In the early 2010s, Five Nights at Freddy’s kicked off a new breed of horror game and was perfectly timed with a resurgence in “analogue horror”. Enter Amanda the Adventurer, low budget in appearance (on purpose!) this game came out early 2023 and ticked all the right boxes to become a YouTube sensation.
Scary moments, a small handful of jumpscares, creepy analogue horror, it has all the right pieces; but do they come together to make a satisfying game?
Amanda the Adventurer
Developer: MANGLEDmaw Games
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch
Release Date: April 25, 2023
Price: $9.99 USD
Amanda the Adventurer is in a way what horror games used to be decades ago. Like old school point-and-click adventures, players will dig through each scene for relevant information and try and plug in anything that works. In this case it’s a series of numbers, letters, and answers hidden throughout Amanda’s videos and the attic our player finds themselves in.
Graphically, the game is meant to look bad on purpose during Amanda’s segments since her tapes are meant to be some early 2000s public access television style cartoon. Conversely the real world scenes are just kind of bland and likely stock assets, which is fine for this type of indie game. My only real complaint is how there’s two kinds of static on the TV. One fuzzy kind of static with lines that’s part of the videos, the second is a more hi-res static that’s more like a bunch of dots. It’s a small detail but I’m irrationally irritated by it.
MANDLEDmaw uses the game’s limited graphics to great effect and some of Amanda’s creepiest moments are hidden in single frames. There’s also the unsettling way that she’ll stare at the camera when giving certain responses to her questions. There’s clearly something going on with Amanda and the game encourages you to find out.
Sound design is on point and even though I know I’m safe in the attic between videos, the ambience is immersive and makes me feel like someone is going to sneak up on me while I explore. The opportunity to have someone or something get right behind or beside you while watching a video was missed, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t particularly like jumpscares.
So we’ve established that it’s creepy, relies heavily on analogue horror aesthetics, and has good sound design. But what about the story? Amanda the Adventurer tells a disjointed story that blends the TV world and the real world. The characters literally talk to you, and it’s only when we begin to plug in names we learn in the attic into Amanda’s questions that we realize how closely tied they are.
At the start of the game, we’re given a house by our late Aunt Kate, along with the house is a video tape and TV in the attic. The last thing she gives us is a cryptic warning that once we start to watch, there’s no turning back.
Along the way you’ll collect a series of seemingly irrelevant numbers. See a clock in a tape? Remember the time. See a string of random letters? Remember them. Almost everything is important to know and can be used as a passcode elsewhere. You’ll also discover bits of extra lore and even some live-action segments. You can tell a lot of effort was put into creating an interesting story.
The only problem with Amanda the Adventurer, is it’s like a crossword puzzle. You can only solve it the first time. If you’re reading this review and know absolutely nothing about Amanda the Adventurer, I want to take this time to say that you shouldn’t look up anything else about it. It’s a fun game but loses a lot if you’ve spoiled yourself on it already.
There’s nothing wrong with self-contained games, I’ll be among the first to criticize “Games as a Service”, but something that went viral like Amanda means that players may like and enjoy the game without ever having played it. It’s a phenomena we see with Five Nights at Freddy’s, but unlike FNAF there’s a skill/strategy element to the game that makes it fun for fans who watched YouTube playthroughs first.
Ultimately, Amanda the Adventurer is a great example of the ability to tell stories in horror games, relying on the kind of in-depth lore and techniques fans have come to love from similar viral sensations; and Amanda is a league above some of the others like Poppy Playtime and Garten of Banban