Into Blue Valley bills itself as a first person exploration game centred around found footage. The game is told from the perspective of two friends, Matt and Ryan. Whilst clearing out the attic of a house that once belonged to an elderly couple, Matt finds an unmarked VHS tape, and after shopping around for an old video player, decides to give it a watch. Having already seen the tape once, Matt shows the footage to Ryan, and basically acts as narrator for the rest of the game.
The gameplay is simple enough – the player controls the camcorder used to record the tape, exploring an abandoned town at the height of winter. As the narrator explains, you must travel around the town, going from house to house looking for eight special objects. Along the way there are many notes, books and journal entries to read, which partially explain what happened to the town and its inhabitants. The objects aren’t hard to find, although entering the houses can be terrifying.
To put it simply Into Blue Valley is other-worldly. It’s overwhelmingly creepy, and as the story unravels you learn more about the cult-like activities of the townsfolk. Talk of worship, sacrifice, and the strange temple on the other side of the hill all help to add to the mystery. With the disappearance of the town’s population, and talk of supernatural activity, the story really has the ethos of stories such as Picnic at Hanging Rock. Even the audio is scary, preventing the player from ever being at ease.
The visuals are unique for an indie game. The camcorder acts as your HUD, complete with distortion and quivering bars across the screen. Now and then the footage briefly spirals out of control in true VHS fashion. Most parts of the game are devoid of much colour apart from the blue tint of the camcorder, which makes the whole journey that little bit more spooky, especially when trudging through the snow.
The game is surprisingly short, lasting approximately an hour, and there is little to gain from playing it again. The ending itself is rather disappointing, with too many question left unanswered. Leaving the mystery unexplained is understandable, but the information that is left out at the end is quite frankly annoying. Questions surrounding the objects you collect, the disappearance of the townsfolk and the tributes are left hanging.
The other issue is cost. The full price is £6.99, which is enough to put anyone off. Many people will no doubt steer clear of such a brief game. In all honesty, there are plenty of games offering a similar level of gameplay, for no cost whatsoever.
Nevertheless, despite its brevity, Into Blue Valley is an impressive feat for British developer Kuchalu. Founded this year by two brothers, Into Blue Valley is the team’s first release on Steam. The progress made in less than a year is admirable, and Oculus Rift support for Into Blue Valley is already being lined up. Dare I say it but this seems like yet another indie developer that’s showing a lot of promise.