There’s a monster within all of us, or so the saying goes. The idea that darker impulses within us can overtake our senses and our rationale, leading us down a blackened path that wrestles innocents aground in its wake and drags hope into the shadows… brrrr.
Exploring the mansion of The Corruption Within, this lingering sense of unease — knowing that the worst things in the world often arise out of individuals with the best of intentions — rises to the surface through careful, considerate pacing and puzzles alike.
Co-created by the gentleman responsible for the wonderfully witty Captain Disaster series, you’ll find no cheeky humour in The Corruption Within, beyond wry observations here and there.
Instead, this is a story of suspense, metered out across a thought-provoking handful of hours that — like headline-grabbing Strangeland, released at around the same time — is centred primarily on one scrumptiously insidious location. And of course, not all here is as it seems…
In The Corruption Within, you are a husband, a father and a sleuth by circumstance. When your wife and children go missing, you chance upon the mansion of a reclusive family (and a few unpleasant surprises in the woods outside besides), and impeach them for assistance.
While not indifferent to your plight, the family certainly doesn’t go out of their way to help (least of all the sodding help). Awash with Victorian-era intrigue, The Corruption Within forces our protagonist to use wits, persuasion and a solid helping of snooping around to do what any good adventure game protagonist should — that is to say, rummage around, swipe whatever you can get your hands on and inch ever deeper into the grand manor’s heart.
The ol’ “big creepy house you have to unlock in various chunks to explore” is an adventure game staple, if not a core element of video games in general. Yet it’s applied to superb effect in The Corruption Within from both a narrative and mechanical perspective — and speaking of perspectives, the game’s lo-fi first-person viewpoint lends the whole thing a wonderfully claustrophobic air.
Scenes are peppered with hotspots to examine and remark on, and you’re encouraged to click on everything more than once — a closer look might yield a touch more exposition or a hidden element to a given object or part of the room that you might have overlooked before.
Feeling your way through The Corruption Within always feels just the right balance of intriguing and stumping. You’re never stonewalled by puzzles for long though, with the emphasis clearly on the narrative (and key branching choices throughout). Solutions to brainteasers never feel unrealistic or out of place, and the whole storyline is surprisingly grounded, yet no weaker in hooking you in for it.
Outwitting a woman who speaks in rhymes one minute, and the next allaying the concerns of a frightened servant of the mansion caught up in all the… well, you’ll see…. The Corruption Within introduces you to a tight cast of characters. Figuring out who to trust, who really wants to help you find your family and who’s weird just because instead of due to the whole you know situation is a big part of the fun.
And fun The Corruption Within certainly is — a wonderful reminder, in the midst of E3 season, all ray-tracing this and live-service that, that sometimes it’s nice to just curl up, click about in a retro mystery tale and see what’s fishy in the fancy house in the woods. Just be careful how deep you dig and who you cross to find it…