Are you ever watching a horror movie and you get so frustrated with the characters as they sit there and make the stupidest decisions that lead to their eventual demise? Well, here’s your chance to see if you’d do much better. Until Dawn is a choice-based horror game in which you play as an ensemble of teenagers that are having a party weekend on an isolated mountain one year after the death of their two friends. What could possibly go wrong?
Oh, you liked that character? Turns out that thing you said two chapters ago means they’re getting chopped up now. Oops. Beware the butterfly effect, this game will blindside you, and it is so awesome.
Going to be honest right now, this game falls short in most areas when it comes to accessibility. First of all, there’s a reason that this game is only available on PS4, and it has to do with motion controls. There is a mechanic Until Dawn uses where the player has to hold their controller completely still; otherwise whatever is chasing you in that scene will find you because of the movement. It’s nerve-wracking, and the length of how long you can’t move varies depending on the severity of the situation. There’s no way to turn this mechanic off, which would have gotten the game some points in the mobility section.
This game does not offer any key remapping, you basically can choose between using “traditional” controls, or using “motion” controls, but that’s the extent of that feature. The game relies on quick time events, one slip up at the wrong moment, and suddenly that character is falling into the icy abyss of the abandoned mines. There are also precision moments where the game gives you several tiny targets that you have to quickly choose between, aim at, and then fire.
Until Dawn is an amazing game story-wise, but it really needs to work on its mobile accessibility because it barely earned that one point I gave it.
This game makes up for itself in the auditory section, that’s for sure. Subtitles are present, and they even label who is saying which line! I was pretty excited about that, because with an ensemble cast like this it can get confusing who is screaming at who to “grab that axe already!” All audio cues are accompanied by visual ones, whether it’s a character saying “what was that?” or by a QTE where you have to decide if you want to send your character towards the noise or not. There are no areas where you have to rely on sound to avoid something, the game will always switch to more of a cinema mode if you need to be careful, and then it’s all pressing the right buttons and holding still.
So, this game is pretty dark, and I don’t just mean story-wise. It’s part of the ambience of the game, but sometimes it is hard to see. Luckily, you can change the brightness of the game if you need to. When it comes to colorblind options, I didn’t get the impression they were needed. Nothing is identified by color; in fact, the way you find things to interact with is that they become highlighted by a bright white light when you look towards them. And being able to find objects is one of the most important aspects of the game, so props on that mechanic to make it a little easier. There is also a nice feature you can turn on called “sidebar text”, which is letterboxed text on the side of the screen that shows up whenever you have to read a note or something you find when exploring.
One issue is definitely that the subtitles are sort of small and are not letterboxed, so they can be hard to read at times. QTE’s could present an issue, seeing as they identify the buttons you need to press with their symbols, like a green triangle and a red circle, and they come and go quickly so you don’t have much time to think about what you’re looking at.
Very good use of visual cues to show off audio cues, and subtitles always make it clear who is speaking at any time. Colorblind options are not needed, and the use of side text for reading objects is very helpful.
The mobility of this game is awful, they offer no key remapping, and the motion-control sections would make it difficult for anyone that has a hard time keeping their hands still for long periods of time.