FLATHEAD Impression – Low Stakes

FLATHEAD is a game of chance. You pull the lever and generate a number, and must then guess whether the next number will be higher or lower. Guessing correctly means earning more points and taking you closer to your escape. Guessing incorrectly means the monster that slowly creeps closer towards you down the corridor will take another step while you wait for the next chance to try again. The concept of FLATHEAD is excellent for generating short-term tension in an unsettling environment. Notice the emphasis on ‘short-term’?

This is a glimpse into the world of developer Tim Oxton’s upcoming horror game, silkbulb test, with a 2$ price tag to raise money for its development as an alternative to using a Kickstarter* – albeit it should be considered its own full-sized game. And while this is explained on the Steam page for silkbulb test, it’s not mentioned on the Steam page for FLATHEAD. In fact, in a news post by the developer, it’s explained that the full title for FLATHEAD is FLATHEAD SILKBULB to ‘make it clear they’re related’, yet this isn’t the case on FLATHEAD’s steam page aside from ‘silkbulb’ being written underneath FLATHEAD’s giant logo in the key art.

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Will the next number be higher or lower than 19?

While I am looking forward to trying out silkbulb test once it’s ready, especially after picking up some of its lore in FLATHEAD, I can’t help but feel that FLATHEAD could be confusing to those landing on the Steam page without the context provided by silkbulb test’s Steam page. What they will get is a 2$ game that lasts approximately 20 minutes. While some may say “it’s only 2$ and funds the creation of a larger game,” others will say it’s hardly worth spending money on at all, especially for someone who doesn’t have an interest in silkbulb test. At least with a Kickstarter, you can see the project’s progress and what your money will be going towards.

That being said, what is present in FLATHEAD is at least well-designed with stunning graphics and a few creepy moments, albeit the novelty wears off very early on. You’re sitting in a chair with a bunch of levers surrounding you. Pulling one generates a number from 1 to 20, and also starts the process of the monster slowly creeping up behind you. With excellent sound design, you can tell by the resonance of the footsteps and the creature’s ragged breathing, just how close it is to you. It’s a brilliant idea short-term and genuinely put me on edge when I first booted FLATHEAD up, especially because I didn’t fully understand the game mechanics until after a round or two and felt a drop in my stomach when I realized the creature’s noises behind me were getting closer. I also appreciated the setting to turn off jumpscares as there are those of us who are horror fans but despise jumpscares being used to generate horror.

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You have three fuses (unless you earn more in the wheel of fortune) to turn on the lights and take a peek at what’s creeping up on you from down the hallway.

There are three rounds to play in FLATHEAD, each requiring progressively more points in order to escape the situation. You get points by correctly guessing whether the next number drawn will be higher or lower than the first. Incorrectly guessing means you’re stuck waiting for the system to reset and you lose any points you haven’t yet stored from previous guesses. You can earn more points with multipliers by risking not storing your points, but you do stand a chance of losing these if you guess incorrectly. 

There are two more levers, one offers a wheel of fortune which can work both in and against your favor, another will take away all the incorrect numbers but will also speed the creature up. A third lever allows you to turn on the hallway lights behind you so that you can see how close the creature is, but you have limited fuses for this and there’s not much use for this besides from giving yourself a peace of mind (or not if you turn around and it’s nearly on top of you).

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The starting room, because there was nothing else to the game that I could take a screenshot of…

And that’s FLATHEAD. Three levels of guessing numbers. This is referred to as a game of gambling, but really it’s a game of estimated guesses as you will mostly find yourself guessing whether the next number is higher or lower simply by how many numbers you have on either side. If you’ve pulled a 5, then it’s statistically more likely that the next number will be higher.

Playing the three rounds repeatedly unlocks more lore bits for silkbulb test. But these collectables won’t be worth gathering unless you are highly interested in silkbulb test or just really enjoy this repetitive gameplay.

Jess played FLATHEAD on PC with a review code.

Editor’s note: This impression was edited on June 4th 2024 to reflect the fact that FLATHEAD is its own game rather than a demo/teaser for silkbulb test.

*The developer has since advised that this post is now out of date and was written prior to the project being published by Dread XP.

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Tim
Tim
19 days ago

Hey Jess!

This is Tim Oxton – the dev of Flathead. Ha I realize that responding to a review of your own game is *not great* – but I feel its important to clarify a few things because I feel like maybe something was miscommunicated here.

Flathead, regardless of whether you enjoyed it or not, should be considered a full, albeit bite-sized, game – its not at all intended to be a teaser or a demo. The gameplay is entirely unique to flathead. The initial post you linked to I made in March, when I initially started, and thought Id bang out a weird game in a week or two and be far more obvious that it was an elevated game jam game. FLATHEAD took about 3 very busy months and ended up being, IMO, far more fleshed out. So while its definitely in the same universe as silkbulb test, its supposed to stand on its own.

I super appreciate ya trying it out regardless, but I feel like the constant implication that Im trying to fleece people of their money by obscuring the fact that its a demo is honestly, kind of a bummer, especially when the game itself is cheaper than a bottle of water – and like you said, isnt labeled as a demo (or supposed to be)

TL;DR: Sorry the mechanics didnt vibe with ya, totally get it just wasnt for you. But Im *really* proud of flathead and it would kill me if the takeaway for this game was that I somehow mailed it in purely to get money for silkbulb test.