Worse Than Death Review: Good Scares in a Hitchcockian World

by David Sanchez October 22, 2019 @ 2:35 pm

10/30/2019 Update from the author: On Sunday, October 27, developer Benjamin Rivers reached out to me to inform me that he had released a worldwide update designed to fix a bug that was causing Worse Than Death to crash on PlayStation 4. After playing through the game a second time following the patch, I can confirm that the update indeed fixes the issue. As such, we at Exophase feel that an update to our review is also in order.

First off, with the exception of any mentions of the bug in the review below, everything about Worse Than Death remains the same. The game features a solid story with good characters and great dialogue. In addition, the gameplay is a wonderful mix of adventure and exploration, with tense survival horror elements that really add a layer of terror to the experience. The enemy encounters lose a bit of their effect toward the end, and some of the puzzle clues are a bit obscure, but this is an otherwise entertaining horror experience.

Having said that, an updated review score and article title are in order as the reason for the original score was due to the game-breaking bug interfering with my overall enjoyment and immersion. The second time around, with no bugs and no crashes, I was able to become fully engaged in the experience and truly get lost in all the fun, scares, and story development that Worse Than Death presents. Taking that into account, I have edited the score from 6 out of 10 to 8 out of 10, which indicates a great game with minuscule issues.

Lastly, to anyone reading this, as well as anyone involved in the development of Worse Than Death. It’s obvious that game development is tough, and a lot of times, independent developers have to go through hurdles that major companies don’t. Bugs are going to slip through the cracks. Glitches, crashes — these things are going to happen. Benjamin Rivers responded immediately to the issues I experienced by fixing those issues, which is much appreciated. Ultimately, Worse Than Death on PlayStation 4 was patched and the game can now be enjoyed equally by folks across all platforms.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

There’s a lot to like about Worse Than Death, the third game from the Canada-based Benjamin Rivers. This latest project is just as story-driven as the developer’s previous offerings, Home and Alone With You, both of which I enjoyed. Home was a fun horror mystery that started to go places before coming to an abrupt end. Meanwhile Alone With You explored mental health, the human condition, isolation, and solitude, all within a sci-fi setting.

In terms of both design and pacing, it’s evident that Rivers has learned a lot from his previous work as Worse Than Death flows much more smoothly than his last two titles. This game also tells a more interesting story, and it successfully blends action gameplay to create a more well-rounded experience. That said, at least as far the PlayStation 4 version is concerned, there are currently some pretty bad bugs that will likely hinder your enjoyment of this otherwise cool little game.

High School Reunions Are Never a Good Idea

Worse Than Death focuses on Holly as she returns to her hometown for her high school reunion. Throughout the night, she meets up with her old best friend, a jock who’s clinging desperately to the past causes a bit of trouble, and our protagonist catches up with a couple other classmates and a creepy teacher. As if high school reunions weren’t already cringe-inducing enough, things quickly go south when some strange happenings begin to occur. Soon Holly can’t find her friend, the other folks at the high school are missing, and a supernatural entity makes its presence felt.

Piecing Together the Past and Present

Like any good mystery, Worse Than Death slowly reveals small bits of the story rather than giving everything away immediately. It’s up to yo to visit several locations from Holly’s hometown including a trailer park where her friend lived and a hospital filled with Silent Hill-esque grime. It’s at these locations where you’ll not only piece together Holly’s past, but also gather clues as to what the heck is going on in this once-sleepy town.

Aside from being heavily story-based, there’s a survival horror element to the game that’s front and center whenever monstrous creatures appear. To avoid meeting a horrible demise, Holly must hide in the shadows and under tables. This keeps her from being seen from the creatures that lurk in the dark. If you are noticed, however, you’ll have to make a run for it and hope you have enough stamina to get away. Sometimes you may even have to enter different rooms, but even then you’re not safe as these monsters can — and will — follow you between rooms.

There’s only one kind of monster in Worse Than Death, so these encounters begin to feel a bit same-y after a while. That said, it’s still super intense whenever you come across one of these creatures, especially when you’re enthralled in the story and exploration bits.

There are a few puzzles sprinkled throughout each of the game’s chapters, and these are mostly simple yet satisfying brain teasers. There are a couple that might give you hard time, though. Sometimes the clues are a bit too vague and you’re stuck scratching your head and trying to figure out how the heck to progress after you hit a roadblock. Thankfully, these moments are rare, so progression is hardly ever halted for too long.

A Pixelated Nightmare

There’s a bit of Stranger Things and Castle Rock influence in Worse Than Death, but the game doesn’t rely too heavily on the popular Netflix and Hulu originals. At times, the game feels a bit like a modern-day Hitchcock story, which is to say it’s deliberately paced and has just the perfect amount of suspense.

Visually, the game is beautifully designed, with dark pixel art that creates a lo-fi horror nightmare for you to experience. The sounds are mostly ambient, but there’s some music here and there that adds to the eerie tone. Running from a monster while a louder theme plays on is always nerve-wracking and effective in creating a sense of dread.

Crashes and Bugs

There’s so much I loved about Worse Than Death, but unfortunately, there were some serious performance issues that made playing on PlayStation 4 a bit rough. The game randomly crashed multiple times whenever I’d perform different actions such as enter doors, interact with objects, or work on puzzles. I’d restart the game and then encountered the same issues later on while doing other similar tasks.

I can’t comment on how the game performs on other platforms as I only played the PlayStation 4 version. That said, the frequent crashes became a problem as they literally pulled me out of the experience and dampened my enjoyment of the game.

A Fate Worse Than Death, But a Game Well Worth Playing

If your only means of playing Worse Than Death is PlayStation 4, maybe hold off on it until the developer releases a patch. That said, if you’re down to play it on any of the other platforms the game is available on, look into those versions and see if they’re not experiencing similar issues. From what I’ve read, the Switch and PC versions of the game don’t suffer from the same problems.

I’m bummed out that Worse Than Death was plagued by constant crashes, but I still had a good time with it overall. This is a creepy thriller that tells a fun story. The puzzles are solid. The world itself is interesting. And there’s even a little pixelated gore for horror fans who enjoy a decent dose of blood and guts. This is definitely Benjamin Rivers’ best game yet, and it’s well worth a look by horror fans in need of a good tale this Halloween season.

Updated score following patch: 8 out of 10

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