If someone asked me what the biggest genre is on Steam at the moment, I’d have to nominate first person horror games. All you need to do is type the word “horror” into the search bar and you’ll find that Steam is packed to the rafters full of games promising creepy atmospheres and macabre storylines. Unfortunately, many of these games are nothing but a quick cash grab, crappy clones of Amnesia and Slender that aren’t worth anyone’s time. When the rare genuinely good horror game comes along, it’s an occasion worth celebrating. Storm In A Teacup’s ENKI nearly gets everything right, but in the end it falls a bit short (literally).
According to its Steam store page, ENKI is a repeatable horror experience focusing on the theme of escape. As far as horror games go, ENKI has a pretty unique gimmick: playing as the latest victim of a serial killer who’s just awakened in an abandoned bunker, you have exactly 30 minutes to discover what’s going on and get to safety. There aren’t any saves or continues, and each session of the game is designed to be played in a single setting. If you’re lucky, you may just manage to escape and be rewarded with one of five different endings, but chances are your first couple of runs will only end in tragedy.
While ENKI isn’t a blatantly scary experience (don’t expect any Outlast style jump-scares or tense chase scenes here), the timer constantly counting down to your doom adds a constant sense of urgency and tension to the game. The fact that it never stops, even when you pause the game, makes you feel like you’re constantly in danger and turns getting stuck on a puzzle or searching for that one last item a pretty harrowing ordeal. Add in some spooky ambiance and a suitably murky environment to run around in, and ENKI definitely succeeds in making the player feel uncomfortable.
The main problem with ENKI, though, is that it’s over way too quickly. Once you’ve been through the game once and solved most of the puzzles, there isn’t really much reason to play again (unless you desperately want to see all of the endings), and once you know how to solve the puzzles, the threat of the constantly ticking timer is greatly diminished. ENKI does boast that it will “randomize” things for you so that each playthrough is a fresh experience, but this mainly boils down to key items being in different locations than they were before (for example, a key that was on a desk in one room may be on the floor in a hallway this time) but the answers to the puzzles and the general progression don’t change. It would be much better if the puzzles also had random solutions, or if the layout of the gameworld changed between playthroughs, but at the moment ENKI‘s much touted “randomization system” really doesn’t do much to add replayability.
On a positive note, ENKI looks great and runs smoothly, and the background lore is well written, if a little cliche (a serial killer obsessed with old religious texts?). It’s clear that care was taken to craft an immersive horror experience, and ENKI is a fantastic showcase of what Unreal Engine 4 is capable of. The game’s controls are straightforward and responsive, and native controller support is a good bonus. I think the folks at Storm In A Teacup have some real talent – it’s just a shame that ENKI is as short as it is.
As a reviewer, ENKI makes me feel a little torn. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good horror game and I had a great time playing it. If you’re a fan of the genre and are looking for something with a fresh new idea, this is what you’re looking for. On the other hand, $9.99 for half an hour of gameplay (maybe a little more if you try for a different ending) makes ENKI hard to recommend.
Check out ENKI on Steam here.