It seems like every game that is meant to be horror lately has taken some inspiration from Five Nights at Freddy’s. It’s completely understandable. The original game was a cultural phenomenon that relied heavily on its dark themes and tense gameplay. It’s hard to say that the game is actually scary, but the tense feeling that was born from the knowledge of the almost inevitability of your demise is what made this game special.
Following this, multiple developers have taken inspiration from Freddy and twisted the formula to create their own experiences. You can look at Tattletail or the source of today's discussion, Emily Wants to Play. While these types of games certainly have some evident inspiration, each game is still its own entity. It can be argued that some of these are better than the source of inspiration. Emily Wants to Play is a much better game that builds more on tension and not actually being given the time or chances to learn what needs to be done.
I discovered Emily Wants to Play while I was searching a Playstation Store sale. These are great to find games you have been wanting to play at cheaper prices, but also games that you have never heard of. Sure, if you follow the popular YouTube gaming scene, it is likely you would have heard of this game through the many popular YouTubers who offered annoying paint-by-numbers plays of this game. But for those like myself who don’t follow this area, Emily Wants to Play is a surprise discovery that is not very likely to be known about by many horror game fans or general game players for that matter.
Emily Wants to Play thrives off its minimalist narrative and spooky setting, essentially being asked that classic horror movie motif, “Do you want to play a game?” The key point being that you are not so much asked as you are being told. While most games let players move and interact with the environment to play the game, Emily Wants to Play tells you that you are playing. As such, Emily gives you five real-world minutes to study the house (which makes up the game's setting) and find information as well as a key item before the games begin.
The best part of this moment is that tense feeling of uncertainty. You are immediately presented with a closed door and a blink-in blink-out doll, although this is not entirely clear. As you wander the house freely you discover some dark and disturbing words suggesting Emily is rather broken and unstable. This just adds to that unknowing sense of what is going to happen. As dolls run about in these opening minutes and you discover the house layout, you remain uncertain of what Emily has in store and whether you will survive the night.
This is the best kind of horror game. You are not restricted to a single room trying to keep yourself alive. You are free to wander and face a learning curve that makes survival difficult. There are no immediate instructions that tell you how to play Emily’s game, and it is likely her doll army will kill you twenty times over before learning the secrets of each one’s personal game. These lead to a moment of revelation when you finally figure things out and discover the secrets that are indirectly left for you to uncover.
Because of this, Emily Wants to Play manages to become a much creepier game that draws you in through its minimalist approach as well as its lack of instruction. Until you finally figure out the secrets behind each doll's child-like game you are left unsettled, dreading that moment when you hear the doll and it inevitably kills you. This approach of limiting instructions and narrative makes this game have a much greater impact than if you were to play most other horror games. It is that random factor that builds the tension and atmosphere that is wholly captivating.
So what is the point of this? Well, I wanted to take the chance to explore a game that has been largely overlooked and that more people should play. Emily Wants to Play is a cheap budget game available digitally across many of the biggest platforms, Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, even iOS and Android. While you can certainly just watch a playthrough of the game on YouTube I feel that you would be soiling the experience of getting the chance to play a great game.
Emily Wants to Play is best experienced on your own, as you deal with the dark narrative and the tricky gameplay. On another note Emily Wants to Play is surprisingly satisfying to play. As a simple horror game it is far more enjoyable through its basic concept and twisting of old ideas. What makes things even better, is the fact that the game went so far under the radar. This makes Emily Wants to Play a true gem in its discovery. I now suggest you find this game. It’s short but wholly satisfying and worth playing. Give this forgotten, or at least little known, gem a go. You will not regret it.
Let the games begin. They will be the games to die for. Literally.