Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel Review: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave
Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel wears its ghastly inspiration proudly on its shredded, bloodied sleeves. Developed by Brazilian outfit Pulsatrix Studios, it sticks closely to the formula established by survival horror classics like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. You’ll explore eerie environments, solve puzzles, and battle the occasional flesh-hungry ghoul as you attempt to unravel a shadowy cult’s secrets.
With a superb setting and solid puzzle designs, it’s a worthwhile entry for fans of the genre. It’s just a shame that its unsatisfying combat, a lack of enemy variety, and an all-too-familiar story ultimately keep Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel from realizing its full potential.
The game puts you in the shoes of Roberto Lopes, a budding journalist searching for his big break. After a mysterious contact named Stefanie tells him about a small town in Santa Catarina that’s supposedly been plagued by paranormal activity, he sets off to Treze Trilhas for answers.
Of course, not long after checking into St. Dinfna Hotel, things take a turn for the weird. In the blink of an eye, the once-grand lodgings seem to have experienced a catastrophic event. Suddenly haunted by visions of a young girl in a gas mask, Roberto must make his way through the hotel’s ruined halls and battle the nightmarish creatures that want nothing more than to gobble you up like a continental breakfast.
Thankfully, you’re not totally helpless as you make your way through the dilapidated corridors and flooded bathrooms of this once-stately retreat. A camera is one of the first things you’ll find in Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel. It’s an essential tool because it lets you peer into an alternate reality to find clues like safe combinations, ammo, health packs, and even key items. It really pays to take your time and carefully observe each new area from both perspectives. Fobia’s a survival horror game, after all. Supplies are always in short supply. Failing to manage your resources accordingly all but guarantees you’ll have a bad time down the road – especially when dealing with the game’s bosses.
Dead & Breakfast
Speaking of combat, the first-person shooting seems fine at first glance. But much like the world through the lens of Fobia’s ghostly camera, looks can be very deceiving. Sadly, dealing death here isn’t especially well-executed and often brings down the experience.
You’ll amass a pretty sizable arsenal of familiar weapons, including a pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and a magnum. The problem is that the gunplay feels pretty weightless as your bullets seem to lack any real impact. The game also has a nasty issue where you’ll be unable to aim your weapon when an enemy is right in your face. Considering there’s no way to fire from the hip, and this is how 1oo% of the enemies attack you in Fobia, this can become a massive headache. There were numerous occasions when an enemy would have me stuck with my back to the wall or lodged against a piece of background geometry, totally unable to raise my weapon and fire.
I could forgive some of this jankiness if there were more compelling enemies to encounter. However, Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel only features TWO standard enemy types and three bosses. Considering your pistol is just fine for bringing down the game’s standard cannon fodder, this wealth of weaponry feels mostly wasted. I get that Fobia isn’t the only survival horror game to take this approach. After all, who can forget Resident Evil 7’s Molded? Still, I can’t help but feel a handful more enemy types would have gone a long way toward making Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel’s moment-to-moment gameplay a bit more exciting.
A Cerebral Escape Room
While Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel’s combat mostly misses its mark, the game’s puzzles and superb atmosphere kept me glued to my controller. I’m a big survival horror fan. And as such, I’ve always been pretty vocal about my frustration over puzzles — once a staple of the genre — being mostly sidelined in recent years in favor of pure action. Thankfully, it seems like the folks at Pulsatrix Studios share my frustration, as Fobia is teeming with them. They’re not the most cryptic ones you’ll come across (that reward still goes to last year’s superb Tormented Souls), but they’re very well done and should satisfy players looking to flex their gray matter.
Solving puzzles and finding new tools to help reach previously inaccessible areas is hugely satisfying in Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel and easily the game’s greatest strength. In addition to the main puzzles needed to complete the story, there is also a wealth of optional ones that lead to things like collectible memories of the hotel’s previous guests, along with orbs which you can spend to upgrade your camera and weaponry.
.. Stay A While… Stay Forever!
As far as survival horror games go, the game’s a pretty substantial offering. It took me just over 12 hours to complete the story. And even then, I still had a couple of optional puzzles left to complete. Add to that the game’s multiple endings, and you certainly can’t say Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel doesn’t warrant an extended stay. Of course, so long as you don’t mind a bit of mold and all the murderous monsters roaming about the premises.
Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel isn’t without its issues. From its clunky combat to its lack of enemy variety, it’s clear the game could have benefited from a little more time in development. Yet despite its shortcomings, the intriguing story, superb setting, and clever puzzles kept me planted in front of my TV with a big, stupid grin on my face.
Ultimately, how much enjoyment you get out of Fobia depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re just dying for gripping gunplay with myriad monsters to encounter, there’s no denying that you’ll probably be pretty disappointed with what this title has to offer. But if you can look beyond its rougher edges, Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel offers tantalizingly terrifying accommodations for survival horror fans.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS5 (Reviewed) PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S; Publisher: Maximum Games; Developer: Pulsatrix Studios; Players: 1; Released: June 28, 2022; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel provided by the publisher.