Lifetap Volume 1, Issue 11 - Pineview Drive - Where Did I Leave My Keys?
Over the weekend I decided to hop on Twitch to check in with one of our streamer friends, SuperFancyUnicorn, to see what she was up to. For her latest episode of Super Scary Saturday, Uni was checking out a newish horror adventure, Pineview Drive. While the gameplay didn’t look all that impressive for an adventure game, once the stream wrapped up I decided to fire up my Steam client and check Pineview Drive out for myself.
If you look closely, you can see the ghost of Heath Ledger haunting the start screen of Pineview Drive
A first major thing to note about Pineview Drive is that it’s entirely dependent upon atmospheric lighting and – even more importantly – superbly scored audio and soundscapes. Without those two things, the game would be little more than a big old mansion with a crapload of locked doors that you have to find keys for. In fact, the entire premise of the game is that you’re committing a game called breaking and entering to try and uncover the answers to a mysterious event that occurred there 20 years earlier.
Your protagonist doesn’t have a whole lot to work with: most of the time you’ll be collecting and burning through batteries for your flashlight, matches, and the keys you’ll spend literally days in-game searching for. The flashlight is probably the most important piece of gameplay, because without it some of the interior spaces will be stupid levels of dark (as shown below).
No, really. The game is stupid dark in places at night until you have the flashlight.
All told you have 30 days to solve the mystery of the mansion. Each day will end once you’ve found the next “clue” which – at least early on – amounts to a line or two of text scribbled down in old journal pages scattered around the mansion.
At this stage the biggest mystery to me is this:
Each in-game day ends once you’ve reached your current objective. This always happens at nighttime while it’s stupid dark. At that point you apparently call it a day and retire to the same tiny bedroom for the night. By around day 3 or 4 I began to suspect that the protagonist is actually a vampire, because I’ll be damned if the bastard doesn’t stick to very vampire-like hours. In other words, he wakes up at sunset each and every day, insuring that one of those two key bits of atmospherics works as intended.
Some visuals can be somewhat subtle, such as the spooky ghost person shadows
The thing is, if you mute the in-game audio and rock out to some Skinny Puppy (or whatever it is you’d be listening to while playing horror games) the game is relatively tame. There are a few jump scares sprinkled throughout, but without the corresponding audio cues they tend to lose the intended impact.
The other thing you’d be missing out on is the very sparse voice acting that comes in occasionally in the form of hints for where to look for the next key, or once you’ve found one of the journal pages.
The artwork in Pineview Drive is actually very well done... when it's bright enough to see.
For the most part, Pineview Drive kept making me think of two other games the longer I played: The first Resident Evil, and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines.
The RE connection is that you spend most of your time in and around a dark, creepy mansion and have to open and go through an awful lot of doors.
The Bloodlines reference is a bit more subtle, but is mainly due to the expertly crafted Ocean House Hotel segment that you play through early on in Santa Monica. In fact, if I were going to suggest a good virtual haunted house experience to play through to get into the Halloween mood, you should absolutely pick up Bloodlines to play through the hotel. The rest of the game is excellent as well, but the Ocean House Hotel is an excellent example of how to do creepy and atmospheric in video games.
By comparison, Pineview Drive comes across as a very basic idea that’s been padded out with more gameplay than it really needs to constitute being a full game. At least the first third of the game consists of doing exactly the same thing: looking for keys, finding them, and then looking for which door they unlock.
The other bit of gameplay that does at least have some potential is how your reactions to creepy moments in-game will impact your health. In one of the first few days you walk into a room and when you turn around the door is gone. As you turn to search the room for an alternate exit or interactive object one of the sporadic jump scare moment happens. Spin your character around too quickly, and you suffer additional health loss. Stay calm and collected and you might still take a hit, but it won’t be as harsh.
Is Pineview Drive worth the price of entry? I’ll leave that up to you to decide, and you can do so by downloading the handy free demo on Steam. If you’re the type that scares easily, just remember that there is no spoon and you should be fine.