game thoughts: Maid of Sker (2020)

animated picture: handheld game playing, thought bubble that says “Game thoughts”

Maid of Sker was part of Xbox’s ‘Games with Gold’ freebies in October and for some reason I decided to play it this week. When I saw that it was the same publisher as ‘SOMA’, I had high hopes but unfortunately, the game falls short.

You play as Thomas who has come to the Isle of Sker to find his missing girlfriend, Elisabeth. Her family owns the resort on the island and she wrote to you saying her father has locked her away inside and she needs you to come rescue her. And to write a piece of music for her. When Thomas arrives, he finds the hotel ransacked, blood everywhere and human forms with bags over their heads wandering the halls. Elisabeth is hiding in the attic and implores him to save her by retrieving musical cylinders hidden in the sprawling mansion.

The game’s big gimmick is the audio. At the start up screen, it urges you to play with headphones (HAHA NO! I AM A WUSS!) and Thomas spends a lot of time crouching, trying to avoid bumping into furniture and alerting the shambling hooded figures of his presence. It makes for an intense few hours of gameplay, but somewhat repetitive because it is 90% just sneaking past them.

Like so many horror games, you uncover the truth of what is going on through scraps of paper you find around the house. The story ended up being a bit dull though, and reminded me a lot of ‘Call of Cthulhu’, with the dark, wet landscape and so much sneaking. It also had some ‘Layers of Fear’ vibes as you wandered the house, though the actual threat of death made ‘Maid’ a lot more stressful.

Some of the puzzles were easy to miss and I have to admit I found myself searching for a walkthrough to try to understand what my next step in the game was. There was one puzzle that relied on sound location which, while not impossible without headphones, was quite a struggle and I think that is where I died the most times.

The one thing the game has going for it is that it is short. My play-through took me about 6 hours, but since I was crouching pretty much the whole time, Thomas moved VERY slowly. I found a play-through on YouTube that was a little over 3 hours.

Overall, not a bad game. If you claimed it in October and need a creepy game, this one will scratch that itch and do it quick. But if you’re interested in something more cerebral, check out ‘SOMA’ and if you just want some scares without having to worry about sneaking around monsters, ‘Layers of Fear’ is one you can pick up on the cheap.

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