Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel
Developer: Pulstarix Studios
Publisher: Maximum Games
Genre(s): Horror, Action, First-Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox Series X|S (Also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 28/06/22
A code was provided for review purposes
Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel is a game that has been on my indie-horror radar for quite a while. The location within a vast hotel that seemingly shifts through various realities, not only screamed out the desperate isolation of ‘The Shining’ but also adds quite a hook to its narrative.
With survival horror titles being two-a-penny, there’s plenty of choices out there, with ‘Resident Evil‘ enjoying its renaissance, and rumours of a new ‘Silent Hill‘ refusing to go away. Does Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel have enough of a spark to shine within the collective darkness?
Check-In Time at St. Dinfna
As debuts go, Pulstarix Studios have gotten off to a great start with Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel. Not only does it display a few original ideas, but there’s also a great blend of puzzles, action, exploration, and difficulty that’s held together by a very intriguing location and theme.
After receiving a tip-off from a mysterious woman called Stephanie, up-and-coming journalist Roberto Lopes travels to the St. Dinfna Hotel to uncover the mystery around the region’s many missing people. Shortly after checking into the hotel, Lopes is seemingly dragged into another dimension via a portal within his hotel room’s bath. Upon waking up in a dilapidated version of the hotel, Roberto has to traverse its haunting hallways, whilst solving all manner of puzzles, and fighting plenty of monsters too!
While the overall story is pretty simple, it works well in keeping you interested to see its conclusion. Without going too much into spoilers, I wouldn’t exactly say that any of the stories beats have not been experienced before. Fans of both ‘Resident Evil‘ and ‘Silent Hill‘ will recognise plenty of similarities here as the developer seems to have borrowed the best bits of both franchises to incorporate into their world.
When it comes to building the world of Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel, Pulstarix Studios have done an amazing job. Each room and corridor has its own story to tell, and there’s a vast amount of lore hidden within the hotel’s dilapidated walls. Even when the monster aspect arrives, St. Dinfna Hotel still keeps its secrets close to its beating heart.
The real terror comes from how isolated you feel. Hallways give off an increasing sense of claustrophobia as they’re jam-packed with debris, broken walls, power outages, and the occasional splodge of some poor soul’s innards – oh and let’s not overlook the garish wallpaper. While there aren’t any jump scares per se, the distant sounds of the fleshy-squelching nightmares, or even the silent ambience, do leave you with a constant feeling of dread. While Roberto does eventually get his hands on a gun, the foreboding climate ratchets up its tension a few notches more.
Solve This Elaborate Puzzle for a Chess Piece?!
When it comes to gameplay, Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel splits itself across exploration, puzzles, and combat. Much like the narrative – there’s a lot here that’s reminiscent of other horror games. Throughout the journey, you’ll be collecting various nondescript items to potentially solve a random puzzle further down the line. Or gathering various key cards to unlock a door that leads to another room, with a key inside that opens a door you ran past 20 minutes previously.
One major weapon in Roberto’s inventory is his camera. Whilst outwardly normal looking, viewing the world through the camera does allow you to peer into other dimensions. This will then open up new areas for you to explore as walls suddenly become doors, or a key code is hastily scrawled on the walls. It’s a great mechanic that had me scanning each room I went into for hidden clues or items.
While exploration and puzzle-solving are great, the game is let down by its somewhat lacklustre combat. While the shooting mechanic is perfectly workable, it doesn’t have any weight behind it. Enemies will often shamble towards you with no care or attention, and for a hotel – there are a lot of bullets. I can see why the developers have included some gunplay, but in my opinion, the game wouldn’t have been lacking if Roberto didn’t shoot anything.
Field Of (No)View
In terms of performance, the game plays pretty well. On the Xbox Series X, I didn’t notice any form of screen tearing or any noticeable drops in frame rate. Controlling Roberto is pretty fluid, and his actions are well mapped onto the Xbox’s controller. The only real issue I had was with the game’s FOV. Regardless of how much I moved the slider, it didn’t make much difference to the field of view. This results in everything being a little too close and the environment losing all of its depth. While I’ve now settled on having the game’s FOV at its max settings, it still doesn’t feel right.
Check Out Time!
While it has its flaws, Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel is still a positive experience. There’s a lot here to like, and any fan of horror video games will certainly get a kick out of what Pulstarix Studios have crafted. While the game does take a lot of inspiration from other horror titles, there’s a solid foundation for something to be built upon in the future.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel is available now and can be purchased via the Microsoft Store by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.