As October approaches, so does a swarm of horror games. Enola is one of the first out of the theoretical gate and somehow manages to be quite distinct. This psychological horror/adventure takes players on a journey through tormented memories and hopes to make them pee their pants. Of course, how well Enola achieves its goals are up for debate. If nothing else, developer The Domaginarium have created an incredibly unique experience.
The story begins calmly as a woman returns home looking for her girlfriend in their sprawling mansion. Nowhere to be found, the search becomes more hurried, particularly when a note is discovered suggesting she’s left with some strange man. From then on, Enola abolishes any concept of reality as everything quickly goes to pieces — literally. After leaving a room the mansion’s roof disappears entirely revealing a horrendous swirling vortex outside. All of this happens within the first five minutes of the game. Right away you know this is going to be a whacked out ride.
From there, things somehow manage to get stranger. The tale twists in multiple directions. Some don’t make sense while others are fairly disturbing. In either case, most of the plot is dispensed through notes scattered about. It feels like the developers played Gone Home and decided to do that but with a fantasy/horror landscape instead. Some might find that a negative, but the storyline is conveyed effectively. Whether or not you find it spooky or hogwash is, of course, up to personal preference.
Unlike similar note-collecting games, Enola brings adventure and puzzle style gameplay into the fray. There’s a surprising amount of landscapes to explore. Each is creepy or completely off the wall in its own way. In fact, some players even complained they got lost. A patch has since been added to make things a bit more obvious. The attempt is mixed, as it does “fix” one area but other parts of a playthrough might still confuse. For the most part, though, puzzles are simple enough. The hardest aspect is discovering what key unlocks which door.
Enola’s visuals are not about to win any awards, but they do deserve credit for being creative. There were multiple occasions that they shocked me — and that had nothing to do with jump scares. Of course, as a modern horror game, it does have a handful of those as well. They’re effective but fall flat considering the serious tone of the story. Another thing that chips away at believability are the voice acting performances. Some aren’t bad, but others read incredibly slowly. Perhaps it’s meant to build anticipation, but it just ends up being annoying.
In some ways it feels like the game is a mishmash of ideas that were never fully fused together. What is playable is immediately compelling and weird, but some of it seems a bit too out there. Multiple themes seem to overlap and vie for attention when perhaps the storylines could have been trimmed down instead. With that said, the uniqueness is appealing if the issues can be overlooked to fully enjoy it.
Enola brings a wildly imaginative psychological horror game to players. Although its held back by technical and narrative limitations, the core game is one horror fans should look into. It might not be the next critically-hailed horror game, but The Domaginarium have crafted an enjoyable experience despite some inherent flaws. Instead of taking the easy way out and making a Slender: The Eight Pages clone, they created something completely offbeat. The twisted world of Enola is worth exploring despite itself.