A group of kids walk into a decrepit mansion. Why? To search for a monster.
In Creeping Terror, a group of kids composed of classmates Emily, Bob, Ken and Arisa, decide to try and record their escapade. Like most teenagers in a horror movie, they quickly happen upon a problem and get separated. Well, Arisa – you – gets separated. From that moment onward, your goal is to traverse the mansion and return to your friends. You'll solve some problems, track down items, run and hide from monsters (and dogs!), and open a thousand doors. A good 90 per cent of this game is spent walking up and down hallways. The dull sound of your feet hitting the ground will embed itself in your brain. The issue with Creeping Terror isn't how it presents the terror, it's how it forgot to put it all together.
The mansion is full of identical-looking rooms, areas that blend into one, and random items and journals. Resident Evil fans will feel right at home with the paltry limit of six items in your inventory. Rocks and wood can be thrown at monsters to stun them, bones will distract dogs, chargers fill your phone battery, and rations heal you. Your phone is your primary means of light, and using it helps you avoid rocks on the ground you can trip over otherwise. Even when running from monsters, however, tripping over rocks is negligible – you'll just have to button mash out of their grasp, losing a sliver of health in the process. The chase sequences in Creeping Terror fail to feel tense because there just isn't a big enough consequence for getting caught.
While exploring, you'll find journals about what's going on; murmurs of cults, experiments, and patients. You'll eventually (sort of?) learn what exactly is going on, though, unfortunately, it's never fully explained to you. Otherwise, Creeping Terror is just about walking until you find a locked door or dead end, backtracking until you find the key or item you need, and then walking back. Occasionally, the rest of the gang will show up, especially after finding your makeshift homebase that will heal you and charge your phone. But, like a Scooby Doo episode, they'll tell you to go off on your own. When you do, Creeping Terror shows that even in an isolated situation in a creepy old mansion, the 3DS just isn't quite fit for horror. Audio scares are substituted with text speech, and everything is a jump scare. There isn't much meat on the bones, and there isn't much substance.
Despite its repetitive moments though, Creeping Terror has good ambience. The sounds are quite good, although it feels like they aren't there when you need them to be. The dialogue, while stale and kind of off-putting at times, has some shining moments. Emily is boring and barely has a chance to make an impact; Bob has some jokes but most fail; Ken is barely seen; and Arisa, while brave, makes some bad observations. Arisa is, because of need and character, strong. While her friends sit around and wait, she goes into the woods, through a weird, bloody hospital, and constantly fights off monsters and dogs. She's a damn superhero, and her friends barely care. It's sad she isn't given the respect she should get for her efforts. I sure as hell would've asked for someone to come with me if I was getting chased by homicidal maniacs.
That brings me to the monsters of Creeping Terror. There is the one who walks around with a shovel, who Arisa appropriately names the "Shovel Monster". I mean, seriously, she's the best. Then there's this weird monk-like, hunched over, robed... thing that carries a candelabra – but unfortunately Arisa never gives that one a name. Probably would've been "Robe Monster". Neither of these creatures strike fear in you, despite relentlessly pursuing you. All you have to do is run until you find a room with a hiding place, like a bed, shower or desk. Even if they see you go in the room, you can still hide and they won't find you. The scariest monsters are the dogs. They can't be shaken off, and they'll chase you at a fast pace, but holy crap – the scariest part is they can open doors. Like, completely shut doors. With knobs. But like all good dogs they like bones.
I hadn't taken my 3DS out in a while, and I wouldn't recommend taking yours out for this one. Creeping Terror isn't a game devoid of any good moments, but it's one where they are so sparsely placed that it feels like you ended where you started, with the same questions. The 3DS just doesn't have the chops for a true horror experience, and Creeping Terror isn't immune to that.