Developed by the indie studio Charyb Games, Coldfall is their third game released on Steam, but it’s their first single-player oriented adventure, with a horror click-vibe that is surprisingly good.
The year is 1962, and due to cold war tensions the US government signs a nuclear classified test towards Coldfall, a small town on an island in the Pacific. The effects were catastrophic, filling the land with radiation, but even so, despite the danger, some residents decided to stay behind.
We play as reporter Bruce William, tasked to investigate and report the events on the island. What awaits him though, it’s nothing he could ever guess, as the locals were turned into mutants and the only survivors are barely capable of changing the inevitable circumstances that just keeps getting worse.
Coldfall is a 2D short horror adventure, a side-scroller that manages to retain the classic terror elements, and adds its own uniqueness. Although the concept is a mix between arcade and survival, the final result is certainly appealing to the major fans of strong emotions, as you adventure through the city streets looking for clues among deadly mutants across the desolated city. Some NPC’s will interact with Bruce and ask them for items, which highlights the whole gameplay. Players will visit some locations such as s grocery store, a police station, a lighthouse, and a couple more places to loot ammo, weaponry and health packages.
There is, however, one specific element in which we can’t ignore, Coldfall is a very particular adventure, one that makes players go through a stage of survival without saving the game. That’s right, there is no in-game save option, thus, the success of your mission depends on the right decisions, at the right time. This is the arcade element of the game, with no randomized item locations, or any other unpredictable element. The only uncertain component is the future, and for that player’s will have to keep going further in, and deal with one situation at a time, learning from each one of them.
The game is considerably short, it can be completed in just 20 minutes, assuming you know exactly what to do, and where to go. For first timers, it can go up and over 2 hours easily. The difficulty won’t be enough to present so many Game-Overs it will become frustrating, if anything, players can feel more excited to use the knowledge and advance further. It can still be frustrating to die right at the end, and start the whole experience again.
The story is pretty simple, there’s not much to tell, considering it’s a short adventure. There’s more than enough dialogues between characters that find themselves lost in the contaminated town, but even so, they provide a good placement of occurrences and a point of change that drives new events further.
Players control Bruce in a side-scroll fight for survival against mutants. Starting up with a traditional knife, players will face different type of mutants, and some don’t go down easily. Mouse crossfire dictates player movement, as it’s possible to walk, run, and walk back. The gameplay is fluid, with nice movement and perfect hitboxes. Since some mutants advance at different rhythms, learning the difference between running and simply walking while thrusting the knife can save a lot of your health-bar. Firearms are unlocked later, and do wonders on those nasty mutants.
The horror element is well presented, even in a simplistic 2D way. All of the visuals portray the violence and terrifying events that occurred in this little town that resembles a characteristic small town in the US. Buildings splattered with blood, mutants across the roads, stores abandoned, acts of desperations followed by suicides, it’s all there, and in a cool pixelated perspective.
One would think 2D visuals would have a hard time depicting the desolation or the intensity, but the truth is, moving around in such dreary place, delivers a very specific feeling, one we can only achieve by reaching our memories of classic survivor horrors of the 90’s. The atmosphere is well gathered, as Bruce walks with his flashlight through the darkness, accompanied by the perfect soundtrack. Focusing highly on ambient sounds, it doesn’t leave one with an uneasy feeling, but still delivers a magnitude of its essence. It is said though, that one could find melody in tension, and beauty in darkness, which pretty much describes the soundworks for Coldfall.
Technically speaking, Coldfall is very simple, as it offers a small amount of settings, but considering its presentation, it doesn’t have to. Settings consist of Windowed or Fullscreen mode, with Windowed mode having different resolutions to choose from, which is actually a very cool feature. The option to limit the framerate to 60fps can be toggled On, and VSync is also active by default.
Delivering a short but intense horror adventure, Coldfall is a great title that might go missing in your library, which is unfortunate. At the very core, I personally wish the game had an in-game save option with 50 times more the content, extending the playtime up to 10 hours, in what would make Coldfall one of the most relevant Indie Horror games to date. It’s simply that good, and manages to captivate, with well placed events and solid gameplay.