We have officially entered October, the month of Halloween which is arguably many peoples favorite month of the year. Time to make those plans for the big day at the end of the month, get stocked up on that candy for the trick or treaters and dig out those scary outfits for the kids. The gaming community also likes to get in the mood for spooks this time of year as well and what better time to tell you all about a horror game that you might overlook when it comes to choosing a game to satisfy your thirst for scares. There are plenty of games that fit this category out there, but one you might overlook is a game called Ellen. If you are looking for a game that sets a dark and atmospheric mood that isn’t going to take you 40 hours to beat but has enough content to leave you satisfied then Ellen could well be the game for you. Although it was released on Steam in February this year so not particularly all that new, it was released on consoles last month and with it now being Halloween month there really is no better time to give Ellen a shot.
Ellen has you play the role as James, an inspector who’s job it is to inspect the mansion owned by the Smiths family who have all been brutally murdered years ago, all except for the daughter Ellen who’s silhouette has been spotted at the house by several eye witnesses. You start the game having fallen from a great height and injuring your leg so to start you are limping around slowly until you find a medical pack which enables you to walk normally again and also run which comes as a real blessing after limping around so slowly. Before I get into what I enjoyed about the game, I will explain about what I thought could be improved in the Steam version. Basically it’s the controls, you can play the game with a gamepad as I prefer to so I used my Xbox One controller and it didn’t seem fully supported. First of all, on Steam it does not specify if Ellen supports gamepads either fully or partially so I’m assuming the developers at Red Mount Media would prefer you play with a keyboard and mouse. That’s fine, but if that is the case then should gamepad support have been implemented at all? Don’t get me wrong, most of the game works ok but you cannot perform certain actions with the gamepad, for example there are some book shelves you can hide behind by pressing the action button. Except the action button on the Xbox One controller does nothing apart from inspect the book shelves, I was having to press “E” on the keyboard to actually hide behind it. Also the game always prompts you to use keyboard buttons even if you are using a gamepad and the controls menu says nothing about what the buttons do on a gamepad whatsoever. So from my experience, if you are playing the Steam version go with a keyboard and mouse.
Gamepad support aside, the dark tone and terrifying atmosphere of the game remain intact, music in the game is only triggered after certain moments or when you reach certain areas. Throughout large portions of the game there will be no music and all you will be hearing are the sounds of your footsteps and creepy noises in the background like doors creeking open and the sound of crying in the distance to name a couple of examples. Ellen does a great job of keeping you on the edge of your seat as you start to notice the mansion playing tricks on you. You will come across a tv switched on playing white noise distortion even though there is no electricity in the house, after you switch the tv off and leave the room it will be turned on again when you come back. You will notice objects have moved since you first visited that particular area, grandfather clocks have all of a sudden started working and creepy reflections in the bathroom mirror! This isn’t even the most horrifying stuff that you will encounter, Ellen is a game aimed at mature audiences for a reason, I won’t spoil too much as to why but make sure you are prepared for some violent scenes. I might not be the bravest gamer around but I was determined to plough on and try to uncover the dark truths about what happened to the Smith family and find Ellen!
We cannot go any further without talking about how the game looks visually, Ellen’s art style is very appealing to me. It has a really retro pixel art style going on and I love it! It compliments the tone of the game very well and brings out the dark setting and while the characters do not have faces, the emphasis is not on what they look like but what role they are playing and we are seeing that kind of thing quite a bit in games these days. Being a point and click adventure you will be backtracking a lot around the house discovering things that were not there before and you will do well to remember certain obstacles you are not able to overcome as no doubt you will find an item that will enable you to come back and get passed it later on. The fact that Ellen throws you off course with its creepy sound effects and strange occurrences in in areas you have already been in previously prevent backtracking from becoming a chore. One solid piece of advice I would give to you all is that you must remember not to drain the battery of your flash light as new batteries seemed hard to come by and you need it to see in pitch black areas.
A point and click adventure wouldn’t be the same with the odd puzzle here and there and Ellen has puzzles of its own you must overcome. You will be picking up clues all over the mansion which you must look through to figure out how to best some of the puzzles so just make sure you are picking everything up you see and try to interact with everything you can. It’s the same mechanic that runs true with every point and click adventure so I’m glad Ellen did its best to anchor itself within the genre while giving us a fresh experience unlike any other at the same time. Also, there is something about how Ellen’s pixel art monsters looked and sounded that really gave me the creeps! You will get to a point in the game where they start appearing fairly often and you must not over use running as you will run straight into one and it will kill you instantly! Over using your running is not a good idea in general as your stamina bar will deplete making you worn out. You will often be thinking that you wish you had some kind of weapon to take these horrible monsters out until you remember that you are not a super hero, you are an inspector. You will need to use your brain and figure out how to get passed these abominations by running and hiding a lot of the time which I fully appreciate.
So if you are looking for something different to try this Halloween but require a guaranteed spook then I strongly advise considering Ellen. It won’t take you 40 hours to complete but it will leave you with a chilling satisfaction and is a nice smaller game to play if you fancy a break from the heavy hitters. It is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One so you can play on your preferred system and there is also a demo to try in case you are still not sure if you want to part with your hard earned cash just yet. I would love to hear what you think about Ellen or if you are on the fence and why in the comments down below. Thanks for reading!
Written by Sammy J on 5th October 2019