Tenebris Pictura review for PlayStation, Xbox, PC

Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: Pentadimensional Games
Developer: Pentadimensional Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I have to give credit to Pentadimensional Games: they’ve been around eight years, and only released two games during that time – 2017’s Megaton Rainfall, and now Tenebris Pictura – but they’ve managed to establish a pretty clear niche for themselves despite that limited output.

Unfortunately, that niche could be best described as: ambitious games that don’t quite achieve what they set out to do. And while that was fine for Megaton Rainfall, the end result isn’t quite as good when it comes to Tenebris Pictura. After all, Megaton Rainfall was essentially a Superman game that got dragged down by forcing you to forgo fighting aliens in favour of saving civilians. Tenebris Pictura, by contrast, is part-puzzle game, part-beat-’em-up, and the two halves never come together in a way that’s remotely fun.

To be fair, the puzzle part isn’t that bad. You’re playing as a psychic traveling on an astral journey (or something like that – basically, you’re asleep in a painting), and most of your travels are spent flitting in and out of portraits, using your environment to allow you to get from one place to another. There’s pink goo blocking your path everywhere, but you can send your spirit to hard-to-reach places to help you get across the goo. You can push magic lights, carry paintings, and do other tasks to help you solve the puzzles. While none of them really captured my interest, I wouldn’t say they were awful.

I would say the combat was awful, though. See, you can’t fight the demons and aliens that inhabit the astral plane, but your spirit can – except you can get injured during the fight, so you need to find a place to hide your body before every fight. On top of that, you don’t just need to whittle your enemies’ health bars down to zero, you also need to push them back to certain paintings that will hold them. Consequently, I found it wasn’t uncommon for fights to drag on and on while I’d be trying to manoeuvre multiple creatures back towards one area. To be blunt: fights were painful, and I hated them.

It’s a shame, too, because Tenebris Pictura’s world is absolutely gorgeous. It’s designed to look like you’re running through a series of Victorian paintings, and to the game’s credit, plenty of the scenes look like they could’ve been ripped from an art book.

But none of that matters when a core part of the gameplay is as resolutely un-fun as it is here. There’s some good ideas in Tenebris Pictura, but, much like Pentadimensional’s other game, they’re buried by bigger ideas that are much, much worse.

Pentadimensional Games provided us with a Tenebris Pictura PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C-