Pardon the "bait-and-switch" this morning where I discussed a racing game instead of a horror game as the premise for this year's Halloween. It wasn't so much aaah scary! But the concept of playing a game for less than a dollar with player models that borderline uncanny valley, highways that are lifeless despite traffic, and just pure emptiness leave a way for an unsettling feeling. Obviously, Kanjozoku Game isn't a horror but if you think too much about these things in the meta, you start to creep yourself out. This segues into Charon's Staircase because that's how I felt by the time I "solved the first puzzle" of many.
Before you begin, the game asks you to set a language and I decided to follow the game's advice. Underneath the "Spanish" voice language was a subtitle that read "Original." For the best authentic experience, as the game takes place in a Spanish-speaking area, the Spanish dialogue offers immersion. Much like Fobia, items and documents the player can pick up are all in their native language with a translation option available.
I love the world-building that Charon's Staircase provides even if it's all familiar. You're investigating a missing person and there is talk of supernatural humans separated from Alpha and Omega. It's a lot to follow but you're unraveling a mystery as it takes place. That's all well and good but what I didn't like was the default brightness setting. I get that setting a spooky atmosphere is good and all, but if I literally can't see the road in front of me, what's the point? If I set the brightness too high it blinds me, naturally, but the atmospherical tricks unveil themselves as a thickness of the fog.
So the scare factor was kinda ruined by me, but, I need to know what I'm investigating and that's a core part of Charon's Staircase. The game hints that there's a mansion you must go to and you can walk to the docks to investigate it. The mansion is on the other side of the river and attempting to do so will give you a trophy titled "The Impatient." Pardon me for wanting to go where the action is, but I suppose we must enter the shack.
There's no imminent danger at all during the shack although you see ghostly children (as if I didn't have enough of that fill) and "visions" of the past. While these visions are meant to add exposition to the game's story, it's ruined by the jumpscare cues whenever these appear. If you want me to be involved in the main plot and what happened to Dara and Seth, sure. Seeing the camera immediately swivel to a ghostly baby crib with a loud "DUN" is going to do nothing but make me laugh.
Eventually, I found myself at the cemetery and I wish I could say more about the game but I fell in a ditch. Yeah, turns out another ghost appeared and he jumped in a ditch so I was like "maybe I should follow him!" I did, and there were two gravestones of a family I assume will be important later. One of the tombs was open, but I couldn't find my way out of the ditch even though a ladder was right there. I could open doors and find keys but I couldn't...climb a ladder?
Charon's Staircase is a slow burn that requires the player to explore and investigate every little thing. The first puzzle in escaping the shed was pretty interesting as the answers to access the office were in plain sight. Maybe the answer to escaping via a ladder was also right in front of my face, who knows? If you're looking for a thriller that's more on the story side than the horror side, this may be for you. I'm a scardey cat and even I didn't find the game at all scary. At first anyway. Maybe it'll be the ultimate pants ruiner in the latter half of the game.
Charon's Staircase is available on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, Sony PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S