It’s finally happening. Halloween decorations and candy have started creeping into stores. Even though it feels like Summer only started yesterday. Something met by some people with disdain and overall displeasure. Not me though. I love the idea of the nights drawing in close, and all the spooky seasonal delights that come with those longer, chillier evenings. In short, I think Halloween is great! And the Tenebris Somnia demo that I played over the weekend has made me so dang excited for the spookiest time of the year.
Let me be clear though. To the best of my knowledge, this retro 8-bit survival horror game is not releasing in time for Halloween 2023. Judging by the cryptic “Coming Soon” status on the Steam page, it may not be coming out anything this year. But the demo I played was such a strong introduction to the game that I had to write this article. Alongside the very well-done graphics inspired by the NES/Famicom, the Tenebris Somnia demo has a self-described secret ingredient.
When certain points of the demo are reached, live-action sequences kick in. All of which were made with real actors and shot by a professional film crew. And boy, they are spine-chilling. The first features a grotesque lady in red shambling toward the protagonist. Everything about this sequence is masterful. From the reveal of the ghoul to the design of her deformed, mirrored face.
Effectively stark contrast
And rather than ruin the experience, this stark contrast between the less detailed graphics and the live-action sections helps boost the creep factor. I think because the transition is so sudden and unexpected. My eyes were used to the chunky pixel art and then they were suddenly bombarded with what felt like overly heightened reality. It kinda reminds me of that feeling you get after watching a bunch of credits rolling up the screen, only to look away and see the real world start doing the same. It was jarring and unsettling in the best kind of ways.
Not to say the demo is technically perfect. Written dialogue is worded a bit awkwardly at times. Some of the phrases don’t read quite how I would personally say them as a native English speaker, but the overall quality is good. Much of the text also seemed to run off the edge of the screen, although I was playing on my Steam Deck. And the demo is not Deck-verified. Go figure. Overall, the Tenebris Somnia demo was a fun spooky time.
A celebration of fear
It has a spark of creative genius to it, and it reminds me why I love both indie games and the horror genre in general. Just some wonderfully talented people, battling with usually criminally small budgets to create something incredible. If you are a horror fan and haven’t tried it yet, I absolutely recommend you try the demo. And if you want to explore more horror games, Tenbris Somnia is just one of many featured in Feardemic’s Fear Fest 2023 event.