Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel Review

Gaming
6

Fair

Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel

Developer: Pulsatrix
Publisher: Maximum Games
Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X/S (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $29.99 USD – Available Here $59.95 AUD – Available Here

Overview

Over the last decade first person horror games have been on the rise. Some of these initial titles happened to focus only on scaring players, occasionally offering some minor puzzles here and there, while later titles not only featured ways to fight against the various monsters that are roaming an area all while trying to offer something unique. Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel looks to try and do just that as this Brazilian developed title from Pulsatrix Studios takes first person horror and tries to put its own twist on things in a heavily puzzle focused game with a few interesting mechanics that try to hide its flaws. 

Story

Players take on the role of a young journalist by the name of Roberto Lopes as he travels to the Brazilian countryside to investigate numerous rumors that have beep happening in the area. These rumors range from mysterious disappearances and supernatural sightings to the prolific activities of a long-running “cult-like” organization in the area. As such, with a tip from his friend Stephanie, players choose to stay at the St. Dinfna Hotel that is at the heart of these rumors. 

After being ghosted by his friend and spending nearly a week spinning his wheels with no leads to go on, Roberto is about to leave when suddenly a strange portal appears inside of his bathroom and he awakens to find that not only has the room around him changed and now features a wide variety of strange objects, but the entire hotel has begun to fall apart around him as fire and rubble blocks off passages, strange monstrous creatures have begun to roam the halls, and ghostly apparitions appear and disappear with no warning. With very little to go on, Roberto must try and solve the various puzzles blocking his way towards finding some hint as to what has happened as well as surviving the night by escaping this horrific hotel.

Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel starts off fairly strong by introducing not only a strange mystery about what has happened to Roberto but also throwing a number of supernatural elements at players right away. The only problem is, these story elements only have small hints dropped here and there with little pay-off  until the final third of the story that focuses on dumping as much info as possible on players is found either through text documents that players must find or through “memory” collectibles that can be viewed after beating the game and reveal more information about characters that players only end up hearing about or, in a few cases, have seen only one line of text mentioning up until that point.

It also doesn’t help that Roberto, who is the only major playable character outside of a few sequences, is an incredibly mundane main character. Perhaps due to poor translation or poor subtitling as we will mention later, Roberto comes off as a wooden character who, despite somehow facing down a horrific situation time and time again, has some of the most generic reactions and even worse actual character interactions the few times they happen throughout the roughly ten to twelve hour long story depending on how many puzzles stump players for a bit and how many optional ones they try and solve. 

Gameplay

With the hotel in ruins, monsters in the halls, and a strange ghost-like girl wearing a gas mask, players must navigate their way in an entirely first person adventure. One of the first things that players find happens to be a camera with some rather unique properties that not only serves as one of the most enjoyable and interesting mechanics in Fobia, but also the key to solving numerous puzzles in the game. This camera allows players to not only see with night-vision, useful before finding a flashlight, but also into an alternate reality at the same time where things such as hidden clues, puzzle pieces, ammo, and various passages that players can walk through are all hidden from plain sight.

Of course any good survival horror also has to deal with the player’s ability to manage resources and making sure to scour an area is essential as supplies such as healing items and ammunition can be difficult to find if you aren’t careful. Combine this with a limited amount of inventory spaces that only expand when player’s locate pouches hidden in the world or locked away in safes/chests that require specific codes and keys and sparsely offered box storage and you have all the makings for some tense exploration. Or at least you would if most of the game’s enemies or few boss fights were challenging by any means.

While no melee weapon is offered, Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel will offer players four different firearms throughout the game, with one being harder to get than others and every weapon has its own generic upgrades such as reloading faster, dealing more damage, etc. that makes use of upgrade points players can find around the hotel. These upgrades can be used to upgrade the player’s camera as well but investing in weaponry is always a useful endeavor and makes the game’s simplistic combat even easier.

As mentioned before, Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel will pit players against some enemies but unfortunately they are incredibly generic and only come in two forms outside of the boss battles. These enemies are mutated giant bugs the size of a small dog that can crawl around the environment but ultimately either end up crawling inside the level geometry or vanishing entirely before immediately jumping on Roberto to deal small amounts of damage before immediately dying. Combine this with the fact that they often come in waves of two or three in a row and these bugs are more nuisances than any actual threat. The other opponent comes in the form of tall spiky humanoid monsters with glowing red orbs in their necks that can dash forward and swipe wildly to deal large amounts of damage. These foes are the most prominent but also suffer from glitches from time to time that see them either launching through solid walls or becoming stuck in objects.

With such poor combat on offer, it is great to note that Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel has managed to nail their puzzles rather well. There are many that range from scouring past documents or finding clues hidden in the environment to find the correct combination or passcode to bypass a lock to solving more complex puzzles that can be incredibly obtuse and require some really outside the box thinking to solve. Unfortunately many of these puzzles do require players to deal with a lot of backtracking so be prepared for this, as well as the fact that many of them are actually optional in nature so it is entirely possible to find two or three pieces only to never find the actual location they have to be used.

This method of keeping players guessing with puzzles is a unique challenge and does encourage repeated playthroughs as the title does offer New Game+ once players finish the title but it does have some bugs at the moment. This includes not being able to properly carry upgrades or other unlocked content forward into NG+ which is disappointing. It is also worth noting that while multiple playthroughs are encouraged to try and find everything, there is no actual way to skip previously seen cutscenes which can be a bit annoying.

Visuals & Audio

Now an element that can actually make or break a horror game is if it can actually be scary by any means and Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel manages to do that at least throughout its first half. The hotel’s layout, creepy imagery found through the camera lens, and the many supernatural happenings that players encounter are handled quite well to keep things feeling tense and provide a great sense of dread when first exploring areas. Unfortunately some of this tension is lost once players have cleared locations and are simply running around solving puzzles but it is still presented rather nicely albeit with a rather significant lack of enemy design variety.

It must be said that Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel has done an excellent job with crafting its spooky atmospheric noises and backdrop to help set the mood. This is good as the voice work, especially the English dub, is quite awful and as we mentioned before it is actually preferable to play the game in its native Brazilian-Portuguese instead as Roberto and the few other speaking roles sound at least a little better by comparison.

Overall

Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel feels like its at its best when it is offering players unique puzzles and challenges like many classic games have in the past and its more modern take on offering first person horror does work rather well at least while initially exploring areas. Unfortunately its lack of challenge when it comes to combat and enemy variety makes any enemy encounter a lackluster one. Thankfully the story is just interesting enough to make it through to the end, even if players have to deal with an incredibly generic lead character to do so.

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

Summary

Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel offers a solid blend of challenging retro puzzles and some modern horror elements but lacks any enjoyable combat as well as a poor English dub.
6

Fair

After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.

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