The Quarry review: thrills, chills, and only a few spills await
Time to love the monster mash again
This review mentions that you get three do-overs to save a character's life. This is only available in your first play through in the deluxe version of the game, which I wasn't aware I was reviewing. The feature unlocks in the standard version after you've completed a full play through.
I'm going to do my absolute best to tell you about The Quarry with no spoilers, but it will be hard because a lot of what marks it out as better and cleverer and funner than comparable horrorventure romps is all tangled up in the plot. It's an interactive story you control with split-second decisions and quick time events; it is mostly plot. Broadly, it is the story of a group of camp counselors, one night in a quarry-based summer camp, and how baffling organisational choice can lead to ruin.
You join the cool young adults of Hackett's Quarry summer camp having just said goodbye to all the children who they'd been in loco parentis-ing for a month. Suddenly: car trouble! Everyone is going to have to stay another night at the camp, something which comprehensively alarms Mr. H (David Arquette, who appeared for about five minutes total of my eight-ish hour playthrough, so fans may have buyer's remorse on this front). It turns out this is because Hackett's Quarry is both a) haunted and b) full of monsters, which frankly seems irresponsible to keep such a child-centric organisation open under such circumstances, but that is just one of Chris Hackett's baffling decisions you will uncover over the course of your adventure.
The aim of the game is to keep as many people alive as possible - and this number extends beyond the core group that you have control over, by the way. Like Until Dawn or any of The Dark Pictures Anthology games before, this depends on the complex, cumulative warp and weft of your choices and actions. If you don't open a door right at the start, could this affect things later? How will things change if you're mean to Ted Raimi's weirdo cop character Travis? Your friend is in trouble, so you should probably take the shortcut through the woods - but then you'll have to pass a bunch of QTEs too.
For the most part you know how this goes, but some innovations this time include three lives you can expend to undo the death of a character by taking you back to the last choice that sealed their fate, slightly easier QTEs, but also QTEs that you might want to fail... on purpose - let's just say that two people struggling over a shotgun rarely ends well - and leave it at that. This adds an interesting extra variable to the feverish mental calculations you're having to run the whole time (among others, which I won't mention because spoilers). You're working partly on instinct and partly on cheaty player knowledge, because even if your character doesn't know where that trapdoor leads, you definitely do.
By virtue of being slightly easier to play, physically, than other Dark Pictures makes The Quarry easier to enjoy, too. It gives you more room to concentrate on remembering that you forgot that one crucial thing two hours ago. You can see how the story can turn out very differently as well, and even the results I got for my set of survivors made me want to try again - though not enough that I'd give it a full playthrough, I don't think. There's the return of a two-player couch co-op, but you can also select specific chapters to replay, or a kind of movie version of the game to see an 'everyone lives' or 'everyone dies' ending. This is still a hefty time investment, though.
As for myself, I decided early on that I would only expend one of my precious do-overs if a character died who I really liked. As the game went on this actually became all of the characters, something of a great success for an almost entirely character-driven game. Standouts for me were Jacob the surprisingly sensitive bro, Kaitlyn the actually practical one, and Dylan the sarcastic DJ who is actually really nerdy. The cast spend a decent amount of time split up, which helps because the Marvel effect (where everyone is a different flavour of wisecracker) rears its head very quickly. This made Ryan (played by Justice "Detective Pikachu" Smith) my absolute favourite by the end, simply because of his status as a normal, nice, chill person who listens to podcasts.
Perhaps the greater achievement is that I had several deaths that I just let ride, because they were so good, so implausible and needlessly graphic in that retro slasher way that leans close to being actually funny. The Quarry plays with horror tropes and vibes much more freely than the Dark Pictures games since Until Dawn, and twists them in fun ways. There are a couple of big switcheroos in the plot in general, but it is, for example, likely that the character spending most of their time running around the forest in their pants is going to be a dude, and in any situation it's usually a girl that leads from the front and takes charge. This does apply to almost every woman in the game, and it becomes a bit exhausting watching them all Girlboss at once sometimes, like all the Deadpool variations strutting around a Comic-Con crowd, but I'll take it.
Less successful is your between-chapters guide, a mysterious old woman for whom you're collecting hidden tarot cards, and, related to her, an element of plot connected to a travelling sideshow. The Quarry almost defies your expectations and avoids the tired tropes there, but not quite (and heads up for a couple of uses of a word I know in the US is considered a slur for the GRT community, though it isn't in the UK).
So, The Quarry isn't perfect by any means, and you can throw in some QTE or choice moments that feel like they cheated you on top of that. But even if it were perfect, its full price entry sticker might still feel like a pretty big ask for some people. It's also not actually that frightening, if I'm honest. Instead, it goes more for "tense and thrilling" even at its most hightened moments. But The Quarry improves on almost all the flaws of Supermassive's Dark Pictures Anthology, and picks up the baton from Until Dawn as if all those years haven't passed at all. It's cool, creepy, a bit funny, and a great summer horror treat for anyone missing monster movies.