Have you ever played a so-called horror game and felt like it was lacking something? Like it just wasn’t…oh, I don’t know, scary?

I mean you can tell they tried. There were lots of dark corners and limited amounts of ammunition and/or health pick ups, but it just felt difficult and clunky. Maybe it was more of a “survival frustration game” that kept killing you with a tank-like character that acted defenseless and frail even when it came to simple tasks like turning on a flashlight and running down a corridor. The finished product is a game that is traumatizing to the protagonists, but boring and redundant to the player. These games are irritating, especially when you shell out a thick wad of hard-earned cash expecting to be thrilled and terrified.

I can empathize, my friends, but I wouldn’t be a very likable person if I just dwelt on the negative all the time, so I’m wasting a bit of your time today to talk about this little gem called Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem released for the Nintendo Gamecube. Give it a shot. You’ll be impressed by the brilliant methods they use to startle the player out of their comfort zone and with any luck you’ll be so scared you’ll forget about all that money lost on lackluster horror games.

Why You Should Care

Anyone who has ever played this game will likely tell you the same thing I’m about to: the most memorable facet of this game is the effect your sanity gauge has on the presentation. In this game you have a green sanity gauge positioned next to your health and mana. Certain events will cause your character to lose some of that sanity gauge, and that’s when the awesome stuff starts. At first you’ll see little things like the walls bleeding. It’s cool to look at, but nothing spectacular.

As your character loses more of its grip on reality, however, they may just encounter a group of invincible enemies and drop over dead. You see the game over screen and that’s that. Or is it? A sudden flash of white and the room reloads to where you were before the hallucination. This will likely freak you out enough that you’ll want to go save your game. You reach the save point and press the necessary buttons. The screen asks if you’re sure you want to delete your game. What!? No! You move the cursor to select no, but it switches at the last moment and you select yes.

Your game is deleted. The title screen appears.

You weep over the hours of gameplay lost.

A sudden flash of white and the room reloads. These are the occurrences that really make this game stand out. It doesn’t want to mess with the characters. It wants to mess with you. Such an ingenious mechanic really creates memorable fear, and I can still feel the adrenaline flowing through me as I recall my first time playing.

Another reason you may want to play this game is if you have any affection for the Cthulhu mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). While the game doesn’t officially have anything to do with “The Call of Cthulhu” story, there are many parallels, and a great deal of inspiration is obviously drawn from it.

While it may seem like commonplace today, Eternal Darkness offered players the ability to target specific areas of an enemy’s body. In the year 2002 this was a pretty novel concept, and I feel that it’s still underutilized today. For humanoid enemies this boiled down to removing their arms and eventually targeting their heads, but more complex enemies offered more diverse strategic options. Finally, when you throw the magic system into the combat mix, it makes for a lot of options that create the impression that your character isn’t pathetic while still never allowing you to feel fully comfortable with your combat prowess.

Why You Might Not Care

Even for its time, Eternal Darkness was not a pretty game. It wasn’t ugly enough to disturb the gameplay or immersion in the plot, but the modern gamer might blush at the dated graphics.

The combat system, while engaging, is kind of slow. You won’t be piling up combo multipliers nor will you be strafing or dodging. Simple aim-and-strike mechanic might bore some adrenaline junkies out there.

Is It Worth It?

This game is a classic in my opinion, and a Gamecube is cheap to buy from a retro gaming store. If you can forgive dated graphics and you love to see developers “breaking the fourth wall” this is a game that’s worth the money. Already own a Gamecube? Well, what are you waiting for? Go buy it!

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem from Silicon Knights was released on June 24, 2002. What are your memories of the game? Let us know!