Emily Wants to Play Too sits very much inline with the likes of Slender, as far as quality and quantity is concerned. This is certainly no Outlast, but that’s not to say that it’s not worthy of your time, more so if you’re a horror fanatic. Unfortunately some technical issues persist throughout the entirety of play, leaving this one patch short of a much more refined package. The game comes with very little, if any, backstory. Emily Wants to Play Too begins by showcasing the protagonist’s need to get to bed. It doesn’t really matter whether you achieve this or not, as the game will automatically send you to your slumber either way. What follows on, however, is but a glimpse of all that awaits you in the main act.
Once the protagonist is sent to bed, he will seemingly wake up at 3 am. The game does very little to guide you through this process and instead requires you to use some common sense. There’s some dialogue at the bottom of the screen that tells you what you need to be doing; turn your alarm off, grab a shower, wash the pots, find your keys and go to work. If only it was that simple. You see, outside of these tasks you’ll also need to collect a couple of items to keep you safe. Though, this is also where some of the game’s initial and minor issues are highlighted. It’s never made clear as to what you should do to keep alive. Creepy beings are now situated inside your home and will come for you whether or not you play it carefully. It’s as scary as hell to begin with, but repeat failures soon make way for frustration.
These creepy foes are static to begin with. There’s a girl doll in your bedroom wardrobe, a lifeless clown sat in the hallway, a mannequin in a rocking chair in the guest room and a puppet sat at the kitchen table. Unless I was missing something, I couldn’t quite nail how to prevent them from reanimating, even once I had escaped the nightmare. There are some clues, indeed, but nothing really adds up in the grand scheme of things. It took far too much trial and error to overcome what really should only take two minutes to accomplish. I would play the game several times in the exact same sequence I was expected to, yet still get caught regardless at different sections throughout. If you get captured by any of these freaks the game will restart you waking up at 3am, à la Groundhog Day.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that achieving a preset goal typically amounts to nothing more than staring at a black screen for north of fifteen seconds a pop. I’m not saying that the audience needs to see our leading man taking a shower or washing the pots, but it could have been less time consuming, especially when failures begin to stack and you’re forced to run the same tasks over and over. Group this with the aforementioned lack of progressive structure and you’ve a recipe for annoyance. I’ll detail two of my runs to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. First up I woke, turned off the alarm, grabbed the flashlight, took a shower, washed the pots and got the shit scared out of me by some creepy long black haired young girl.
On my next run I woke, turned off the alarm, grabbed the flashlight, took a shower and nearly woke my household up when I stepped out to find a freakishly scary statue grabbing me in the bathroom. It just doesn’t add up. I must have repeated this apartment sequence well over twenty times before I finally managed to escape, which admittedly felt like a fluke. To top it off the game has a tendency of thrown the protagonist across the room for doing nothing more than stepping on an empty plastic cup. This initial section of the game will also allow you to witness how poor the shadowing is. Seriously, it’s like watching Peter Pan’s shadow following you throughout, it’s all over the place. When you do finally manage to escape, you’ll once again wake up in your bed to find that the whole thing was just a dream, well, for now that is.
When you wake up you’re once again tasked with grabbing a shower, fetching the keys, washing the pots and finally beginning the meat of the game. The protagonist is a sandwich delivery guy that’s sent to a facility know as Central Evidence. Upon entry you’ll find yourself locked in and it falls to your desperate senses to maneuver around the sizable environment in order to escape the (now very real) foes from your nightmare. I don’t want to rag on this game too hard, because above all else, it’s a very disturbing edge-of-your-seat experience. Though with that being said, better optimization and some minor directional help would have offset the bad first impression. Mercifully the events following the nightmare section of the game is better refined, but not so much so that I can completely forgive it for its overall somewhat ignorant design.
Upon entering the Central Evidence section you’ll immediately witness some sort of ritual that the “dolls” are performing, before seeing the door slam shut and the light go out. What follows on from here is a game of hide and seek, or cat and mouse to be more specific. In order to escape the facility you’ll need to locate key-cards to access different areas of the environment, each of which comes with its own marginally unique design and functionality. Emily Wants to Play Too is a lot larger than Emily Wants to Play and comes with new foes on top of the original foes, including the titular Emily. In comparison to the new dolls, Emily takes a backseat for the most part and only appears periodically throughout the game. I have to admit that this game, despite how predictable it can be, almost always scared the hell out of me regardless as to whether I saw it coming or not.
Emily Wants to Play Too’s atmosphere is well set and constantly relays a sense of isolation and fear, which is something many horror games fails to achieve these days. The game also has quite a number of articles, objects and hints that the player can inspect and sometimes interact with, lending the game some backstory and meat. Checkpoints will vary as you progress deeper in, with each section typically demanding that you complete it within a set amount of time. The dolls will be present throughout and will come for you depending on how you behave. For instance, Greta the scorched doll will slowly patrol specific hallways, however, if you try running from her, she’ll almost instantly kill you. The dolls aren’t too hard to bypass, but they don’t always make themselves apparent until it’s too late, which only instills another layer of tension.
The gameplay typically remains the same from the onset. Meaning you’ll be moving from one point to the next while avoiding danger, anxiously attempting to overcome whatever obstacle sits in your way as you try to locate the next key. There’s a fair amount of content in return for the generous asking price, with a speed-run mode thrown in for good measure to push forward some replay value. Speaking of the visuals, the game looks pretty good. The environment is well detailed and designed in such a way that makes you feel claustrophobic; tight hallways, dark compact rooms, small offices and so on and so forth. The character models are also well crafted, coming tethered to sound effects that only bolsters their disturbing presence. It’s fair to say that if you’re looking for your next horror fix and you enjoyed the predecessor, Emily Wants to Play Too wont let you down.
Emily Wants to Play Too is bigger and better than its predecessor, but that’s not to say that it comes without issues. Problems with its performance tends to take the bulk of its downside, with the lack of a solid progressive structure and poor shadowing following closely behind. That said, this is still one hell of a scary experience that will certainly please horror fanatics and fans of the first game alike.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.