One of the experiences I enjoy the most is entering a game without knowing anything about it. This allows you to be surprised from every point of view. Phobia pleasantly surprised me, because despite some rounded corners, the game pays an indirect homage to the first Resident Evil in a brilliant way.
- Release date : June 28, 2022
- Style : Survival Horror, Psychological Horror
- ESRB / PEGI classification: CERS M / PEGI 18
- Developer: Pulsatrix Studios
- Publisher: Maximum games
- Operating language: Subtitled in French
- Available on PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One and Series X | S
- Tested on PS5 (PS4 version)
- Price during the trial: CAD $ 38.99 / € 29.99
- Place official
- Digital version sent by the publisher
History of Phobia – Hotel St. Dinfna
Roberto Leite Lopes wants to be an investigative journalist. In an online forum, he responds to a call from a certain Stephanie who says that paranormal events are taking place at a certain hotel in the town of Treze Trilha. This is the St. Dinfna Hotel, built on a mine where an accident caused the disappearance of about 20 miners in the 1920s.
Roberto conducts his little investigation without finding anything and without being able to contact Stephanie. The day he decides to leave the hotel, because he thinks it’s a waste of time, a strange black hole appears in his bathroom and he loses consciousness.
Upon awakening, he is locked up in his room and discovers a camera that allows him to connect two realities: that of 1960 and that of 2009 (the game takes place in September 2009).
As you explore the hotel that was suddenly destroyed and dilapidated, you will discover the story of a sect of fanatics and the horrific experiments they conducted in the name of the principle of free will. These events began in 1920 with the disappearance of Christopher, the foreman of the twenty missing miners.
In addition to the 2009 protagonist (Roberto), Phobia allows us to embody Christopher in the 1920s, as well as a journalist in the 1960s who was captured by the sect following his discoveries about it.
The prologue also takes place in 1960 where we learn of the terrible end of the journalist who found too much information. Most of Phobia takes place in 2009 with interludes in 1920 to find out what really happened in this mine in 1920.
A tribute to Resident Evil
Phobia is very similar to the first Resident Evil (if we replace the villa with a hotel and the fixed cameras with a 1D. nobody). There are many puzzles and you will have to search every corner to find the many clues to solve them. You will have many locks to open, doors to unlock, codes to use and you will need different objects to progress (cutter to remove the chains, crowbar to unlock the elevator doors, etc.).
The elevator is also extremely important once repaired, as it allows access to otherwise inaccessible areas. At first it only has two floor buttons, but you will find the missing buttons to explore other floors.
As you progress, you’ll have access to more and more rooms at this 8-story (and taller) hotel.
Among the puzzles, there are many optional ones. I finished the game and realized how far I had gone from several puzzles (due to my unused items and endgame stats). For those who like to explore a game thoroughly, it’s really interesting to go back and try to find everything.
A camera that connects realities
Phobia allows its protagonist to visit the hotel in 2009, but also in 1960. Thanks to a camera, it is possible to see what the hotel was like in 1960, but also to interact between the two eras.
If a door is blocked and it is impossible to open it, in 1960 it may be possible to go through a hole in the wall, for example. A key not found in 2009 will likely be recoverable in 1960 and so on. Different notes and codes can be found this way by looking at the walls or paintings with the camera, because in 1960 the walls were not completely covered with wallpaper.
This mechanic is well used even if it is fun at times. If desks or boxes block a path (which one could easily bypass or move), it is often necessary to use 1960s reality to traverse it.
Low number of creatures
While the game is mostly about atmosphere and puzzles, you’ll find a weapon after 1 or 2 hours of play – right now, the hotel will be hosting zombies and (rather monstrous) spiders. Unfortunately, these are the only two different monster varieties. To spot spiders, you will have to pay close attention and rely on noise, because they hide on the walls and ceiling and if it jumps on you, you automatically lose health.
There are also three bosses to face during the game, but this is not the strong point of the game, it is not really possible to avoid the attacks and you have to shoot at the right moment to stop the enemy in his tracks. We feel our “heavy” character when we have to fight.
Also, like Resident Evil 3, Phobia has its “Nemesis” which appears several times and whose only way to survive is to sow it, because in this phase it is invincible.
An expandable inventory and crates
Managing your inventory is an important part of the game, as you can only carry a limited number of items. You will find backpacks, bags, etc. to increase the number of items you can carry.
Many puzzles require examining objects, modifying them, or combining them. Don’t hesitate to return an item in all directions.
There are safes throughout the hotel which are all linked. These allow you to keep surplus items. Return trips to these chests will be frequent to retrieve the items needed to solve a puzzle. The same goes for savings. You can only save on watches that are present at different points in the hotel.
To make it easier to deal with the monsters, there are hidden upgrade points everywhere to improve our weapons and camera.
Despite testing the PS4 version, I found the textures to be very good as well as great use of the lighting effects. The green filter when using the camera or our flashlight flashes add some stress as a monster can appear at any moment. There are few characters you meet in the game, but I found them not very detailed and quite boring as the butler at the beginning of the game. The design of the monster is good, but no more.
In terms of noise, Phobia is hitting the target. The voice acting is not perfect, but much better than my latest game in the genre (Oxide Room 104). The scratching of the spiders, the thunder, the footsteps and the growl of the monsters are examples of what creates a beautiful atmosphere and forces us to pay attention.
Phobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is not a perfect game, but it is extremely satisfying. The game is mainly based on atmosphere and puzzles. It seems the monsters were added without thinking too much. Without any guide, it will take you around ten hours to get to the secret end of St. Dinfna. If you like action games, you will not find your pleasure here. On the other hand, if you love to explore a place to get to the end of all its secrets through puzzles and secret passages, Phobia will leave you spellbound.
Review of Phobia – St. Dinfna Hotel: an epic of almost a century
The well-crafted story
The many puzzles
The oppressive atmosphere
The low variety of monsters
Impossible to climb over some obstacles