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It’s the scratching behind that door that sounds like trotters scraping on wood. It’s the porcelain pig mask that wasn’t there a minute ago, but now stares blankly in your direction. It’s the nightmarish squeals that echo from that oddly shaped shadow around the corner. And it’s the thunderous earthquake that’s shaking the room, as if some huge machine is fracking the earth beneath your feet. It’s because of all of these things that The Chinese Room’s Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is a palm-sweatingly tense experience. Or rather, it is for the first hour.
Suggestion is one of the most powerful tools of horror in any medium, and it’s the idea of what might be lurking just out of sight that A Machine for Pigs initially thrives upon, much like the original, Frictional Games developed Amnesia: The Dark Descent did. But with A Machine for Pigs The Chinese Room have introduced a number of changes to Frictional’s template that serve only to dilute the effectiveness of that suggestion.
Largely, the game’s premise and structure are intact. You play as Oswald Mandus, a wealthy industrialist suffering from short-term memory loss and plagued by strange ethereal voices and visions. Draw through an increasingly dark and dank environment by the sound of his missing children’s voices, Mandus’ journey is one of linear corridors, simple mechanical puzzles and a cloying, oppressive atmosphere of dread.