The Glass Staircase Review

The Glass Staircase promises to be a Giallo-inspired retro horror game with cinematic camera angles and tank controls and it almost achieves its goals. Traditionally, “Giallos” were sexually charged thrillers that were common during the 1970s and 80s. The plots were mysterious and often relied on protagonists solving something and it wasn’t uncommon for the narrative to unfold into full-on horror.

Combining aspects of the Giallo with retro-style survival horror is an inspired premise since the gameplay could lean into the cinematic elements of the film subgenre. Giallos already tend to be very stylish films and fixed camera angles are very picturesque and compounded with the puzzle-like structure, this combination of ideas should be a perfect mix.

Somewhere along the way, The Glass Staircase‘s great ideas don’t fully form or come together. The reasons are complex due to this game not abiding by a typical video game structure and an unbearably small vision. Where does it go wrong and what works? Find out in The Glass Staircase review!

The Glass Staircase
Developer: Puppet Combo
Puppet Combo
Platforms: Windows PC,  Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: May 24, 2024
Price: $9.99 USD

The Glass Staircase begins with a good hook: four girls are being held captive in a large decrepit mansion and are individually given instructions every day. Each girl is being fed pills before they’re let out to do their chores which is usually something mundane but becomes a scary sequence that climaxes with a jump scare.

The premise begins to fall apart as things unfold and the lack of detail put into the setting fails to sell the concept. The first three girls are pretty much a prologue and must die no matter what. The player has no control over which girl they play as and has no say in some of the scripted actions that must happen. Taking pills or things like dropping a flashlight are decided by the game’s director and happen at certain trigger points/flags.

After the first three girls meet their end, The Glass Staircase begins for real and the gameplay becomes more like what gamers would expect from a retro-style horror game, but more limited. This game is another short Puppet Combo horror experience which is more like a short film than a feature presentation. It is meant to climax very quickly so gamers can get their adrenaline fix and not get bogged down with getting lost or dealing with menus.

The pacing is unconventional since the first half of the game is a prologue. The first signs of action are also tremendous difficulty spikes since health kits can only be used where you find them and Margaret can get sliced to death in a handful of hits. The number of zombies that show up is more than capable of ripping the hero to shreds and even though ammo isn’t a problem in The Glass Staircase, running away is still the best choice since the rifle is very slow and weaker than you’d think.

The Glass Staircase is very short; roughly a little over an hour to an hour and a half, which is about as long as a Giallo. The difficulty is likely intentional to pad out the game a little bit. Checkpoints are reasonably spaced apart and since the game is so brief, it isn’t hard to get back to where you died. The hardest sequences are the boss fights which feel like they go on forever since there is a tedious back and forth where the player has to run away and wait for the moment to shoot.

The story is very hands off and to understand what is going on, the game expects players to read the notes. This is a classic survival horror gimmick, but The Glass Staircase abuses it by having unbearably long notes. We are talking pages upon pages of paragraphs that fill the screen. Even if you do take the time to read them, most of the text is fluff and could have been summarized. It’s also not even all that interesting or original.

All the text in the notes tries to do the heavy lifting for the game since it barely has any cutscenes or set dressing at all. This is the most disappointing aspect of The Glass Staircase since environmental storytelling is one of the strengths of having fixed angles. Regretfully, the environments are pretty sparse and reuse many of the same few assets, so there is no room for having any distinct setpieces.

The graphics are meant to evoke the style of PlayStation 2, but the reality is that it resembles a Unity horror game from the 2020s. The girls’ dress physics are something no PS2 game could ever do and the textures appear to be deliberately pixelated which is something more common with the first generation PlayStation.

The promise of a PlayStation 2-esque, Giallo-inspired horror game is unfulfilled. The Glass Staircase has higher detailed character models than the standard Puppet Combo fare, but there is nothing about them that looks on par with the likes of Haunting Ground. Lighting in Giallos also tends to be very stylish, but this game doesn’t do anything with colors or wild sets.

There is a moment early on when players have to light candles that look striking. Margaret also gets a chest flashlight that casts impressive shadows too, but nothing lurid like what you would see in the film Suspiria or Deep Red. The overall impression of the visuals is very hazy like the entire game is steep in one big fart and never capitalizes on the Giallo influences.

The deliberately rough and haggard visuals may not deliver the Giallo flavor, but at least Puppet Combo has your back for filters and render modes. There are a lot and tons of combinations for players to tweak to achieve any desired texture. You can always turn them off for an image that’s as clear as a crisp spring morning, or make the visuals nigh incomprehensible; the choice is yours!

While the zombie designs are cool and look like death, the same can’t be said for the main big bad which can be best described as “Tyrant at home”. This creature looks so dopey and unthreatening, it’s amazing that it came from Puppet Combo. The killers and psychos in Puppet Combo horror joints are unsettling or very disturbing, but the main big monster guy just looks stupid with his silly mask.

The only thing that feels like it came from a Giallo is the music which is used sparingly, but smartly. The music will be something that is gradually introduced and then it might completely stop, creating effective tension in the air. It’s the kind of progressive synth with unusual samples that fans of the genre would hope to hear.

Don’t expect much replay value from The Glass Staircase. There is only one ending and there are no real puzzles. There are no modes or characters to unlock. The Glass Staircase is the kind of game you start up when you get a powerful hunger for a sudden jolt of tension and some tank-control action with some nice angles where you don’t need to commit much.

If you enjoyed prior Puppet Combo releases, The Glass Staircase will be as enjoyable. This is a very specific kind of horror adventure game that is like a very brief but hearty challenge. The story and lore are uninteresting and largely forgettable, but the few lines of dialogue there are for the characters are enough to figure out who they are. For its price, it’s a worthwhile cheap thrill that has a few good scares.

The Glass Staircase was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Puppet Combo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. The Glass Staircase is now available for Windows PC (via, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.


The Verdict: 6

The Good

  • Effective use of music
  • Flexible tank controls with options to tweak the sensitivity
  • Ominious ambiance that is bolstered by unsettling fixed camera angles
  • Tons of filters and image modes to customize the pixture quality
  • Fairly placed autosave checkpoints and fast paced

The Bad

  • Innacurate portrayal of how PlayStation 2 horror games looked and does no fully embrace the Giallo style
  • Very dumb-looking monster design
  • Absurdly lengthy and boring diary entries
  • No player agency or clever puzzles


A youth destined for damnation.

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