There are plenty of horror titles on the market, especially on Steam, but it can be pretty hard to stand out in a meaningful way. The Caretaker is a survival horror title that does enough to separate itself while remaining true to its obvious influences. It’s a top-down horror adventure game where players will be going through streets, sewers, and dimly lit buildings while battling different monsters, and solving puzzles. The Caretaker Review will go over what worked, and where the game could improve.
Story and Writing
The game features an apocalypse scenario, involving an invasion. Players are dropped into the role of a recent ex-convict, who has been let out of his cell, because of the invasion itself. The game relies heavily on environmental storytelling, and you’ll find notes, and such to expand on the world. This works in the game’s favor and humanizes the main character as he expresses his disgust, fear, and horror while he observes different scenes involving humans caught under the attack.
Even though the main character shows his disinterest, there’s definitely compassion and empathy that seeps through the dialogue. The writing for the most part is decent, but it lacks subtlety, and there is definitely room for improvement there. Some instances feel like those were written specifically for the main character to read them, instead of being found organically in the world.
The game’s length ensures that nothing really drags on further than it should though. This is why the story, which is a segment of the character’s life leaves room for growth.
Gameplay and Controls
Players will mostly use the mouse to move around and navigate between menus using a few keys. The spacebar allows you to dodge and essentially gives the players invincibility frames to evade attacks. Since this is a top-down game, you can move the camera around by holding the middle-mouse button. Players essentially move the character around using the mouse, and for the most part, it works pretty well.
Over the course of the game, you’ll get different, and better weapons, with their specific ammunition. The inventory management and general game design are clearly inspired by Resident Evil titles. You will be solving different puzzles, finding combinations, and using different items to get past obstacles.
For the most part, though, there isn’t exactly anything challenging, and I don’t exactly recall dying either. The lock combinations are found in random places, and I would’ve appreciated those to be more thought out. For example, there is an initial gate that needs to be opened by inputting a code, but that code is the badge number of a dead police officer. These two things don’t exactly have any contextual relationship, making the encounter feel flimsy at best.
Shooting is fine, and you won’t be missing many shots. There’s enough leverage given to the player that they don’t feel too overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies. The alien enemies have arachnid physiology, and those are genuinely creepy. They jump around, throw acid at you, and have pretty well-animated movements. The spiders are by far the scariest part of the game, and I really hate them (in a good way).
Combat and polish
Combat is satisfying for the most part, and gradually increasing your arsenal does provide a sense of progression. It works for the most part, and apart from the actual boss battles, most enemies don’t really pose a threat.
Now, the game does lack a bit of polish. Enemies clip through walls, you can grab items behind walls, and sometimes the pathfinding doesn’t work. It’s hard to really know where you can, and can’t go. It’s a bit buggy too, and I had instances where enemies stopped moving altogether.
Visuals and Audio
The Caretaker has a minimalist graphical style similar to Unturned. Blocky characters, and environments that are well-thought-out for the most part. It’s a fairly atmospheric game, and that is one of the stronger aspects. The fog, lighting, and particle effects are used tastefully throughout the various environments you will visit. The levels aren’t that varied but provide enough consistency to be believable.
While the atmosphere is definitely a highlight of our The Caretaker review, there were moments when I felt like the game didn’t do a great job of highlighting important things. Sometimes items are not properly highlighted. A few rooms aren’t well lit enough either, making exploration harder than it needs to be.
The sound design is pretty good for the most part. There are some goofy sound effects here and there, but overall, everything matches the tone pretty nicely. I also liked the soundtrack, and there are definitely some nice sequences involving the music.
The Caretaker is a promising title for the studio, and there is a lot of room for improvement. The game shows an earnest effort by the developers, and there are definitely some good ideas for the survival horror genre. It’s still an entertaining ride, with a rich atmosphere, and some creepy spiders to bug you along the way. Sadly, the game is brought down by some bugs, inconsistent design choices, and a lack of polish.
Make sure to check out our other reviews as well, including the puzzle platformer ‘In My Shadow‘, and the detective point-and-click adventure ‘Inspector Waffles‘. You can add The Caretaker to your wishlist at the following link.
Summary: The Caretaker is a top-down survival horror dungeon-crawler-styled game. It features a rich environment, where players will explore abandoned buildings, sewers, and dim-lit streets. It wears its influences on its sleeves and provides an entertaining ride with some deadly spiders.
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Final Score: 6.5