STAFF REVIEW of Emily Wants To Play (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Emily Wants To Play Box art Unlike most young kids, I was allowed to watch horror and thriller movies from a very young age, and because of this, I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Scary movies are easily my favorite genre, and I can watch the goriest or most psychologically scary movie there is and not flinch. Well, when it comes to scary games though, I’m absolutely the complete opposite. I’m not really sure why, though most likely because I’m in control rather than watching a linear experience, but I don’t do well with scary games regardless of my movie tastes. So who else better to review Emily Wants to Play; probably one of the most dread inducing titles I’ve played to date.

I grew up with the Silent Hill's and Resident Evil's, and while those were scary at the time since I was young, these days there aren't very many horror games aside from a few breakout titles like Five Nights at Freddy’s and Slender. Originally released on PC, Emily Wants to Play is now here for console gamers to see if they have the courage to survive until morning while being hunted down by demonic and possessed dolls.

While some scoff at jump scares because they’re viewed as a lazy way to scare someone, they’re also a very effective way to make a player uneasy and tense, simply waiting for the next moment to happen. Emily Wants to Play uses this classic horror tool to inspire dread, almost to a fault, as that’s almost the only scare tactic it utilizes throughout. That being said, I wasn’t unable to complete the game after multiple attempts and hours; not solely because of the difficulty, but because I couldn’t handle another scare again without taking a prolonged break to relax my nerves.

While a vastly overused trope, Emily Wants to Play begins with you as a pizza guy making a simple delivery. The door is ajar, so naturally you go inside to find someone to give them their order. The place looks like it’s been ransacked, and just as you take a step inside the door slams shut and locks behind you seemingly on its own. The place is a mess, the windows are boarded up, and the lights are flickering; the perfect setup for numerous horror flicks.

Played in first person, your goal is to simply survive until morning, but that isn’t going to be easy by any means once Emily’s dolls start to try and kill you. As you wander around the house, you’ll notice doors opening and closing on their own, as do the flickering lights, adding to the already very creepy atmosphere. You start to notice notes left around the place such as “Don’t look at her”, and “Run away”; foreboding to say the least. Then you’ll come across the dolls, but you’ll wish you hadn’t, because once the clock strikes midnight, that’s where you need to start to survive.

As for the controls, it’s very basic. Sprinting is done by holding in the Left Stick, interacting with objects is the B button, and Left Bumper for your flashlight (should you be lucky enough to find one). That’s it. Sounds simple, and it is, but you’re going to need not only quick reflexes to survive the night, but nerves of steel. The sprinting doesn't seem all that necessary and is a little cumbersome to do so while holding in the stick.

Once midnight rolls around, you’ll start to hear footsteps and laughter coming from random areas in the house. Things start ‘simple’ with only 1 doll trying to kill you, but eventually you’ll have to deal with 3 at once before Emily herself joins in the 'fun'. Given that I have no problem with horror movies, I thought Emily Wants to Play would be no big deal. I was so wrong. It plays like a walking simulator, but the way that the mood is conveyed, with absolutely no music in the background, almost makes it scarier. As soon as you hear one of the dolls, you know you’re about to confront one of them, which gets your blood pumping and controller firmly clenched.

So how do you survive the night? Well, it all depends on which doll is currently chasing you. For example, the first doll you come across will laugh when she is near, and once you turn around she will be there staring at you, completely still. Even though you may have found a note earlier that says to “Don’t look at her”, you need to do the complete opposite to not get killed by Kiki the doll. Eventually she will poof and disappear instantly, allowing you to explore the house further if you’re brave enough, that is, until you hear her once again trying to get you.

There are other dolls that will join the killing fray as the night goes on, and you simply need to learn how to survive against them when they appear. It may sound simple, and in premise it is, but when you fail using the proper tactic to survive, the jump scare you get is no joke. Kiki for example lunges at your face, either just as your turn around to try to flick the light switch back on that was mysteriously turned off, shrieking as she does so.

Luckily the checkpoint system is generous and starts you back at the latest hour you’ve reached during your night in the house. Given that you just got scared though, your nerves become more on edge the more you play. Leaving a room makes you apprehensive, but you know you have to do so to survive some of the dolls attacks. It’s a simple way to instill fear, but it works.

If you’re good at the game and don’t scare easily, it’s easily beatable in under an hour, as you simply need to ride out the clock to survive, but to get to that point will take a lot of courage and many deaths. The graphics are very basic and the lighting is nowhere realistic looking, but even so, the game has a particular sense of dread surrounding it no matter what room you go into, even more so once you hear one of the dolls nearby.

I wish I could finish the game, but I can’t. Even playing in the daytime with the lights on and people home, I can only play for short periods of time before needing to take a break to calm my nerves. Yes, some of you are going to call me a wimp, and that’s fine, but it should show effective Emily Wants to Play is at creating a sense of terror. Sure its shtick is simply utilizing jump scares, but when it works, why change?

With its very cheap price point, Emily Wants to Play is a great title to get this month given the Halloween spirit, and even better to stream on Twitch for the amusement of others if you scare easily, just like me. While some won’t find it terrifying, or even scary, others just might need to play with the lights on or in the daytime with someone else in the room. Sure, the game could benefit from some improvements, but if you’re simply looking for a creepy atmosphere with the potential to truly scare some of your friends that come over, Emily Wants to Play is sure to get your heart racing. and you most likely won't want to be be near any dolls afterwards for quite some time.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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