Visage is a pure nightmare. It’s not often I get to say things like that about a game. There have been games that do give me the occasional effective jump-scare here and there but this wasn’t like that. Visage manages to eat at you, and I don’t mean periodic nibbles, this game eats you for breakfast lunch and dinner and it doesn’t stop there.
Visage begins with a character that you are seemingly playing as. At least, initially, you are looking through his eyes – but unable to control him. The character sits in a dark room, slowly loading a .44 magnum. You begin to notice that just out of sight a woman and two children are tied to chairs and sobbing. Your character stands up, walks over to the woman, blows her brains out, then kills the little boy and girl before turning the gun on himself. The deafening bang leaves your ears ringing and the title card rolls out. “Visage.” This game isn’t going to fuck around. It makes it clear right from its first sixty-seconds.
You awake as a seemingly different character. You have no idea, who you are or what you are doing. The phone rings and a concern neighbor reveals to you that she is worried about you, since she hasn’t seen anyone come or go from the house in three weeks. Visage is about exploration of the house. It forces you to go down the dark hallways, it forces you to enter a pitch black room where all you can hear is an old woman wheezing in the corner. It makes you do everything that you do not want to do.
Perhaps the most terrifying thing is that this game isn’t on one path. Actions and events occur randomly. Doors slowly creak open, lights extinguish themselves, and horrors unfold but seldom in the same spot or predictably. Visage doesn’t allow you to relax… ever. It is constantly moving and seems to apply more pressure if it does notice you attempting to catch a breather.
There are plenty of psychological survival horror elements at work and they are unforgiving as hell. For example, running out of Zippo fuel and anti anxiety pills can put you in a really tough spot, where you begin to lose your sanity and are totally unable to see your hand in front of your face in the dark. That doesn’t stop the damn game from sending everything it has up its horrific sleeve to come visit you in that darkness.
Hilariously, many times you will find yourself terrified to go into the dark, clutching a bottle of anti anxiety meds in your left hand and a Zippo lighter that is half out of fuel in your right. That’s because the meds assist you from pushing your “sanity meter too far” and the lighter does a so-so job of keeping the dark temporarily at bay… But not really. The lighter isn’t much help at all if I’m honest, but Visage is such a mean-spirited game that it makes you have to be thankful for the damn thing.
At a point in the game you will find a camera that you will use for its flash. This means that you will be using its ability to light dark hallways for a split second as a means of finding your way around. This will put you in situations where you can only get quick glimpses of entities making their way to you.
The inventory system could use an overhaul. You are constantly shifting and attempting to clunkily make room for, anti anxiety meds, lighters and your trusty camera flash. I say it could use an overhaul but that clunkiness adds to the tension of shuffling items in the dark. Sometimes, something is approaching you and all you want to do is find your lighter to illuminate whatever the heck it is, but the combo of fear and the clunky inventory has you pulling out the wrong items. It’s akin to a scene in horror movies where the protagonist is trying to find a key to open a door under duress but fails miserably due to being a nervous wreck. So, it’s entirely possible the sick puppies at SadSquare Studios did this on purpose.
Visage is constantly pushing you. It is constantly, waiting in the dark for you. It is Hereditary meets House on Haunted Hill but doesn’t allow you to be a spectator. It pushes you into situations you don’t want to be in. It immerses you. I can in full faith tell you this is the scariest game I have ever played, so much so that I was barely even able to play it. Sadsquare Studios creates a game that is pregnant with atmospheric tension. The closest thing I can compare it to is PT. But, it is a better version of that.
Visage is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.