I’m not much of a believer in ghosts, or really anything paranormal. When I hear of a ghostly encounter someone’s had, I’m the sort of person that asks “What’s more likely: the laws of physics all but disappeared for a second to produce a real life ghost just for you… or it was your mind playing a simple trick?” Call me a skeptic, or a buzzkill, or whatever. Indigo Lake (out now, $1.99) by 3 Cubes Research, however, had me convinced.
You’ve just arrived on a small island during a storm, and immediately find a cabin and a jeep. With no prompting, you begin to explore. In the cabin is a note from your friend Dr. Everett along with his laptop. It seems there’s somethin’ strange in the neighborhood, and you’ve been called in to bust ghosts. You hop into the jeep and set off in search of clues in the many other cabins on Lake Indigo.
Let me stop right there, because here’s where I screwed up and made the game way scarier than it already is. See, you’ll find notes in these cabins, and you’re supposed to tap to collect them. I didn’t realize this until embarrassingly late, and ended up just going from cabin to cabin reading notes and getting more and more anxious from what they said. Much like the eponymous shark in the film Jaws, sometimes NOT seeing the monster is scarier than seeing the monster, and by the time I got to the last cabin I was seriously freaked out.
Then, at the top of the large hillside that makes up the gameworld, I eventually came to an army camp which required a key to enter. So, I set off back down to the cabins to see what I’d missed. In one cabin I tried something smart for once and actually tapped a note after re-reading it, and suddenly a ghost wrapped its hands around my eyes and shrieked in my ear. I don’t want to be too specific about what I did next, but let’s just say I accidentally woke my dog up. That, my friends, is Indigo Lake at its best.
The game really boils down to a bunch of puzzle-y fetch quests, with you going around and around in your jeep to find certain things to unlock other areas and figure out another little piece of the mystery. It works really well, and after a few hours I felt like I knew the area like it was my own backyard, if my own backyard was a haunted Native American burial site. The controls for movement are typical first person shooter controls (did I not mention you have a gun? Ah, you’ll need that) which are adequate. Slightly less adequate are the driving controls, but it ain’t a race so most people shouldn’t have too much trouble with them, either.
Despite my own stupidity in figuring out what to do in the beginning, the game is actually quite fair difficulty-wise. The puzzles aren’t too challenging if you’re observant and remember where things are, and the shooting sections don’t usually amount to much more than target practice. That’s not really the point, though, because the point is to scare you. And that it does exceedingly well (especially if you play at night with headphones on, like me).
Indigo Lake is definitely one of the most terrifying games I’ve played on my iPad. Everything from the way the wind blows the trees back and forth to the strange wooden dolls and randomly floating beds really adds to the creepy atmosphere and sense of dread. In my view, video games are one of the few environments ghosts can exist, and Indigo Lake is a very haunting place indeed.
iFanzine Verdict: If you’re looking for a puzzler, a shooter, or an open world game, there are many better examples than Indigo Lake on the App Store. However, if it’s scares you’re after, look no further. 3 Cubes Research’s game is freaky in all the right ways, and while it may not bring anything new to the table, it’s sure to send a shiver down your spine.