The latest instalment to the Fears to Fathom franchise created by Rayll, Carson House, is also the longest one, ranging between an hour and two hours. The game follows the story of a teenage boy who is tasked with taking care of a house while its owner is away. It sounds like a simple task, but if it was, this wouldn’t have been a horror game.
The story of the game is focused on the odd events happening to the teenager, which isn’t very engaging. The game starts very interestingly, with a creepy corridor at a weird place which is filled with washing machines, but shortly after, you learn that it’s just a dream, and it never gets touched upon again.
After waking up, you arrive at the house you were tasked with keeping safe. You do a bunch of chores the owner texts you, which are absolutely meaningless, and it’s only about halfway through the game that things begin to happen! Up until that point, all you’re doing are mundane tasks with creepy SFX. The scariest part of the first 45 minutes was an accidental jumpscare from the house owner’s dog! And when things do begin to actually happen, they aren’t particularly terrifying, just weird. That’s not to say that the interesting things are bad. The game feels like a pretty cool mystery and isn’t very boring once it gets going. When playing, you come up with countless speculations about what is happening and why. And there is a point at which things get actually scary, but it is so late in the game that it doesn’t really matter. The end is about as anticlimactic as it gets, ruining the entire mystery and every speculation you could have made with a boring explanation.
The gameplay mechanics aren’t particularly interesting — it’s just your usual horror game. You interact with a couple of objects, react to the things that are happening around you, and try to stay alive. Various things you do can impact a few aspects of the rest of the game, but just barely. There is one feature interesting about it, the security cameras. If you’re looking for something special and unique, though, this isn’t it. That’s not to say the mechanics are bad; they’re just not very engaging.
You have a lot of unneeded tasks you must do throughout the game, from giving the house owner’s dog food to going to buy something from the nearest shop. These missions don’t impact or add anything; they just make it unnecessarily long, which makes the pacing feel awful and is a huge downgrade from the tighter pacing of the earlier entries. Carson House is also not very clear on what you should do and you could waste a lot of time not knowing what to do.
The graphics are very impressive for an indie game but aren’t anything special, although they fit the gameplay and horror aspect. The character models can look a bit weird, but they are fine overall. There are strange visual effects that can be a tad annoying at times and might be the reason you can’t see certain important things throughout the narrative. It’s about the same as the graphics of the previous Fears to Fathom entries, with slight, almost undetectable differences.
The sound might just be the biggest redeeming quality. There are sound effects that make the more boring parts of Carson House still feel scary, which makes it much more interesting. There are unique sounds to so many things, and it’s clear how much love went into making the SFX.
The music is absolutely amazing, both when it plays and doesn’t play. The game knows perfectly which scenes need music and which don’t, making amazing use of the usual lack of music so scenes that do have music are much more impactful. And when the music plays, it fits the scene perfectly and helps the player connect with it and feel what the main character must be feeling.
Overall, the game doesn’t do a very good job of staying interesting and keeping the player excited. Most of it is very boring and only around the end does it actually get interesting and fun. It feels tedious and annoying to play for most of its runtime, and that is a big problem. Continuing with the story is very confusing and the game does a very bad job at explaining what you need to do.
In verdict, Carson House is fine; I don’t regret playing it, but after just a few hours, I won’t remember any of the first 45 minutes. It has an average story and awful pacing. The gameplay isn’t very interesting, and I can find hundreds of other titles with gameplay like that. The sound is absolutely amazing, however, and saves this game. Compared to the other Fears to Fathom titles, it definitely disappoints, adding so many unnecessary scenes without any meaning.
Fears to Fathom - Carson House (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is unenjoyable, but it works.
The game isn’t much fun and has the worst pacing imaginable. It’s probably not worth your time or money and you won’t be very impressed by anything it has to offer, so there are probably better games to spend these $3.99 on.