The Tartarus Key Impressions: Murder With A Smile

I wake up on a blood-red couch. It’s not mine.

In fact, I’ve never seen this room before in my life. Not the piles of ancient tomes. Not the camera watching my every move. Not the sturdy wood desk. Not the walkie-talkie sitting on it. I can hardly remember what I did last night, let alone how I got here. But I seem to be — aside from the kidnapping — okay. Until I pick up the radio and realize I’m not the only one in the house. It’s time for the game to begin.

The Tartarus Key‘s intriguing setup isn’t the only thing to catch my eye at the outset of this creepy adventure. The first-person graphics are a wonderful throwback to the PlayStation 1 era of horror, in all its low-res glory. But somehow the lack of crisp, definable details makes the game that much scarier — as well as oddly nostalgic. Like it’s tapping into the fear I felt playing my first terror-driven titles.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I’m only about an hour into the “fun” but the main protagonist’s sharp wit and my radio-voice companion’s insistence on freaking me out at every opportunity is a delightful pairing, making me smile even while standing in a pool of gore.

Trapped inside a staged mansion covered with surveillance, I attempt to find a way out of the creepy house while avoiding getting murdered. Like you do. This means participating in my kidnapper’s deadly escape room by solving puzzles.

So far, I’ve unlocked a key-guarding safe using clues found in scattered messages, studied paintings to figure out where to put bottles, and had a life-saving axe thrown at me after piecing together a mirror message. And just a quick note on that second point, the designers did some fantastic research into famous paintings. The mansion’s art collection is spectacularly done and warms my classical art-loving heart.

Having set up a, relatively, safe space as a base of operations, I’m now set to search the murder mansion for other possible kidnapping victims and, perhaps, find a way out. The creepy yet humorous tone and the urge to unravel the secret behind The Tartarus Key make me excited to pick up my flashlight and tread into the chilling darkness.

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