Amnesia: The Bunker features a monster that’s out to murder you. But this survival horror also uses a neat little trick to keep you scared.
There are plenty of reasons to be nervous playing Amnesia: The Bunker, even when the monster’s not around. There’s a generator that can run out of fuel, plunging you into darkness. Then there are the locked doors that you can smash or blow open. Is the potential bounty worth attracting the beast?
But as developer Frictional Games has revealed, there’s another neat piece of audio trickery going on. Fredrik Olsson, creative lead on the game, has confirmed that it uses what’s known as a “Shepard tone”.
Mass Effect jokes aside, Olsson explains that a Shepard tone, “..basically creates an illusion of a sound that continously ascends or descends.” In the case of Amnesia: The Bunker, it’s a descending tone, a mental nudge to remind you that generator’s fuel supply is ticking down.
It’s nearly imperceptible, especially with the game’s other sounds going on. But, chances are, some part of your brain will pick up on it and it’ll dial the tension up, just a little. Is it cheating? Maybe a little but since it elevates the experience we’re find with that.
The Shepard tone has also figured into various movies, Christopher Nolan used it in The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Dunkirk. And it also apparently figures into Super Mario 64, during the neverending stair section.
Would we have known this was in the game if Olsson hadn’t explained it? Probably not, but you can bet we’re going to be listening out on our next playthrough. And given how much Amnesia: The Bunker already has us jumping at every little sound, that could make it even more harrowing.