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Amnesia: The Dark Descent This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I was very embarrassed when I gave my first yelp of terror playing “Amnesia: The Dark Descent.” It was the middle of the day and I was at my desk with headphones on, but for all I knew I was in the prison block of a castle, cautiously opening a door. Suddenly something emitted a hideous growl and charged. I shut the door and put out my lantern as I saw the twisted thing, jaw melted over its chest, eyes on opposite sides of its face, coming after me! I pushed the door with my mouse, but it had to be pulled, so I whipped my mouse back like a madman and bolted to the metal door that would save me. I clicked it and the loading screen played methodically. I looked around sheepishly, remembering my family was in the next room. It's moments like these that keet me playing this game.

Developer Frictional Games has mastered horror. This is a game where you wouldn't get the full experience without the amazing sound effects. The scratching, creaking wood, buzzing flies, slamming doors, footsteps, screams, and even the sound of the protagonist's only companion, a lantern, all layer effortlessly to lock you into this game's inviting snare. When a monster comes, and the screen's POV zooms in and you're hindered by motion blur, an excellent musical score emerges and you know you've got to Run. Like. Heck.

And that's another aspect of “Amnesia” that makes it so much more alive and active than most survival horror games; you don't have a shotgun to blow off an enemy's head. You don't have a pistol to scope on monsters. You only have a lantern to light the ­way, and only if you find enough ­oil to sustain it. This “no-wea­pons” gameplay adds enormous tension to a game that will leave you disturbed.

The realism of this world is created through a huge amount of interaction. Almost everything in the castle is interactive, allowing you to inspect, pick up, and throw it. What makes this game truly special is how you perform simple operations, like opening doors. First, doors only open one way, which makes chase scenes with many-doored hallways very tense.

The Castle of Brennenburg is riddled with puzzles, usually involving the collection of certain items to gain entrance to another area. While these puzzles are not challenging, they are more of a catalyst to encourage exploration. These puzzles enhance gameplay because sometimes you need a break from running and hiding. However, it can be frustrating to search the same rooms over and over looking for an item.

The graphics are not flashy, but suit the atmosphere. You'll enjoy scenes like libraries and studies, in addition to rusty sewers and desolate morgues. All levels are designed to fit their purposes, which no doubt are meant to scare, and although nothing stands out as astounding, you'll be drawn into the places and scares of “Amnesia.” Besides, a game doesn't need amazing scenery when half of it takes place in stark blackness.

The story is told through ­diaries, instructions, notes, and notices found along the way, as well as periodic flashbacks, all leading to the ultimate climax. Although disappointed by the final confrontation, the journals were great to read. Everything contributes to the overall story, with deeper clues and narratives imbedded in the smallest places.

Whether you're new to the horror genre, a horror veteran, or just don't think video games can make you yelp, I promise you, “Amnesia: The Dark ­Descent” will scare you, but not in the way you'd expect. Sure, it's loaded with jump-scares, but nothing can actually kill you until about halfway through the game. The value of “Amnesia” is the atmosphere: it builds through both sound and realistic gameplay, and it is this atmosphere that will both impress you and make you want to continue playing.

This game will take your breath away, whether in fright or because you just let out an embarrassing yelp. But soon you'll forget, as the title suggests, and lose yourself in perhaps the best horror game to date.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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