Strobophagia has a lot of potential to be a genuinely horrifying experience, but is weighed down by its generic music and the large amount of bugs.
Horror is a difficult genre to get right no matter what form of media it is in, but horror video games in particular can be finicky. Developer Green Tile Digital has a unique concept in Strobophagia by setting the game inside a neon and dubstep-soaked rave, but the memorable setting can only carry Strobophagia so far as it falls apart under the weight of its many game bugs and lack of polish.
Strobophagia begins with the unnamed protagonist of the game arriving at a rave in the middle of a forest, where everyone at the event has decided to wear black costumes and slather themselves in bright neon paint in different patterns. The player is then given a cell phone and informed that they follow their phone’s WiFi signal in order to discover connection points to allow them to chat with nearby ravers. As the player progresses further into the forest they begin to realize that not everything is normal at this rave.
Most of the gameplay in Strobophagia is centered around locating these WiFi signals in order to speak to others and learn clues about the environment. The other ravers will reveal information in their messages that can show how to solve nearby puzzles or where the next connection point is. Other than the phone, the player’s ability to interact with the world around them is severely limited. Only a few different kinds of objects like beer bottles or glow sticks can be picked up, but this actually forces players to spend more time interacting with the phone or analyzing the environment to understand how to progress.
A rave doesn’t really seem like something that could be scary, but Strobophagia does a great job of leaning into the unique horror elements made possible by its setting. The world has a hazy dream-like quality to it as everything is shrouded in darkness, but strobes and neon paint illuminate the mysteries and create an other-worldly feel to the game’s environment. It’s also hard not to feel uneasy when a bunch of masked figures stare with bright unblinking eyes as they gyrate to beat of the EDM music in the background. It helps that the player is completely confused and disoriented throughout the whole experience, which truly adds to the horror aspect.
One thing that is pretty disappointing about Strobophagia is that the music is pretty repetitive and boring. This is a problem that can affect the EDM genre somtimes, but a game that draws so much attention to its music could have used a more engaging soundtrack. Even those players who are big fans of electronic dance music will find that the few songs in Strobophagia are horrifyingly generic, and not the good kind of horrifying for this video game genre.
Unfortunately, Strobophagia‘s biggest problem is that it is basically unfinished. Strobophagia is plagued by bugs and performance issues at every turn, even after receiving several updates. The controls in particular feel unresponsive at times, especially when it comes to picking up objects or interacting with things in the environment. There are issues with the frame rate dropping at random moments or Strobophagia freezing for no reason at all, too. Many of Strobophagia’s problems have been fixed by its developers, but it still has a long way to go before it is completely functional.
Strobophagia would have been less disappointing if it didn’t feature such unique concepts for both its setting and game mechanics, which tantalize but never get delivered on. On top of this, it can actually be genuinely scary trying to uncover which masked party-goers are innocents and which are more than they appear. Strobophagia’s technical issues are far too much of a detraction on top of all its other shortcomings, but once they’re resolved, there will no doubt be an audience interested in what’s on offer purely because of the breath of fresh air it brings to the genre in terms of its premise – even if the execution is pretty lacking.
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Strobophagia can be played on PC. A Steam code was provided for the purposes of this review.
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