Walking around the Expo Hall at PAX East this weekend, I stumbled upon a game that caught my eye for a couple of reasons. From Beneath is obviously horror, a genre that I’m a big fan of. But what perplexed me most was that the cinematically stylized stealth game appeared to be a mobile one. Could that be right? How would that even work? Naturally, I was skeptical. But I decided to give it a try. The game’s lead developer Diego Alegre explained the controls to me. He told me to expect a learning curve, but that at some point they would become intuitive. For me, he was right.
From Beneath is about a group of regular, everyday people who see a decidedly not-everyday occurrence. In the small town they’re all in, a bright light appears, before knocking them all unconscious. When they wake, they find that the village is now dark and blanketed in fog. Most of these people don’t know each other at first, as some reside in the town while others are just visiting. What they do have in common is that they all start hearing whispers. Oh, and they each have a latent psychic gift. For example, one of them is a doctor who can feel his patient’s pain. Traversing through the town, they discover several creatures who do not wish them well. As I said before, this is a horror game.
As I also said before, this is a mobile horror game. And a cinematic one at that. So how does From Beneath manage to keep this movie-like quality while having an onscreen control system? Well, movements and actions are delegated to corners of the screen. By pressing the left-hand side to move and the right to look around, players can control their character. Other actions include double tapping to crouch and periodically pressing an action button for certain circumstances. “Many mobile games have too many buttons, this is tactile and simple. You won’t be looking for a button,” Alegre explained. While certain characters use guns (the one I played as didn’t), shooting will have a certain amount of auto-aim. But I’m told that this won’t come into play too often, as the enemies are immortal and can only be stunned.
In the mission I played, I appeared to be in some sort of administrative building. I had two objectives, to get a key and open a door. Simple enough. It wasn’t long before I came upon a grotesque zombie-like creature that I had to avoid. And another. And then another. And then a few at once. But while I struggled at the beginning to move around without my character appearing to have spent too much time at the local bar, I eventually did get the hang of it. By the time I had to sneak around several enemies at once, I felt like the middle-aged woman I was controlling had sobered up. I crouched down and snuck around corners and just out of (and between) lines of sight. It’s worth mentioning that not everyone had the same ease with the controls; a friend of mine succumbed to the creatures as he was just getting oriented.
But From Beneath is somewhat forgiving, at least early on, and once I was spotted I was able to outmaneuver my pursuers until they lost sight of me. Once I found the key and the demo ended, a cutscene played in which a bigger creature suddenly appeared behind me. I was told that while the basic enemies I had been outwitting are slower and weaker, the one that appeared at the end has a one-hit kill. Others will have various strengths, for a total of four enemy types.
In the mission I played I completed the main objective, and each of the 22 missions in the game will have a main objective and an optional, secondary one. So why complete the optional ones? Well, apparently these will affect other characters, and can even affect the game’s ending.
One of the most interesting things I learned is that the game will not only have voice-work, but it will include quite the cast. Troy Baker played the demo and signed on, bringing Nolan North along as well (I’m beginning to think that the two of them come as a package deal). Laura Bailey will also lend her vocal talents to the upcoming game.
So when can we expect From Beneath? Fancy Rabbit Games has yet to set a release date. Optimistically, it could be as soon as this May. It will debut on IOS and Android, with the team hoping to follow this with releases on Steam and Nintendo Switch.