TAPE: Unveil The Memories Review: I have to return some videotapes
I’m a sucker for horror games — it’s a shame I’m too much of a coward to play them. Instead, I’m forced to watch the likes of Markiplier squeal and shout his way through the slew of scary games I’m too afraid to try. I wish there were more horror games out there for scaredy cats like me — less horror, more psychological thriller. You know, ones that eschew the jumpscares in favor of ambiance and story; alas, those are few and far between, and the ones we do get are still often too scary for me. Am I doomed to never know true thriller?
Turns out I don’t need to grow a spine after all, as publisher Gammera Nest and developer BlackChiliGoat Studio have teamed up to bring us TAPE: Unveil The Memories, a bona fide psychological thriller that will leave players on the edge of their seats (not jumping out of them). Set in 1990s Spain, TAPE: Unveil The Memories asks players to “use a special video camera that can rewind time to explore memories of the past” featuring decades-old tech and mixed-media storytelling to really drive home a thrilling 90s feel.
TAPE: Unveil The Memories has players taking on the role of Iria, a young Galician woman who lives with her single mom who works late nights, often leaving Iria alone. It wasn’t always like that, though — they used to be a happy family, together with her horror film director father of notable fame. Unfortunately, her father’s tragically mysterious disappearance has left the family in tatters, the only remnants of her father living on through Iria’s love of scary movies. Although the pair hadn’t truly healed, they made do with what little they had, figuring out a way forward without the man of the house together — until one fateful night when Iria stumbled upon a videotape with her name on it, changing her life forever.
As it would turn out, Iria’s father left videotapes for her, begging her through the screen for her assistance in finding him. How, you might ask? With his camera, of course! You see, Iria is in possession of a Super8 camera, which she can use to pause, rewind, and fast forward time. In a sense, she “takes time from random objects and gives it to the camera,” which really boils down to being able to manipulate objects by forcing them to occupy the spaces they once did, will do, or freeze them altogether. This will certainly be helpful where she’s going, as she’s about to enter a chaotic world that will bring back a lot of haunting memories…
Since TAPE: Unveil The Memories can be completed in a few short hours, I don’t want to spoil much more of the story; instead, I’d like to touch upon what the game executes correctly in terms of a psychological thriller. For one, the voice acting is superb, and I really enjoyed the use of different mediums, such as CGI, real-life film, and hand drawn illustrations. Of course, the ambiance is downright unsettling — my first impressions were that of a mix between the dread of P.T. with the confidence of Among the Sleep (if you can imagine such a crossover!). What this means in terms of actual gameplay is that, while you definitely feel like something is going to be around the corner (and there often is in the form of a strange monster), it’s hard to feel like you’re completely vulnerable. Sure, there are moments where Iria will literally jump or squeal at a fallen bookcase or an object floating back to its starting position, causing a moment of panic on the player’s end, but there’s never really a true moment of total fear or loss of control. As long as you have your camera handy, you can figure out what to do next.
Speaking of figuring out what to do next, the puzzles in TAPE: Unveil The Memories, although repetitive at times, never truly stump you. Although it’s a bit frustrating to have to do them all over again if you miss a part, it’s not so complicated that you’re trapped in a corner with no way out. This goes doubly so for the narrative mode, which cuts out everything that isn’t story or gameplay and focuses right on the points of progression. You can really tell that the team worked hard on making sure that TAPE: Unveil The Memories was full of thrills to the point where they’ve completely pared down gameplay to get there (optionally, of course), which this coward definitely appreciated.
In addition to the interesting puzzle mechanic, I really appreciated some of the accessibility features, especially the trigger warning. I tend to avoid any games that deal with amputation due to a traumatic injury where my arm was severed off at the elbow (later reattached), so games like Resident Evil Village and Sekiro are ones that I simply cannot play. How I learned this was by being subjected to imagery I would have rather not seen, however, which, if anyone has experienced something similar, knows that that’s the kind of thing that haunts you on your way to sleep at night. TAPE: Unveil The Memories, on the other hand, featured a surprisingly innovative trigger warning that you had to click to see (as, is nature of a trigger warning, featured some slight spoilers), which I tremendously appreciated. Scanning the trigger warning for “amputation” yielded nothing, so I felt confident in my ability to press forward. I wish more games were like this!
Unfortunately, there are some things about TAPE: Unveil The Memories that cannot be overlooked, like the fact that this is NOT a horror game. Even if it gets the horror game tag somewhere down the line, I must stress that this is simply not a scary game. I can’t play horror games to save my life, but I was able to play this one because, like P·O·L·L·E·N, it wasn’t scary so much as it was eerie. Yes, there’s a monster roaming the halls, but a largely predictable one that doesn’t kill you or even really scare you. If you go into TAPE: Unveil The Memories searching for a horror experience, you’re not going to find that here; instead, you’ll find a true psychological thriller title. You’ve been warned.
Cowards who love horror games, rejoice! For in TAPE: Unveil The Memories we have a psychological thriller title that offers plenty of eerie ambiance without a total barrage of cheap jumpscares. Oh sure, there’s definitely a haunting tale to be had here, but one that will only raise the blood pressure a little bit. If you’re looking for a standard horror game experience, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but if you’re after a thriller game that offers an interesting puzzle mechanic and scintillating story full of secrets to uncover, TAPE: Unveil The Memories is just waiting for you to press play.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS4, PS5, PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Gammera Nest; Developer: BlackChiliGoat Studio; Players: 1; Released: April 13, 2022; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of TAPE: Unveil The Memories provided by the publisher.