Amnesia Collection: Nintendo Switch Review

Do these horror classics still hold up?

The Amnesia collection reaches the final frontier: the Nintendo Switch. Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the first game in the series, was originally released in 2010 on the PC. It was later ported to the PS4 and was even a PS Plus exclusive in 2017. Developed by Frictional Games, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a survival horror game set in 1839 where the main character Daniel wakes up in a dark castle with fleeting memories of his life and he slowly learns about his past. He wrote himself a note which notifies Daniel that he erased his own memory and is being hunted by a mysterious shadow. The note also instructs him to kill somebody named Alexander in the inner sanctum of the castle.

Amnesia started off as a small indie game based out of Sweden and then later became a cult favorite. Critics include this game in conversations as one of the best horror games of all time. The popularity of the game has slowed down over the years but YouTube lets play still carry on.  Popular YouTube star, PewDiePie, recently released a play through on hard mode that reached 5.2 million views.

Amnesia Collection fountain
Disturbing imagery from the Dark Descent.

The full collection also includes the indirect sequel A Machine for Pigs and the DLC called Justine.  While the other 2 games don’t offer the same level of depth compared to the original game, they’re worth checking out since they’re short in length. My Dark Descent play through took me about seven hours so there’s plenty to explore in the original game. I played on normal difficulty and I’m glad I didn’t try hard mode.

Honestly, I had never heard of Amnesia until now. I’m not a fan of the horror games. A big reason why I don’t like the horror genre in general, is the over reliance of audio stings to scare the audience.  This game does not depend on this trope.  I was surprised to see the Amnesia Collection to play more like adventure games with horror elements. Porting the collection to the Switch is great timing to get old and new fans hooked. I mainly played through on handheld mode with headphones. I got to experience the horror on the go!

Dark Descent applies more subtle psychological horror elements. It succeeds the most of the three. Daniel doesn’t have any weapons. You’re forced to hide and maneuver enemies. This is a similar concept to the Nemesis in Resident Evil 3. The shadow enemy is always looming and chasing you. Daniel is constantly on the run and can’t fight back. While there are safe rooms, the darkness wears on Daniel’s sanity.  You have a health meter, but you’ll find keeping your sanity levels steady is a more important task.  As your sanity dips, you encounter audio and visual hallucinations. I felt my heart rate increase and my palms starting to sweat after tense play sessions. It didn’t help that I played the majority of the game at night. That’s the point of playing a horror game, right?

Amnesia Collection enemy coming after Daniel
Dark Ascent enemy encounter.

The lantern is your best friend. Not only does it keep your sanity level in check, it is needed to solve puzzles at times hidden in the darkness. Did I mention this game is dark? Another horror trope I’m not a fan of.  Darkness can feel cheap when not done well. In Amnesia, darkness can be the more frustrating enemy than the physical monsters. Every game in this collection has you set the brightness gamma level for proper screen brightness. I was constantly afraid I was going to run out of oil. If you’re stuck on a puzzle, you’re wasting oil for your lantern. Oil and tinderboxes (which ignite candles) can be difficult to find early on so conserve when possible. The game forces you to take your time. The puzzle difficulty was frustrating at times but for the most part is fair. Check every nook and cranny for that last bit of oil or missing puzzle piece.

A jarring piece of game play from Amnesia is the lack of a map. As a modern-day gamer, one gets used to having some sort of navigation for these massive open world games. For a character with no memory, it makes sense not have a map option. Be prepared to get lost and back track. The controls take a moment to get used to. A PC adventure game can feel stiff when porting to a console system. You frequently open close doors, open drawers, pick up rocks, flip switches, and move rocks. These small objects can be annoying to pinpoint on the Switch controls at times. These are minor complaints however and don’t take away from the core game play.

Amnesia Collection: Daniel finds dead pigs.
You never know what you’ll find in the castle.

One of the many strengths of Amnesia is the sound design and musical score. You’ll have nightmares of the sound of bugs crawling all over the place. The story is pieced together by journal entries you pick up along the way. This is the only dialogue in the game and the voice acting is well done. The sound team successfully captures Daniel’s breathing and subtle groans when his sanity levels change. The music is what you would expect from a horror game but that’s not bad thing. It succeeds in creating atmosphere and tension but doesn’t take cheap shots at the audience. The music was composed by Mikko Tarmia who also wrote the music for SOMA which is also a well renowned horror game with a killer soundtrack. I highly recommend checking out Mikko’s work.

I can’t compare the Switch port to the other versions. After watching footage from the PC and PS4 versions, this version is faithful to the original for the most part. An icon is supposed to appear for when the game is auto saving but doesn’t show on the Switch. I also came across a bug getting soft locked in a room. Nonetheless, having the portable option for this game makes the Switch version highly appealing.   The collection is $29.99 on the Nintendo eshop and is digital only. I’m hoping a company like Limited Run Games will someday manufacture a physical copy of this collection because it’s well worth a play through. Not just hardcore horror gaming fans, but for all gamers. I’m still recovering from my play through of this collection, so I plan on taking an extended break before I revisit. Surprisingly, I not only enjoyed this collection (especially Dark Descent), but I may also give other horror games a chance now.

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Written by Conor ODonnell

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