So what does a game based in what is essentially a carnival funhouse do? Replicate the real thing or try to expand on it by making use of the liberties a virtual space grants?
Bewilder House does a bit of both, I’d say. You awaken in the titular house, surrounded in typical funfair red and yellow stripes, a ticker tape queue, except there’s no one else in line, and a tunnel at the end of the room. You’re given plenty of instructions as to where to go, but it’s not in the friendly manner we’re used to. It’s a little too eager to get you further inside the house, and it’s clear from the signs that say there’s only one more place left inside that someone, or something, is expecting you. Regardless, with no other choice, you head on inside.
Bewilder House is a first-person puzzle game, and while it doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, this student game certainly managed to freak me out at times, as well as having me solving puzzles without them feeling like puzzles. Let’s just say you’re slightly too distracted by a clown that stalks you and only moves when you’re not looking directly at it. Like I said, that’s nothing original, but it still gets to you, and what’s good about the game’s use of this clown stalker is that you’re not just trying to escape from it, but you’re in fact trying to solve a spatial puzzle inside a small maze.
Each level in Bewilder House gives you a small handheld device that has a grid upon it, and on a couple of the squares of this grid are landmarks to look out for inside the maze, like a balloon or a happy face; they’re quite obvious. There will also be a ring that indicates the room you need to find and press M to confirm that you think it’s that one.
“Trapped in strange mazes where the walls open and close when you’re not looking, you’ll have to use your mind and first-person controls in unusual ways to escape a deceptive funhouse that plays with both your perception and your life.”
The challenge comes from orientating yourself inside this maze while it plays tricks on you. The stalker clown is one thing you have to deal with, but that comes after you’ve got through one that shifts the walls when you’re not looking. I’ll let you discover the rest.
Overall, it’s a short, but compelling experience. I love the playfulness of the environments, such as going on a rollercoaster, sliding down a large colorful tube and inside a clown’s mouth. The strongest section is undoubtedly the clown stalker, just because it’s such a freaky section as the clown creeps up towards you, slowly turning its head with that demonic grin.
My only wish is that the controls were WASD for qwerty keyboards, rather than the ZQSD that it currently uses. But it must say something that I usually don’t bother trying to play games with this set-up, yet I persisted to in Bewilder House.