"Anna" has the potential to be terrifying, but it's too easy to get caught on the details developers seemed to have forgotten. Courtesy of Dreampainters

"Anna" is beautiful. 

The first-person Dreampainters psychological horror game — which was much hailed as the game end other genre favorites such as "Amnesia" — is an unequivocal treasure to look at. The way the game slowly opens onto a weathered house in the middle of nowhere, with long waving grass and a rolling brook literally takes your breath away.

It's beautiful to look at, but damn near impossible to play.

"Anna" is a throw back to the "Myst" generation, point-and-click mystery games. You play as a love-sick lover who has somehow lost his love (Anna) and wakes up at her old house, which he has of course been dreaming about for months. The goal is to find out why you're there and how to get out.

Not a hard goal. But "Anna" doesn't come with any set of instructions. No intro to guide you through the controls. Not even a menu option to change the controls. Finding out what to do — and what to press — is sheer trial and error, especially because the developer didn't decide to be consistent with their controls. Arrow keys move you around, "I" opens your inventory and left clicking on objects gives you a menu of choices, but to pull open a door you have to right click and pull out with your mouse. 

Again, did I mention there's no tutorial? 

There are also some weird visual choices later in the game. As you get further into the game and start to solve the mystery of what happened to Anna, the area around you starts to flash rapidly. Apparently Anna and our main character are from an area where raves commonly take place in haunted houses. 

Since no epilepsy notification comes with the Steam purchase, consider this your warning.

"Anna" was made with an agenda in mind — to suck the player into a terrifying, haunted world. In order to do that effectively, game play should be smooth and seamless  It's hard to immerse yourself into a psychologically horrifying realm when half of your attention is set on cursing at the keyboard in exasperation.

It's also hard to take a horror game seriously when you feel like you should be searching for strobe lights instead of bodies. But maybe that's just me.

All the right components are there, except for the basic ones. Dreampainters created a world, but forgot to make a game in the process.

For the atmosphere, the visuals and for $10, it's worth the buy. Just play it once to get a feel, then play again for what it's meant to be.

Recommended for you