The Dread XP team is back at it again with another outstanding collection of horror titles from indie developers. The Dread X Collection 5 features 12 titles, plus the framing device to unlock them acting as a game in itself. (Free Play is also available if you don’t want to wait!) Every single Dread X collection has been a joy, a brilliant variety plate of game styles and scares. Many of these are in the lo-fi PS1 horror style that I adore so much.
As with previous collections, you’ll need to unlock the titles by exploring the main hub. This time it’s an outer spaced themed Chuck-E-Cheese called Outpost 3000 that I desperately wish was real. This place is rad as hell. Neon lights, bowling alley carpets, an animatronic extraterrestrial band, the works. Wandering around, you’ll find pages of a comic describing a horrible monster called The Stranglemaw. It’s also your birthday, but your presents have gotten a bit mixed up. Each gift you return to your birthday table lights a candle on your cake and awards you with a token, which can be used to unlock the games in any order. (Once unlocked they stay open to replay.) When you return to the Outpost, another comic page will guide you to the next gift.
I don’t want to spoil every game, but I will go through a few of my favorites in the collection! Each takes about 15 minutes to an hour to complete, give or take.
Stroboskop (Sylvio) – Karao
This chunky, lo-fi experience begins in a karaoke bar where our poor protagonist just needs to take a whizz. You keep seeing a weird lady, and no matter how many times she dies, she just. Keeps. Coming. Back. That’s spooky enough by itself, but when you kill her the corpse flops around like the ultimate ragdoll which I found deliciously disturbing. This even works into the mechanics, because her flailing body writes out the numbers for keypad combinations. That’s genius! Combining a basic and mundane game mechanic with the violent actions of the player character gives the game an extra flair.
Shakles (Totem) – Gallerie
Hands down my favorite in the group, Gallerie is a gorgeous nightmare romp through an art gallery of cosmic, psychedelic proportions. It’s a bouquet of lens flare, fuzzy filters, and flashing lights that left me exhilarated and I adored the whole experience. Horrible, gaunt Slenderman-esque guys with hands for feet and disjointed legs chase you around but freeze when you make eye contact. (Dudes are just shy I guess!) Sprinting feels smooth as butter and sound design is also steller, with an ear-piece art gallery tour as part of the narrative. I’m in love.
VisceralError (The Gallagher Case) – Rotten Sigma
A retired cop investigates a decrepit sports center in classic survival horror style. This is just a really solid, great spooky vibe. I especially love the walkie-talkie attached to your belt serving dual-purpose as your health bar, going from solid green to yellow to red as you take damage, similar to Dead Space’s R.I.G. I also like the sports center as a setting, with the drained pool and tennis courts. Twisted former customers still in their swimsuits are perfect baddies, and there are a few scattered notes filling in their origins.
Roope Tamminen (Lakeview Cabin) – HUNSVOTTI
There’s something about Scandinavian cult horror that just hits different. HUNSVOTTI has all the same summertime fun and underbelly awful of Midsommar in game form. Collect flowers to drop in the well as villagers dance and celebrate around you. With each flower, the true nature of the townspeople is revealed and the colors are sapped from the game. It’s a simple mechanic but really effective! I admit I died a few times before I got through this one (it’s also number one in the list of unlocks, so I played it first) as every time a villager touches you, you lose a bit of stamina/speed. Many of them are running around or dancing, so I got bodied a bit like a whimsical moshpit.
I’ll go on a little rant here: There are some who say games like these are “Streamer Bait” AKA created for streamers to play (Interim even jokes it is best played in front of a live audience, although the TV show setting is also part of the narrative), and I really don’t see an issue with this. Experiencing a game with a streamer and chatroom can be a unique and fun way to showcase a game. As a developer, you want people to see your work, and having a huge internet personality play it can catapult its sales (this is how Among Us because so massive). Some even have built-in Twitch integration so the chat can do things like voting or even mess with the gameplay. It’s just another way gamers can enjoy a title. I also don’t see an issue with watching a playthrough of a game you might be too scared to play yourself, for the record!
I feel like I’m just repeating myself but it’s just amazing the amount of talent put into each of these collections. They say the worst thing you can be is boring, and I never feel bored with any of the games included. The developers even have an official Steam guide in case you get stuck. Highly recommend checking out all these collections and diving in!
A Key for the Dread X Collection 5 was provided for review purposes.