Serena is a point-and-click/exploration horror title that I ran across on Steam a while ago. I was intrigued by the description that stated the game is “a massive collaborative effort between dozens of fans and designers of adventure games”*. This certainly got my attention – I love the genre and the price (free!) sealed the deal. For added awesome points, the game will work on Windows, OS X and Linux. Without spoiling the story, the game is set in a wooden cabin in a remote location. You play an unnamed man who is waiting in the cabin for the return of his wife – the titular Serena – and as he awaits her, he comes to realize that not all is as it seems…
Oh my, this game is absolutely soaked in atmosphere. Everything had a worn, abandoned feel and the choice of a muted colour palette ties it all together beautifully. From the creaky floor to the dingy windows it all fits and really evokes a feeling of comforts passed. I’m still not sure what decade the game is set in because the cabin is so well designed that the game seems to take place in its own little bubble of reality – re-enforced by the description of it as a retreat. At first, the narrator seems genial and happy, but as time wears on his attitudes start to change. As his unreliability grows, the beautiful music swells and builds to create a very immersive experience. I have heard some comments about the protagonist’s voice acting being a little iffy, but I didn’t find it to be an issue and found that it added to the building levels of insanity. Just my personal taste, I think. Whilst playing, I felt atmospheric touches of Dear Esther and Trauma – maybe even a little Silent Hill 2 – but Serena still feels fresh and interesting.
If you aren’t a fan of exploration games with no real indication of what needs to be done you may want to pass this one by. The gameplay revolves around exploring the cabin and looking at various objects to try and jog the memory of the protagonist. You will look at most things several times as what he has to say about some of them changes as the story progresses. The controls are fairly standard for a point-and-click – you move the cursor around the screen and the cursor will change if you can interact with an object in some way. Movement is also controlled by the mouse with the cursor changing to a pointing hand if you can move to another part of the cabin. I enjoyed it a lot and coming from a background of games like The 7th Guest I was right a home with the controls, although I did find some of the detection boxes to be a little small. Another feature that I didn’t use due to not knowing until after I had finished the game is that pressing the Space Bar will highlight areas that can be clicked on with a blue dot. Oh, and the Escape key will quit the game instantly so watch out for that as there is no save function!
Well, this concludes a short look at Serena. There’s not much more to say as the game is only around an hour in length and I don’t really want to get into the story too much lest I spoil it! The game is free, so I think it’s definitely worth taking a look if you are at all interested in the genre and have a little time to spare. Loaded with atmosphere, an interesting plot twist and surprisingly immersive I definitely rate it highly, although a screen at the beginning showing the controls would have been helpful.
Thanks for reading!
*Quote taken from Steam Store page for Serena – here
If you become frustrated with the game this guide by Steam user llewllynator is well written and doesn’t have spoilers!