Cold Fusion

C

Get in, find an experimental device, and get out.

PC Release: March 13, 2012

By Ian Coppock

There’s something about freezing cold environments that make a game scarier. Perhaps it’s the sheer, unfriendly harshness of your surroundings, or maybe you’re in a blizzard and can’t tell if a monster is about to gut you. The cold desolation of Tau Volantis was Dead Space 3‘s perhaps only saving grace, so I decided to search for more horror games in that vein. Cold Fusion sounded like a promising lead, so I downloaded it. Here’s what I found.

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Cold Fusion is a first-person game built, like many indie games, on the Unity Engine. You assume the role of a special forces soldier ordered to explore a facility gone dark.

Your goal is to investigate why the base hasn’t called in, and to retrieve the experimental cold fusion device that its scientists were building.

Your mission is explained in a, uh... holy crap! A cutscene! You don't see many of those in indie horror.

Your mission is explained in a, uh… holy crap! A cutscene! You don’t see many of those in indie horror.

Cold Fusion starts off with a still-shot cutscene detailing your mission. The audio and visual design in this cinematic were well-done, and an indie horror cutscene was a first for me.

After it plays out, you’re dropped off at this delightful hellhole.

SO MUCH NOPE

SO MUCH NOPE

Right from the get-go, it’s clear that the base has suffered some terrible calamity. Most of the lights are out, bodies litter the hallway, and trails of blood lead off into corners I couldn’t be asked to explore. Right when you step in, the atmosphere becomes insanely oppressive. I could almost feel as if I was in this base, able to see my breath, hands shaking… yeah, it’s atmospheric.

Cold Fusion reminded me of one of the Short Horror games I did last February: The Briefcase. As in that game, your only means of progression is to find key cards that unlock the next door. These keys are scattered across maze-like rooms, behind many barriers, flickering lights and jump-scares. I jumped when a body on the floor suddenly got pulled around a corner… and when another one fell out of a vent in the ceiling.

Alright, I'm going to fess up right now: I DON'T WANNA GO IN THURRR!!!

Alright, I’m going to fess up right now: I DON’T WANNA GO IN THURRR!!!

Some of the jump-scares are a bit cheap though. I giggled when I saw random objects just fall over. It can be hard to strive for originality in indie horror, but if there’s one thing I’ve seen a thousand times, it’s random objects falling over.

Cold Fusion excels at building a tense atmosphere, but the game had some major design problems. First and foremost, the movement. Your character can walk at a pretty alright pace, but if you try to run, your movement speed barely increases while you bounce up and down like a toddler on caffeine. It’s hilarious, but also irritating. Trying to move quickly will render you unable to manage anything but a jolting camera.

Nothing breaks horror immersion faster than copious amounts of bouncing.

Nothing breaks horror immersion faster than copious amounts of bouncing.

As that screenshot indicates, another problem the game suffers is that it’s too dark. There’s a difference between draping a room in shadows and drowning everything in them. I also couldn’t help but notice that even though I was a special forces soldier, I didn’t think to pack a flashlight. I spent some of my time pixel-hunting for the key cards, which also give no indication that you’ve picked them up.

The biggest problem is the monster itself. It was too dark to get a good look at the damn thing, but I also couldn’t outrun it. Even when I knew it was coming and got a sizeable headstart, it just waddled up to me and sliced my head off. A bit of a deal-breaker.

If you look really closely, you might be able to see the monster. It had a lot of work put into its design, which made the extreme darkness all the more counter-intuitive.

If you look really closely, you can see this crab-man’s legs and torso. The creature had a lot of work put into its design, which made the extreme darkness all the more counter-intuitive.

Cold Fusion‘s artwork is very detailed, especially for an indie game. The walls bear stains and cracks, rooms are flooded with scattered items, and the monster itself bears decent animation and sound design (the one second I was able to see it). It made for a convincing environment that succeeded in helping me forget the bounce-running. The game features a few small pieces of  music, some of which just played randomly. I would be tricked into assuming a monster was nearby, only to stand there until the strings died down. A little confusing, but not a huge problem.

Overall, I thought Cold Fusion was mediocre. It has great level and sound design, but terrible gameplay. The premise of the story does not in any way match up to the gameplay either, and we have no context for the presence of this crab thing. Still, just because I couldn’t complete Cold Fusion doesn’t mean you can’t either. Give it a go and see what you think.

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You can buy Cold Fusion here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at ianlaynecoppock@gmail.com with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

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