Sony released Stifled for its PlayStation platform in April and while it's not an AAA game like your God of War and Assassin's Creed: Origins, this indie made-in-Singapore game is liable to scare you silly. Quite simply, Stifled is about you trying to navigate your way in almost-total darkness and the only way to get around is by echolocation—whatever sound you make, the sound waves will bounce around your surroundings and give you a visual impression by outlining whatever it is in your immediate vicinity before it reverts back to black. You can get around by making as many noises as you wish but your cacophony attracts monsters in the darkness; monsters who also need sounds to see.
This withholding of spatial information is effective in heightening the fear factor. You can see the same result in Jaws. Because of how fake-looking the mechanical prop sharks were back in the 70s, Spielberg tore a page from the Hitchcock rulebook and reduced the appearance of the shark and just hinted at its presence.
Like Jaws, another video game, Silent Hill, uses the same technique by obscuring your periphery with a fog so that you can never see anything until you're near it. And like Jaws, Silent Hill uses this fogging method to due to the console limitations when it came to graphics (the fogging is added to reduce framerate and draw distances to save on memory.
The phrase, "necessity is the mother of invention" is an apt description for these situations but it's actually more of a "show, don't tell" scenario- sorry, more like "not showing that's very telling on how scary it'll be".
It's the fear of the unknown, which taps into something primal in all of us. Psychologists discovered that an ambiguous situation or uncertain threats can trigger an "exaggerated anticipatory anxiety". That's the same feeling you get when your doctor tells you gravely that he has the results of your bloodwork and then says he'll elaborate on it next week—you'll spend the next few days just thinking of the worse. If you apply this to good horror movies, the monster is hidden, wearing the dark like a well-fitted cloak. You see glimpses of the beast but what you imagine in your head is always worse than what they show on screen. Expectation / reality.
We see monsters on our TV, face revealed, lies dripping from behind bared teeth but Stifled is another video game that's effective with ratcheting up the scares; and the best thing about it is that we're the ones doing the scaring on our own, filling in the blanks and stitching together the monster in our mind.
Stifled is out on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR and is only available digitally and retairls for SGD26.90.