I’m super into murder mysteries and wandering around falsely idyllic towns, so The Painscreek Killings really spoke to me. There are red phone boxes but dollar signs, yet something about it still feels so quintessentially British. Little did I know that I would get so deep into this mystery that I would end up filling just over 10 A4 sides of paper, with notes scribbled everywhere from the margin to the edge of the pages. It’s safe to say this game ate me up whole.
You play Janet, a young reporter tasked with going out to solve a cold case, the murder of a woman called Vivian Roberts. You’re armed with just a camera and note pad. I’d like to see just how many steps Janet did as we wandered around the suspiciously empty town of Painscreek trying to find out why it was abandoned and what really happened all those years ago. I hope she has a Fitbit.
What I really loved about it was how I had to google every other minute to reassure myself this was not actually a horror game. The eerie music, the creaking of doors and cupboards, the loud footsteps (they’re yours, alright, but still disconcerting). I read about flutterings of a ghostly appearance, and the way the town is depicted makes it apparent it’s not as abandoned as you might think. I stopped being able to play this game on my own, or when the sun started to go down, and always had to watch something funny on television before I fell asleep. I am a wuss. I was the same with Gone Home. Such a scaredy cat.
I don’t like being a massive wimp, and this might come across as me not enjoying the game, bit I definitely did. Piecing together all the missing links to figure out what happened, when it happened, and to whom, made me feel like I was in Midsomer Murders (a TV show which used to be me and my dad’s favourite to watch together, so it also made me feel oddly nostalgic). I enjoy the satisfaction of getting a puzzle right, in any game, however that puzzle is represented. I even massively enjoyed reading the Steam forums when I got stuck, or even after finishing the game, as players spoke about the ending they really wanted, given the finale was a massive change of pace and caused a divide in opinion.
Despite the slightly altered celebrity faces used to portray characters, and the tiny misspellings throughout, it’s still a fantastic game to explore and a place that feels real. I’m still not sure where it’s set, but I really want to visit Painscreek again. Sadly, I am definitely too scared.