Conarium review for Xbox One, PS4, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Developer: Zoetrope Interactive
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I do quite a bit of gaming late at night, after my wife has gone to sleep, which usually means playing with the lights low and the sound turned way down. As you can imagine, this sometimes gives me a skewed view of certain games, particularly those that rely heavily on musical cues or voice acting.

I mention this when writing about Conarium because it?s important in two key ways.

First, as a horror game/walking simulator, Conarium relies very heavily on atmosphere. The game is set in a seemingly abandoned arctic facility, and you spend the vast majority of it walking around dimly-lit hallways and rooms with only your flashlight to illuminate your surroundings. While there are certainly moments where the game tries to frighten you, more often than not Conarium relies on the idea of monsters lurking in the shadows rather than on actually showing you those monsters.

And let me tell you: there?s no better way to experience that than in near-total silence. Because you never know when the uneasy quiet of the arctic base is going to be disrupted by some unexpected movement, it adds to the experience to play the game in silence.

This leads into the second reason why I?m mentioning the environment in which I?m playing Conarium: because when the sound is turned up and you can hear the not-so-great voice acting, it goes from being kind of spooky to feeling kind of silly. Whatever sense of dread you might feel about monsters lurking in the shadows completely vanishes when you hear the game?s main character muttering to himself in a voice that doesn?t fit the overall tone of the game at all.

That said, that?s an issue that?s fixed just by muting your volume. Do that, and suddenly the game becomes significantly better. Of course, you?ll still have to deal with an over-reliance on controller rumbling, but that?s a minor issue compared to Conarium?s lousy audio.

So, mute it and what are you left with? To some extent, an experience that has some similarities to last fall?s Call of Cthhulu — which makes sense, seeing as both games claim to be heavily inspired the works of Lovecraft. Mind you, where Call of Cthulu detracted from its own experience by trying to weld survival horror on top of a detective adventure, Conarium works by focusing more on exploration. Both are still adventure/walking sims, but Conarium pulls it off better by not trying to shoehorn in something that just doesn?t fit.

Or, more accurately, it pulls it off by simply being a better game. Sure, you need to mute it to really get into it, but once you do that, you should find that Conarium offers an enjoyably creepy experience.

Iceberg Interactive provided us with a Conarium Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B