Growing up I never was really into the horror genre unless it was the Universal monsters. Though once I hit my 30’s I started watching old ‘80s classics like Friday The 13th, Nightmare on Elm St, and Halloween. There grew a love for these now classics movies. I started watching the more modern ones that Blumhouse, STX, and A24 were putting out.
Along with watching movies, I found myself playing video games in the same vein. I was introduced to them by my buddy Dylan who had become a YouTube gaming content creator. One of the games he made a series on was Layers of Fear from an indie studio called Bloober Team out of Poland.
If you didn't know the gaming industry is really big in Poland. So big in fact that the Prime Minister gave President Obama a copy of The Witcher II as a gift. Some of my favorite indie games like Layer of Fear, GoNNer, and Butcher have been ported to the Nintendo Switch are from Polish developers.
Bloober Team solidified themselves as a studio who could sit at the adult table with Layers of Fear. Now with Observer, there are talks that Bloober Team could be one of the studios to remake Silent Hill. That's only if Konami wants to follow the trend set by Capcom with the Resident Evil 2 remake.
Observer takes the theme of a futuristic Poland where cybernetic enhancements are a common medical practice after the last world war. You play as Observer detective Daniel Lazarski (voiced by Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner) who gets a strange call from his estranged son Adam. Like in most horror games taking place in one place. You find that Adam has been living in a rundown tenement building (which is a real building that one of the developers live) where drug and hologram addicts live.
(Screenshot taken from Nintendo Life's video on making the Observer)
You get yourself in Adam’s apartment, which has been ransacked. You find a body with its head cut off, which triggers a security shutdown to the building. Without being able to get a positive ID on the body Dan has to find a way to get out of Adam’s apartment to find the killer. This starts the more core mechanics of the game. Opening and scanning everything you can, searching for clues, and hacking into keypads. Once you override the security system to the apartment you roam the halls trying to find a way out. Along the way, you have the opportunity to interview the other tenants.
With clues leading you to other dead bodies, you use your title as Observer to link into their memories to find out who and where the killer might be. Though linking up doesn't just give you access to the victims past, your past with Adam as a boy mixes in with those memories. The way these memories play out is where the horror and puzzle aspects of the game shines. With winding hallways, and puzzles where if you take the wrong turn you are back at where you started. Observer builds on what Bloop Team learned with Layers of Fear and ramped it to 11. This time around you have villains, the murderer and this rag doll monster that looks like something out of the movie 9 that you have to sneak by while trying to find an exit.
The story is well thought out. You have multiple people this time telling their side of how they either fought against Chiron (the mega-corporation that took over Poland and started the Fifth Polish Republic) or those who were apart their cybernetic experiments and the people who are addicted to drugs and/or holographic stimuli. If Layers of Fear deals in psychological horrors of a painter in the 1920s, Observer deals with the psychological choices made in a future where we can be anyone and have anything, though it may cost us our life.
That is the real horror about this game. That this fantasy could someday be our reality. This game may have been overlooked, but this game is just as brilliant as Detroit Become Human, and if you just own a Nintendo Switch longing for an immersive thought-provoking game, Observer is that game. This is already a cult classic, why not let us make it a critical success.