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I Love Anna

Since Iím not the best at describing games, I would say Anna is an explorative horror game. By which I mean you arenít so much chased by horrifying creatures but wandering through a creepy and immersive space where you feel like you might be chased by horrifying creatures at any second.

Officially however, the game is a Ďfirst person horror adventure with 3D graphicsí, is set in an old sawmill in Val díAyas, Italy. You begin the game in a sunny, lush and beautiful garden, seemingly in a remote forest; in direct contrast to the houseís atmosphere. The player must solve puzzles in the seemingly deserted house while their sanity declines, resulting in some terrifying instances.

I'm not joking.

The game suffered poor reviews however, for a few reasons. Firstly, you canít really die, so there isnít much motivation out of fear. Secondly, the puzzles are presented with incredibly little suggestion regarding what you are meant to do. Thirdly, the interface is somewhat clunky and awkward. I agree with these issues; as much as I loved the game, I found these to be problematic. Although I never actually felt like I couldnít die (in fact, I think I missed out on something here because I was under the impression I could die anytime), my deaths seemed random. I couldnít understand why I had just collapsed and respawned outside the house. Adding to the confusion, the puzzles are pretty unclear Ė while I had a vague idea that the stove was broken, I had no idea how to fix it and with what items. Did I have to replace the pipe above the stove? Eventually I found the vaguely labelled Ďspare partsí, which allowed it to be repaired. Similarly when I was trying to get an offering for the Goddess, although I had a general idea of what I was meant to do, it was difficult to figure out how exactly to use the items I had in the correct way. I spent a lot of time wrestling with the inventory system and randomly trying to combine items in the hopes that I could get moving and explore the house more.

So after all of that complaining, why do I like the game? It provides incredible atmosphere. I constantly felt on edge, drawn forward by eerie singing, creaking, and banging. I wanted to explore every part of the house, and I did; creeping forward inch by excruciating inch, peeking around corners, ready to jump out of my chair at any moment.

Foreboding bumping sounds suggested I go to this room, where I was greeted by this eerie spectacle. It seems almost poetic, suggesting something,but I donít know what. The position of the body on the floor, what the body actually is, if itís alive, the black marks on the floor, the light bulb precariously dangling from the ceiling. The quality of the floorboards really impressed me, and made the image seem all the more real, even though the mix of white wall and red brick suggest an alternate reality or dimension. At this point Iím scared, but so curious to find out more.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I entered this bedroom, having heard screaming and banging noises getting louder and louder.

The snippets of text I read were relatively vague, but allude to what happened here. Is Anna a goddess, fighting with her husband? What do the assassin, divine, and truth masks have to do with it? Why is this wooden figure wearing one? Why is she surrounded by candles? And why on earth is there blood on the wall? Every time I turned around in this room I held my breath, listening out for the tiniest sound in case the figures would move around. In so many areas of the house, sadness is apparent. Wooden figures (both tree-like and mannequin), in crying poses, covering their empty faces and crouched on the floor. I felt like that Goddess was trapped, in a human form in a human world, with a child no less. Once again, the tree-woman got my heart racing when she appeared bent over a cradle in the kitchen. I could hear a baby crying, and there were leaves scattered all over the floor.

This scenario is what made me run to my bed at midnight and decide I was done with this game, at least for a while. Every time I walked past this mannequin holding a candle, the shadow flickered. Every time, I nearly †flew out of my chair. Then, the wooden figure appeared. Blocking my way. Facing me while I tried to slip past. Arms stretched out, with TEETH. She seems to appear anywhere and everywhere, leaving me constantly on edge every time I move.
I truly believe the atmosphere of a game can make it stand apart from others. While Annaís gameplay and mechanics have serious issues regarding controls, knowing how to progress, and instinctiveness, it provides a terrifying atmosphere. I was constantly wanting to explore the house, and discover what was really going on there. At the same time, I was shrieking whenever I came around a corner to be faced with a wooden woman with massive gnashy teeth, her pointed twig-like fingers stretched out towards me. I knew something horrible had happened to her, and I found myself imagining what would happen, should I have to encounter her properly. I.e., where she could actually kill me.

Overall, Anna is very much an explorative game, and you will probably need a walkthrough to complete the puzzles. I loved it because it was simply terrifying, in a quiet, unsettling way that survival horrors simply donít provide to me. Anna features gothic music, with haunting vocals by Italian band Chantry, contributing to the supernatural and eerie feel of the environments. Anna communicates a deep and unrelenting sadness, in a way that really permeates how you move throughout the game.
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About emuishereone of us since 5:54 AM on 11.25.2013

Hi there, my name is Sian. I'm a Communication Studies graduate from Australia. Recently I wrote a thesis on how Csikszentmihalyi's Flow theory can be applied to video games, in order to explain how games can contribute to happiness.

Currently I am a PhD student looking at how video game culture creates identities and communities, with a particular focus on women.