Back in January, I caught wind of Serena, a free independently developed game that hearkens back to the adventure games of old. After reading about the controversy surrounding it’s creation, I decided to download it from Steam (it’s truly free), and finally sat down to play it last night.
What a mistake. Well, not playing the game, but playing the game alone at night! Geh!
So What Is Serena?
It’s a short game — I finished it in about an hour. But it’s an hour well spent in a lovingly crafted, atmospheric mystery/semi-horror story. I’m loathe to call it completely horror, because while the outcome was disturbing to me, your mileage may vary.
What was it that made this quiet, unassuming game creep me out (and I watch Walking Dead every week, unaffected)? The game has this sense of slowly building tension… you know from the start no good can come from it. And you’re right! It’s just watching the thing unravel that’s so disconcerting.
You play in first-person perspective as a man who is in a cabin far away from everything else. His wife, Serena, is missing, and he can’t remember why or what led to that point. The cabin is only two large rooms connected, and there are a limited number of items that you can interact with. Each time you do, the man narrates in full voice-over bits of the story, allowing you to piece together his past with Serena.
At certain points, you trigger transitions in the man’s attitude and outlook. As his view on objects in the house begin to change, more story starts to unfold. There are certain items that he shies away from, and the way the game builds tension, you come to start dreading what secrets they contain.
I really enjoyed the story’s subtle twist — if you pick up this game, don’t be mislead by what you think is obvious. When everything came together, it was deliciously devious and sent me to bed with the bathroom lights on (don’t ask me why… it just bugged me that much).