. There were a few good creepy moments, my favorite of which was the aforementioned marble puzzle and the daughter’s sketchbook. The sketchbook was predictable but interesting enough to keep me curious. A few times, I simply stared at an object and said, “I don’t like that.” The last part of the demo, the circus funhouse, definitely doesn’t look fun, and I would hate to be there in real life. It was atmospheric, but they barely did anything with it before the demo ended. Hopefully, the full game has much more horror to offer because the demo had almost nothing. I can tell the developers know how to build up for psychological terror, but they didn’t show much of it off.

That being said, I commend REVEIL for not being afraid to have scenes in broad daylight and still managing to be a little spooky. A run-down circus in broad daylight is hard not to be a little unsettled by.

Reveil Early Impression Review Circus
There’s just something about a rundown circus. Screenshot: PC Invasion

The trailer was more interesting

It’s hard to give a tentative score because there was so little to go off in the demo. I wasn’t bored or unengaged, but ultimately, nothing really happened. It was just as the demo felt ready to press down on the gas pedal that it stopped. I’m not exaggerating when I say the trailer makes the game look more interesting than the demo.

Take this tentative rating with a grain of salt, but I’ll have to give it around a 5.8. I want to see more story, horror, and creepiness. I didn’t get enough of any of it to feel satisfied. If there’s another demo for the game, I hope it has more to show.

From what I saw, REVEIL can go in either direction. The execution could fall flat and deliver an unsatisfying, anticlimactic psychological horror that feels too familiar. Or it could absolutely nail the execution and I’ll be back to tell you all about why. At the least, the detailed environments make me think the developers know what they’re doing. For that, I’ll be optimistic about its future.

If you liked Devotion, Layers of Fear, or even PT, you’ll find familiarity with this game. It’s right up that alley of psychological horror. If those games aren’t your thing, I can’t imagine this game will win you over. But if they are your speed, look forward to welcoming another solid entry into their ranks.

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Author
Alexa BeMent
Alexa BeMent is an aspiring media creator and writer who may also secretly be a manatee masquerading as a human. A Virginia Tech graduate with Creative Writing and Cinema degrees, she has been a Freelance Writer for PC Invasion since February 2023, and enjoys writing stories and consuming video essays when she's not planning the Manatee Uprising. Having played video games since before she could read, she is a lover of all things Legend of Zelda, FFXIV, horror games, and can play competitive Pokémon, especially as a Ghost type Gym Leader. We don't discuss how big her Pokémon plush collection is.