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Withering Rooms is a haunted house action-RPG with notes of Bloodborne and American McGee's Alice

Out of early access now - beware the piano-playing ghost

Two witches fighting in Withering Rooms
Image credit: Perp Games

Some new videogame releases pounce on us like excitable Golden Retrievers, while others become apparent to us more insidiously, like undead Golden Retrievers creeping back from the grave to do their master's bidding unto eternity. Withering Rooms is one of the latter: released out of early access last week, and noticed by me just yesterday, it's a haunted mansion metroidvania in which you are a small girl in a nightie who must use meat cleavers, pentagrams and spells of self-enlargement or possession or incineration to overcome various monsters of the Silently Hilly and/or Residentially Evil persuasion. No, none of the monsters are Golden Retrievers.

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The mansion itself is an atmospheric, generated dreamworld of 2.5D hallways full of Victorian fixtures, with frequent hiding spots and the occasional safe area where you can chat to an NPC about the whole "I'm stuck in a dream" thing. Some of the NPCs read like they've walked off the grim streets of Bloodborne - all have a wider agenda they won't talk about, and some of them are probably lying to you, even as they give you quests. I've played the game for exactly one hour and have already been murdered by an invisible ghost while trying to cut somebody's finger off so I can feed a magic altar. Is Withering Rooms decent? I think it might be. It's got "cult hit" written all over it. Probably not with ink.

Here's a breakdown of the 1.0 version from the Steam page:

Explore Mostyn House to gather weapons, distractions, magical artifacts, keys, and crafting materials.

Take on a huge cast of monsters and bosses - overgrown undead, invisible ghosts, devious witches, axe wielding madmen, and many more.

Discover secret passageways, dusty attics filled with treasure, and even the ever-changing Byzantine Labyrinth that lies beneath Mostyn House.

Take the sting out of death by performing rituals to preserve items from night to night or permanently level up.

Meet a cast of strange friends, merchants, liars, and witches each with their own agenda.

Cast a wide variety of spells - create hex traps on closet doors, enchant suits of armor to assist you, or create a decoy mimic of yourself.

Greater dangers - and greater treasures - await you in the hedge mazes, tombs, caves, churches, and ruins beyond the Mostyn House grounds.

To pick up on that last bulletpoint about locations, I'm about to enter the mansion's basement, which presumably sits above the Byzantine Labyrinth. An NPC called the Filthy Wretch has advised me to find a light source first. Will this magic candlestick I bought from the sinister masked man in the art gallery do the trick? I can use it to set screaming zombie groundskeepers on fire, but will it illuminate my path effectively? I guess I'm going to find out.

Withering Rooms may not wet your whistle if you're after Souls-grade combat, but it's more substantial than you might guess from the protagonist's initially puny appearance (although if you're familiar with American McGee's Alice, the other game I referenced in the headline, you'll know that pale young girls in horror games are to be kept at arm's length). You can hold up a book of scripture to repel the phantoms, equip a shield for some classic sword-and-board exchanges, or just hide behind some rearground curtains if you don't fancy tangling with, for example, a witch wearing a cage.

Withering Rooms rejoices in an Overwhelmingly Positive Steam reviewer reception at the time of writing, and can apparently be played through on Steam Deck, though the developers are still waiting for Valve to Verify it for portable play. Unconvinced? Away with you then to our list of the best horror games, which is bursting with alternatives.

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