Horror is a huge genre, ranging from blood-soaked slasher movies to weird and intellectual campfire stories. couch potatopublished by Rogue Games and developed by Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator Studio Game Grumps leans towards the latter. I play Emily, a young woman with agoraphobia – an isolating, suffocating fear of leaving one’s safe place and having uncomfortable, embarrassing, or uncomfortable experiences.
I’m in a secluded house full of friends, rented over the years by an eccentric writer, when suddenly the power goes out. After a few jokes about the horror movie atmosphere, I check the electrical box, which is oddly empty — there are only two wires, one going to the attic and one to the basement. These are also areas of the home that the absent homeowner prohibits us from entering. Just as I resigned myself to investigating the basement, I am stabbed to death by a mysterious masked figure.
But then the clock turns and I’ve just arrived back at the house. I try to discuss this experience with my friends through dialogue trees when we chat, but it doesn’t matter how hard I try to warn them – it just filters into mundane small talk. couch potato
couch potato happily takes inspiration from PlayStation-era survival horror games, with fixed camera angles and igamesnewsal graphics. Emily isn’t gifted in combat, so my best bet for dealing with the killer is to just hide in a closet or run away. Cutscenes and flashbacks set accents couch potato, depicting Emily’s social anxiety. She’s been isolating for the past year and it’s a growing source of resentment among her friends.
To make matters worse, the gentleman who owns the house my friends rent is eccentric. There are locks and keypads everywhere. On a desk I find a note that corresponds to a mailbox; When I open that, I find a color code that can be used to set a vending machine in the basement to unlock another door.
These puzzle chains form the challenge couch potato; I must find clues and solve puzzles while enduring the pressure of avoiding a masked killer. When I die the clock will turn back to the beginning of the night. However, I keep my memories, which are helpfully sorted and cataloged in a memory log. As I advance, the time warp begins to collapse. Other characters give signs that they, too, are aware of the terrible fate that awaits them. The killer shows up earlier in the night, breaking the routine.
The masked killer and the spooky house are just one reason to explore the tension between Emily, her agoraphobia and her friends. As such, couch potato It’s not about the immediate fear of being stabbed, but about the slow decay and isolation that her agoraphobia brings. The game is based on the fear of meeting people who might be mad at you, and worse, their feelings might be justified. As Emily struggles to survive the killer, she must also endure the ordeal of honest relationships with friends that hurt her.
While the writing style is intriguing, the mechanics can be a bit awkward at times. The fixed camera and complicated controls meant I often dawdled around a door and unintentionally walked back and forth between two rooms. Also, there’s only one master volume bar in the settings, which is awkward when the sound effects are a bit too loud. Half of Emily’s circle of friends feels a little unnecessary, like they’re just there to round out the cast. A couple of friends eventually play an important role in Emily’s past, and her catharsis comes from exploring those relationships. Others in the house are only there to comment on the important relationships before being assassinated to add to the suspense. So it feels to me like there’s a little too much filler between the build and the ending of this particular story.
These small but lingering issues aren’t a deal breaker, but they do ease the tension. couch potato didn’t scare me to the core, but I still felt compelled to uncover its mysteries and only took a couple of hours to complete. The plot leaves important points open to interpretation, and as such this is the kind of game I’ll be digesting for quite a while. It’s not the same kind of horror as jump scares or gory deaths, but it’s disturbing nonetheless.
couch potato was released on June 1st on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X. The game was verified on PC using a download code provided by Rogue Games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, however Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. you can find For more information on Polygon’s Ethics Policy, click here.