Visage is a psychological horror first person puzzle game. The puzzles are the hardest part of the game, which usually requires finding keys or unique items as you progress through the game. Let’s go over some of the game’s basics before diving into the story. The controls are; ‘RT’ to interact items, ‘LT’ allows us to move slightly faster, we move and look around with our toggle sticks. Combing ‘LT’ while moving backwards will perform a quick turn and will come in handy when coming across enemies later. Pressing the ‘View’ button or ‘Select’ will bring up our inventory. All items that can be interacted with can be held unless they are key items, which go directly into the inventory (like keys).
In our inventory there are two types of items, Key items and Dynamic ones. Dynamic items are the usable items within the game that our main character can hold in either hand and use. We can also Press ‘Y’ to switch the dynamic item that’s equipped to our other hand, and even hold ‘B’ and one of the triggers to drop whatever that hand is holding or can even store it back in the inventory. Storing items is where the game adds minor difficulty. Key items like sledgehammers or crowbars can only be used with both hands and can be dropped and left. If they de-spawn, they will be added to the storage room in the basement and can be reacquired when needed later. Some of the items are only used during particular chapters, so can be discarded after progressing far enough. When using keys or solving a puzzle, you must bring up your inventory and use the item you think is the correct option. The game is very giving with information popping up at the bottom about what doors are usable and what the name of the key it requires to open.
Light sources such as lighters or candles can be held and help guide Dwayne through the extremely dark house we are trapped inside. Our mental state does play a role in the game, it’s called our Sanity and appears in the bottom left of our screen, shown by a brain icon. The more visible it is, the more unstable our character becomes. A second factor with our sanity is that it drains over time if not standing in the light, and the lower our sanity, the more likely paranormal events are to occur. The paranormal events can add a blood spot over our sanity icon and can be lethal if our character becomes too scared.
The light sources positively affect the sanity and will drain it if next to a light source. Lighters are the only light in the game that doesn’t ease our sanity. Candles, which we can place around the house, are more permanent and help with managing sanity. I used candles a few times during my gameplay and mainly stuck with fluorescent lights and quick sprints with my lighter. Lightbulbs can also break randomly and can be changed with bulbs found around the house. Many of the items will reset and respawn in different locations in between chapters.
The goal is to uncover all the mysteries that this house holds without going insane, no threat will kill you until you start one of the three chapters available from the beginning. The three chapters can be played in any order, but would be best suited to play them in order of Lucy, Dolores, then Rakan’s chapter. Each chapter starts by picking up a unique item and will warn you that starting a chapter will not allow another chapter to be started until finished. Lucy’s can be started by interacting with the panda drawing upstairs, Dolores can be started with the keys next to the front door, and lastly Rakan’s chapter can be started with the crutches next to the front door. I managed to finish them in an odd order and still had no major issues.
Each chapter is a story of a different family that has once resided in the house before, and are very dark gruesome stories. We get to experience these past stories as the main character, Dwayne Anderson, who seems unstable himself. There are pills scattered around the house along with the other items like the candles or lighters that can be taken to help us decrease our sanity levels. As always, I will avoid spoilers, but the story is scattered and something the player has to piece together through the chapters and along with collectibles.
Visage offers some variety with its collectibles and hides them quite well. Eight matryoshka dolls are hidden throughout the house and there are three missable ones to be claimed in Lucy’s chapter. After finishing each chapter, we receive a VHS tape which can be viewed in the living room with a clue for finishing the fourth chapter in the game. Only three are given through progression and the other 4 tapes must be found around the house. Each one of these tapes lead to a secret hidden scene in the house and at the end of the seven scenes, we receive a mirror mask piece. There are only 7 pieces of the mask to collect and doing so will end the game with the good ending. There are also four cassette tapes to be found in Dolores chapter and a singular psychological evaluation file in Rakan’s chapter. All are missable if not picked up before the end of the chapters except for the house locations.
Fortunately, the game allows saving in-between chapters and has autosaves in case we are too slow to solve a puzzle or flee an enemy. The dolls are the only collectibles that carry over between new game saves as well and game progression items can be found in the progress room right next to the start to remind yourself what you’ve done. The story has 4 different endings, but the good ending is the only true one. There are many easter eggs to be found in the game as you explore the dark labyrinth that Dwayne calls home and some are even achievements.
The house doesn’t really change much when advancing through the chapters, rather it just becomes more accessible allowing new paths to be taken. The big changes are during each chapter and can feel like a haunted maze. When most of the doors have been opened, you might have the occasional follower try to kill Dwayne depending on his sanity. The biggest issue the game currently has is enemy tracking. There was more than one occasion where I found myself running away from an enemy only to turn around and find them not chasing me properly. One enemy during Lucy’s chapter was chasing me and I ran around a corridor to only discover it was caught on a wall. Most of the chase scenes end though if you run away and stand in some light briefly. During the chapters there will be chase scenes where you’ll have to race to the next area, but none of the enemies move quickly in the game except the fourth chapter enemy. As long as you don’t get trapped in a dead end, you should manage to escape.
The Sanity levels lead to randomly generated paranormal events, which really help add to the thrill of playing this game. I would not have enjoyed the jump scare fest that is this game if it didn’t include that feature. To me, that was what made the game feel more intense thanks to paranormal events setting Dwayne off. Dolores’ Chapter was the scariest chapter for me to play through thanks to the sanity levels being so low in the basement. There are scenes where you’re running around downstairs with little to no light and she can randomly pop up behind you, just around a corner. This can happen through the entire game with any of the enemies if not quick enough to bathe in some light to lower your sanity levels. Pills are helpful to battle this at certain points, but should be saved for when your sanity is too low, since it will be the only option to raise it again.
There’s also no pausing in the game which puts the player in the heat of the moment all the time. This game is a fun psychological horror game with an interesting story to creep you out. It’s a better puzzle game though than it is just horror. Some of the early puzzles are very easy, but the game gets more creative. Rakan’s chapter is stressful with an elevator puzzle that needs to be solved by reducing the weight and you have to run away from a chasing enemy while doing it. The hardest puzzles to solve are some of the VHS tapes as they only provide an image or two of a hint to where you need to go look.
The graphics for Visage are not mind blowing, but do have high resolution 3D images for pretty much every item in the game. It couldn’t hurt to clean some of the textures here and there such as the bathroom floor’s pattern or even door frames in the late game clipping through some moving walls. I personally didn’t like the choice of making Dwayne completely invisible and not appear in any mirror reflections. It seems strange playing a first-person game with no image or animations of his hands or arms, especially during a scene where Dwayne is rummaging around in a toilet. The items he holds are just floating and if spamming ‘Y’ to switch hands with the item, it floats side to side like a ghost. I understand though that adding that would require tons of animation, but I was expecting it with the current price tag the game holds.
The sound quality of the game isn’t bad at all and only plays music during cinematic parts to add to the atmosphere. The songs that do play sound adds ambience and emotion. There isn’t really music that plays in the background other than scripted pieces, but there are background sounds such as raining and footsteps from Dwayne or other entities. The radio will sometimes turn on randomly and Dwayne can listen to some music with static over it.
The game does have an issue with sound traveling; when I was in Rakan’s chapter this became very apparent with a washing machine being very loud, but I picked up a chair to put in-between me and the machine and it was like I was in another room suddenly. After I noticed it with the machine in the chapter, I started to realize it’s like that with other sounds in the game. The noise travels until it comes against an object rather than emitting the sound at a set range. This can explain why you walk to one side of a room and can hear the radio and then walk next to window to listen to rain with no radio in the background, even though it’s still in the same room. Other than the sound volume issue, this game uses sound only to add to the thrill of playing.
The longevity for Visage isn’t as long as I think it should be for its price. Especially with the other known issues I experienced and it being crowd source funded. Hopefully the developers remain active in fixing the game since it’s already on version 3.01. Adding better tracking for enemies can provide the developers a chance to add difficulties to the game. I would only recommend purchasing this game if you’re a fan of games like Layers of Fear or the P.T. (playable trailer) that was released, then cancelled shortly after. It’s definitely a growing genre, one I’ve really enjoyed playing in the past.
Although quirky, Visage is a thrill to play as the random events can change your experience with the game each playthrough, but playing it more than once will remove most of the thrill by knowing the jump scares and harder puzzles. I hope SadSquare studio continues to add to this title, as it can benefit from it, and it deserves to be played by the horror genre fans. I managed to solve all puzzles and earn all 27 achievements for 1,000 gamerscore in Visage in roughly 12-15 hours.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.