by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
Ever fancied being the robot sent into an unexplained and potentially dangerous situation? Well soon you’ll be able to fulfil that dream in Shutter. In Shutter you are placed at the reigns of a small investigative robot with the sole aim of getting into a seemingly empty house and having a poke about. Now as the name suggests, one of the central mechanics in the game revolves around taking pictures. Your little robot has no other functions or abilities save for the camera perched atop its dutiful metal body.
Following the directions of a chap I can only assume is your controller back at drone HQ, you roll about discovering clues as to what went down in the house. As you work your way through the building things become steadily creepier and it’s clear this is no ordinary deserted home.
Shutter takes some inspiration from classic survival horror games of old, utilising a fixed camera and using notes found in the environment to progress its story. The fixed camera, though initially a little jarring becomes central to the fear factor in the game. It almost always feels like you are being watched, and though you can jump to a first person view, it’s only a temporary respite as this will run down your robot’s battery. This restricts what you can see to a certain extent and in a game as dark and foreboding as this, serves to ramp up the tension quite a bit.
Graphics wise the game does look a little dated, there’s plenty of room for improvements in that area. However, for the most part, this lack of graphical fidelity doesn't detract from the tense atmosphere. Even with the occasional glitchy door slam or comical floating object I still found myself tensing every time I heard something strange in the shadows. The game’s length also works in its favour. Taking only around an hour to complete, it finds the perfect amount of time to squeeze in enough of a fear factor without leaving you feeling jaded by the experience.
As far as puzzles are concerned in the game, you won’t find anything too taxing here. There are the occasional interesting uses of timing scattered among them. For example, at points you’ll have to photograph something that sporadically appears and disappears, timing it correctly with the cameras slow warm up time. But for the most part, progressing the story is mainly a case of ‘take a picture of the paranormal thing in the room’. There is also an interesting element to the game in which your camera improves over the course of the game. You start out with a low-res pixelated view of the world, which steadily evolves into high definition as you receive updates from drone HQ. You also receive updates that allow you to do things like photograph the supernatural, though these aren't really explained other than with a ‘we need you to be able to do this to finish the game’ type of explanation.
All in all I came away from Shutter, with a satisfied level of fear in my gut and most of my scepticism put to rest. It may not have the polish it perhaps needs, but through a combination of classic survival horror elements and interesting gameplay mechanics, Shutter still managed to create tension, and leave me feeling more than a little uneasy.
Tense atmosphere. Good use of new and old gameplay mechanics.
Looks a little dated. Mediocre story.