If ever there was a game genre that was easy to churn out, it’s survival horror. Thanks to environments that are often shrouded in darkness in order to ratchet up the anxiety factor and patchworked narratives that leave a lot of room for interpretation, survival horror has cemented itself as a pretty forgiving storytelling medium. That’s not to say that creating a truly unnerving horror experience is any easy feat, and to do just that as a solo developer is a genuinely respectable effort. Developed and published by a one person team under Loveridge Designs, The One We Found is a truly terrifying survival horror experience that puts the benefits of its genre to work in an attempt to make up for its shortcomings.
Upon launching The One We Found players are greeted with a lengthy disclaimer. While unapologetic about its efforts to literally scare you to death, The One We Found does give you a heads up that there are some ambient sounds that are intended to make you feel uncomfortable, and that if you find yourself experiencing shortness of breath, chest pains, or anxiety while playing then it’s a good idea to turn things off while heading out to visit your doctor. There is no such disclaimer for how to handle the lengthy loading times that you’ll experience next, unfortunately. There’s an odd decision here to display the loading percentage over the course of 6 digits, so at least when you see the percentage jump from 14.0218% to 14.1307% you’ll feel like you’re getting a little closer to actually playing The One We Found.
Once you’re finally in the campaign, you’ll be tasked with playing as James Ledgewick, a psychotherapist who has arrived at Whisperwood with the intention of investigating some questionable events that have gone on at the mental institution. It’s a fairly shaky basis for a story in the first place, with the environment and clues the players are given all sort of contradicting each other. It doesn’t take long to discover that the asylum has fallen into disrepair, and there are a plethora of bloody sheet covered corpses scattered about, which lends itself to a few different questions. If the patients and/or staff are dead, who sent a psychotherapist to do a police officer’s job, for example? How is it that a mental asylum is so grimey and decrepit while having fresh watermelons just laying around casually? The few ties that are holding the story together unravel quickly once the player encounters supernatural ghouls, zombie like mental patients who seem to be copy and pasted, and a mysterious cave under the asylum full of electromagnetic crystals. There’s more questions than answers to be found in Whisperwood, sadly. To an extent, it helps to crank up that creepy factor but once you’re trying to actually piece together the glaring oddities become more and more disappointing.
For many survival horror experiences, the most ideal way to make things more stressful for the player is to require they survive while actually being defenseless. Often players are armed with little more than a flashlight and their own willingness to sit in a locker until the coast is clear. The One We Found does actually give players a means for fighting back, however, as long as they can find it. There are weapons scattered about the asylum, oddly enough, as well as ammunition that can be used to dispatch of the lumbering mental patients who will attack you seemingly at random. Unfortunately, the combat leads to one of the biggest complaints about The One We Found, and that would be the way the game’s inputs are ported to controller. It’s possible that the developer over at Loveridge Designs is one of those anomaly gamers who prefers the ‘claw’ hold on a controller, as that is really one of the only explanations for why the trigger pull for the game’s firearms are mapped to the bumper buttons as opposed to the controller’s actual triggers. Aiming down sights requires holding down the left bumper, and actually firing requires using the right bumper. There’s a face button that will reload your firearm, as well, but good luck figuring out which one it is.
The combat controls are not the only inputs that suffer from bad porting, unfortunately. The One We Found’s inventory system is reminiscent of what you may find in old school survival horror games from the late 90s, but the fact that they were originally intended to be navigated with a mouse stands out by the fact that you have to actually double click the A or X face buttons to interact with items. The game also does not pause while you’re in the inventory, despite the fact that your entire screen is overtaken by the menu. If you find yourself attempting to reload your weapon the hard way because you’ve smashed every face button without any luck or your flashlight has suddenly gone dark, leaving you in a scramble for batteries then you’re simply out of luck when a random enemy comes after you. Hopefully you don’t mind looking at the loading screen as you wait for the chapter to go back to the beginning.
If you manage to get through all eleven chapters and uncover all of the secrets at Whisperwood but you just need more, fear not. There’s a horde survival mode waiting to plunge you into horrible darkness as your one beacon of hope the campaign – the flashlight – has been removed. Everything is pitch black, and there’s waves of copy/paste enemies shambling toward you in this mode that feels like a prototype for Call of Duty zombies. You even go so far as to buy weapons and ammo off of the wall, provided you can rack up enough points, which you typically can not.