REVEIL review

You’ve doubtlessly heard of the phrase ‘running away to join the circus.’ Publisher Daedalic’s latest horror game has an altogether different proposition, based around a former circus worker’s struggle to escape from an illusionary world filled with twisted fun houses, clowns, ghost trains, and an untimely death. It’s very much a case of trying to run away from the circus.

Our softly spoken protagonist Walter Thompson once spent his days repairing the ramshackle rides and attractions while his doting wife and daughter performed shows, both being brave enough to swing from the trapeze. We get to learn a little about Walter’s family life by rummaging around his cluttered homestead to sort through photos and such – showcasing the respectable level of interactivity we can expect going forward. Eventually, it’s revealed that not everything in Walter’s world is as sweet as the confectionery once sold by the ring side. As soon as his head hits the pillow, he’s haunted by sinister visions.

REVEIL review

Viewed from first person, we’re in psychological thriller territory. The five chapters, each lasting around an hour, take us through Walter’s life as a circus hand – starting with a frantic struggle to locate his missing daughter Dorie – and into his memories and dreams, trying to find the source and meaning of these visions. You’ll get to explore the dilapidated circus, including its fun house, and stroll through the picturesque countryside before the proceedings become darker and twisted.

Combat doesn’t feature at all, but there are adversaries to avoid during a couple of stealth sequences. The first is so straightforward that you’d have to do something drastic/stupid to get caught, while the other is set within a torchlight lit forest, being more challenging and atmospheric. The checkpoint placing is more than generous, and the briefness of the loading screens assists with the swift sense of progression likewise.

REVEIL review

A chase scene proved more problematic than either of the stealth sections, calling for a few retries. The few puzzles that feature provide a far greater challenge still, with one leading to head scratching to finally solve. Those unfamiliar with how a rotary telephone works may also struggle later on, with no indication that the dial needs to be spun. Our age gave us a rare advantage here, we feel.

Well-worn tropes soon surface though, with a traditional fuse box puzzle appearing early on. The horror elements are a little contrived too, recycling the concept of not-so-eerie blood soaked mannequins. Not much here will leave you feeling startled, or make you jump out of your skin – in fact, there’s a pleasing absence of jump scares – but it does become less grounded in reality as the story unfolds, including a chapter taking place on a narrow and cluttered train, and some vividly twisted imagery occurring at key points. The Unity engine is put through its paces here as well, pushed to generate realistic lighting, reflections, and shadows. Sunlit outdoor locales are a highlight.

REVEIL review

The presentation is pleasingly minimalist elsewhere. The inventory is of the on-screen variety, and usually, only one or two items are carried at once – expect little in the way of backtracking or aimless wandering, as every interactable object can be highlighted with a push of a button. The voice acting is leaps and bounds beyond what we had to contend with back in the ‘90s and early noughties, yet some lines are still delivered woodenly. It’s generally fine though, and the use of needless expletives has been kept to a minimum. Collectables and alternate endings help with replay value, although I’m not sure how many players will want to jump back in straight away.

REVEIL is an experience very much carried by its story, with only the occasional puzzle or chase sequence – the latter of which only occur during the game’s first half – to respectively slow or hasten the action. Fortunately, the story is compelling enough to recommend REVIL to psychological thriller fans, featuring more than enough striking revelations to revel in. It offers a smooth experience in terms of progression and difficulty, while also being easy on the eyes – except for the things that aren’t meant to be.

Pixelsplit’s REVEIL is out now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series. Published by Daedalic Entertainment.