In 2015, Supermassive Games released Until Dawn, an interactive horror game where players take the role of several teenagers trying to survive against mysterious enemies until sunrise. While not revolutionary, the title was warmly received by critics and horror fans for its amusing self-aware B-movie storytelling and engaging QTE-based gameplay with game-changing player-decisions. The PlayStation VR exclusive prequel set 60 years before the events of Until Dawn, The Inpatient, strips away the original game’s campy tone for a more serious narrative.
OnlySP had the opportunity to experience a hands-on demo of The Inpatient at the Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS) 2017. While Until Dawn turned a stereotypical teen slasher flick into a video game, The Inpatient appears to reach out to traditional horror fans—from the demo’s snail-paced opening moments filled with cryptic flashbacks to a spooky scene ender. The Inpatient strays away from Until Dawn’s stereotypical slasher theme and opts for a psychological-horror experience where the sanatorium operates normally one moment and becomes a ghastly area the next. While the 10-to-15 minute demo only showed a glimpse of what players can expect in the full game, it shows that The Inpatient has more controlled scares than Until Dawn.
Despite the shift in tone, The Inpatient retains a few key features and narrative strokes from the original game. The butterfly effect feature, which alters one’s interactions with others based on player decisions and responses, exists in The Inpatient. Each player response would accordingly affect the dialogue, and whenever players select an important dialogue choice, butterflies would pop up on the screen to signify that the response would affect the narrative. Aside from dialogue changes, certain responses also yielded additional scenes. For instance, spotting a certain item in the surroundings during a flashback and mentioning it to the head doctor would prompt him to press for more questions and allow players to re-experience the flashback. With Supermassive Games boasting branching narratives and multiple endings, players are likely to experience many more such scenarios.
Aside from multiple outcomes resulting from the butterfly effect, The Inpatient is also treading on a delicately-told key plot of Until Dawn. While the cast of survivors in Until Dawn comprises mostly one-dimensional stereotypes, its monsters have a grisly backstory. Without spoiling Until Dawn’s plot too much, basically, the patients inside Blackwood Sanatorium slowly became flesh-eating creatures, and everyone who ate human flesh became cursed. While the devastation of Blackwood Sanatorium, the culprit behind its wreckage, and the reason for the existence of flesh-eating monsters are already known, how and why it happened will possibly be revealed in The Inpatient. Presumably, Supermassive Games also aims to make the narrative more unpredictable by placing players in the shoes of an amnesiac protagonist who experiences frequent flashbacks and hallucinations.
While The Inpatient strays away from Until Dawn’s B-movie tone, it contains most of the predecessor’s nuances. However, whether The Inpatient can be on par or exceed Until Dawn as a better horror game is another topic entirely, and will only be known once it releases on January 23, 2018, exclusively for PlayStation VR.