This is the one hundred sixty-ninth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Our one hundred sixty-ninth random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality is stumbling through a dark and surreal mansion. It’s IMMURE, by Wither Studios, and its tagline in the bundle reads:

Inescapable Horror

You can’t escape it.

My usual caveat for horror games goes here: I don’t usually enjoy them, because I am not often scared by them. It turns out that not being scared kinds of defeats the purpose of most horror games, rendering them simply boring instead. As such, I’m a poor judge of the genre. I can say that IMMURE is slicker than I expected, though, with some cool visual and audio effects normally associated with larger productions. While it’s structured mostly like an adventure game — in that protagonist Will must explore areas, talk with people, and find items needed to pass obstacles — it’s controlled in side-scrolling fashion. Characters and some objects are animated in 2D, but the environments are 3D, making for lush backdrops to Will’s wanderings. It’s no platformer, lacking any jumping at all, but it does use the mouse to aim Will’s pistol (assuming players have found any ammo for it) and the magical crystal he finds early in the game. That crystal is one of the cool effects, actually, because it can send out pulses to reveal hidden things. These pulses send purple light outward, reflecting off of the surroundings and looking pretty slick.

Story-wise, IMMURE is pretty cliched. Will is trying to find his (ex?) romantic partner, and there are some not-so-subtle hints that something terrible happened. Or maybe, you know, the relationship just didn’t work out, and Will is now so depressed that he’s found himself in a surreal horror game. He is trapped in a strange mansion, supposedly guided there by a letter from his beloved, and he seems to not fully understand how weird the situation is. Or to remember exactly how long he’s been here, or what he was trying to do. An intro of sorts shows players the basics of how the game works, which involves a lot of hiding from a huge creature that stalks the halls, until Will has amassed the means to stun it and maybe even defeat it. All of this seems to have all the right creepy audio and anxiety-inducing hiding spots to lurk in, as well as a decent helping of blood and gore, but I was never scared. Hiding spots are completely safe, so it was easy enough to see how to evade the creature until I could deal with it.

After this, however, the game proper begins. The mansion is filled with a bunch of weird doors, leading to different purgatorial dimensions, and Will is tasked with entering these to either save or banish the souls trapped there. The number of doors suggest a hefty game, but only the first door can be entered in the current version. This is only part one of IMMURE, you see. There’s a part two on Steam, but not on, and it sounds like many more parts will be needed before it would be considered finished. So if you’re looking for a complete story, you’ll be disappointed. But if the first door is any indication, each will have a sizeable area to explore with its own self-contained story to unravel.

The first door took me to an apartment building that was partially on fire. It didn’t take long to realize that there were souls here who had died in an apartment fire, but I had to work out exactly what happened and decide whether I wanted to help them or not. And also figure out how to access different areas of the building, given that debris blocked many passages, while avoiding a dangerous foe that I will not spoil. The story of this place is better written and more compelling than Will’s own backstory, and I was mostly impressed with its design. A nice self-contained adventure episode, albeit with some rather too obvious symbolism. I enjoyed picking it apart, although I did tire of having to hide from danger throughout. Again, I wasn’t scared, which may be why hiding just felt tedious instead of engaging.

This is a decent start to IMMURE, but what’s here is basically a demo for a longer adventure, and given that part 2 released two and a half years ago now, it’s unclear whether more parts are actually coming. I wasn’t invested enough in Will’s predicament to be too excited about more parts of IMMURE, but horror fans may find more to like here. It’s well made, with good visual and audio design, and those who feel the fear may find their experience enhanced. If a surreal and creepy adventure sounds good to you, and you missed it in the bundle, IMMURE is sold for a minimum price of $7.99.

That’s 169 down, and only 1572 to go!