“What the fuck is going on here?” I found myself saying this many times during the course of Injection π23 ‘No Name, No Number’. Yeah, that name is a mouthful and I don’t plan on writing that out more than once, so for convenience sake, I’m just going to refer to it here on simply as Injection. An indie survival horror game and love letter to Silent Hill, Injection is sure to test your patience in many ways. It sure is something, though whether that something is good or bad really depends on the type of person playing it.
Now when they say Injection is a love letter to the excellent Silent Hill series, it’s not an exaggeration. The protagonist is a shut-in who leaves the house to chase after his dog and discovers that the townspeople are missing and unknown horrors lurk in the streets. Injection is a dark, creepy game full of macabre imagery. There is also a large dose of the surreal; especially when it comes to the loading screens and cutscenes. Often they play out in a blur of unsettling imagery of light juxtaposed with dark, constantly shifting like spilled ink on a sheet of paper. The gruesome entities that roam the street are out of a Lovecraft-esque nightmare; things that cannot be described because the human mind cannot comprehend what it does not understand. And the worst part about it? For a good chunk of the game, you have no way of fighting them.
There are a few firearms to obtain, but ammo is scarce and you won’t even see your first gun until halfway through the game. Even then, the shooting can be a pain in the ass because the aiming feels pretty janky. My guy actually turned around at one point and I was stuck aiming in the wrong direction as a monster beat my ass, quite literally. This leaves you with stealth as your main survival tool. Walking slowly or crouching is your best bet. There is a little sound icon onscreen to show you how much noise you’re making along with a red eye that pops up when an enemy sees you. Then it’s time to run until you’re out of sight. Problem with that is sprinting uses stamina. Run out while an enemy is after you and you are as good as dead. It slowly recharges whenever sprint is not in use or you can use an energy drink to reinforce the stamina bar for a bit, but again, resources are scarce. You can find meat to distract enemies but the couple of times I tried it, it went completely ignored. The only real chance you have is not to be seen and be ready to run. There aren’t many healing items available; maybe one per chapter. It doesn’t help that the game limits you to carrying one at a time. The bandages and spray heal a specific amount while the syringe cures poison. If you manage to have all three at the same time you can craft a medkit that restores you fully. I often found it hard to differentiate items from the background. There are times when I knew there was an item there and I still had trouble keying in on it because the area was too dark and it blended in too well with the environment. Playing in the first-person view mode also adds to the difficulty of picking up items to do a weird button prompt detection issue.
There is a lot of Dualshock functionality in the game, every feature is used in some way or another. Motion controls are used for certain actions, like lock-picking and rotating items while examining them. Toggling the touch pad activates three different color modes for your controller’s light bar. It glows red for enemies, blue for items, and green for nearby health. While the concept is cool, honestly, I didn’t think this function was useful at all because not only am I never looking down at my controller, the light only glows when you are directly on top of the item in question. My personal favorite is the use of the controller speaker. When the monsters are real close to you, it makes all kinds of creepy noises. It adds that extra little bit of oomph to encounters. I wish more devs would take advantage of it.
Injection is a surprisingly difficult game and I’m no amateur to the genre. Fighting the monsters is not a viable option and resources are extremely limited. If you get killed, it’s back to the start of the chapter for you, unless you saved the game. Saving is not a simple process either. You need to use a crown of thorns at an altar, of which there is typically one per chapter. In order to make the crown of thorns, you need to find and combine 2 sacred waters and 5 thorn sticks. There is no autosaving between chapters either so if you want to stop playing you need to use up the limited save items before you can call it quits unless you want to be kicked back to the last time you saved instead of the start of the most recent chapter. It’s a frustrating design choice because 1) It is very easy to die and 2) The puzzles can be incredibly hard.
Ah yes, the puzzles. I don’t think there are many games out there with puzzles as hard as some of the ones you will find in Injection. Just one puzzle at the end of the first chapter took me at least an hour to figure out. There was a keypad guarded by a three-headed dog. Its display says NO and there are three colored switches that can be pressed up or down to show different number values while changing the main number value on the main display. Where could I find the combination? I tried playing with the numbers, making positives and negatives, checked all my notes and scoured the area for more clues. Nothing worked. Revisiting the areas, there were a couple of televisions that could be interacted with. Out of 100 channels, most were static but some made weird noises; nothing useful. The other son of a bitch T.V., however, had three different channels that showed the same three colors as the keypad I was stuck on. I made a note of the channel number of each color, entered it on the keypad and presto, problem solved.
Combining the factors of inadequate saving practices, tough enemies and puzzles of often challenging difficulty, it is hard for me to recommend Injection to most casual players. Despite the assortment of technical issues and the odd saving scheme, I found myself wanting to go back and play it more, even after getting wrecked by a sucker-punching demon thing. One great thing about Injection is that when you beat a chapter, you feel like you really earned it. That and the existential dread you feel when creeping down a narrow street or a dark hall and hoping nothing is around the corner. There is plenty of tension and quite a few jump scares along the way. So if you’re a horror aficionado looking for something different, something challenging, then Injection 23 is well worth the price of entry. It is only available in Europe right now, but there are plenty of FAQS out there on how to create an account if you need one.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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