The crux of Scorn is in the riddles. It can play from an FPS perspective, and sometimes it offers what looks like a gun, but it’s a brain game at its core. Opening up with the mysterious main character literally breaking out of the seemingly living landscape, Scorn doesn’t show on the screen what to do or how anything works, leaving you wandering through the gently undulating corridors of his world, occasionally sticking your hands into the horrible appliances just for that. to see what happens.
Admittedly, this standalone approach works well. You quickly get (well, brutally implanted) hardware that allows you to manipulate biotech machines, leaving you to try to figure out what it’s all for. The player is then drawn to a single puzzle – open that big door – you slowly realize that it is actually made up of many smaller puzzles that need to be put together.
Contempt – 10 screenshots
These include from weird acquaintances (one puzzle about getting a huge, disgusting egg off the wall is actually simple sliding puzzle in disguise) to really bizarre (in one section I used what appeared to be a butcher’s gun to destroy floating steam machines in order to… feed a huge column?). It’s a very elegant way to tie the gameplay into the world and vice versa – and the combination of simple design and deeply unknown locations makes it a rewarding challenge to solve.
The story of Scorn seems intentionally left as blank as its solutions to the puzzles – I imagine it will take as much mental effort to interpret this world as the gameplay – but it seems clear that we are in a terrible place that has become even more terrifying. . For the most part, it’s fascinatingly unique when it comes to gaming, a worthy ode to the likes of Cronenberg, Giger, and maybe even Junji Ito.
One time, however, I felt that I was approaching something like Agony; accepting a more joyful, voyeuristic unpleasantness. Without revealing much about the solution, the main puzzle in this opening area focuses on using a nearly fetal-like person as a means of escape. Your mileage may vary, but having to mutilate them multiple times – watching them squirm, scream and wordlessly plead for you to stop – seemed to me less of an intrigue and more of a provocation. It was off-putting, but not in the way I would expect from what feels like an exercise in quiet, creeping horror.
I’ll be very interested to see how much this more overt gloom becomes a part of the bigger game, not least because it completely changes the mood created by the other puzzles. At its best, Scorn already seems like a very strange, thoughtful take on more open puzzles, perhaps most easily comparable to The Witness. Personally, I hope to see more – but if you’re looking for a dose of real hassle, you seem to have there as well. The balance between the two sides will be the key to its success.