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The Quarry review — Nightmare believer

During your stay at Hackett’s Quarry, you may encounter certain dangers. Don’t panic! Take a breath and remember the camp motto: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Then identify the danger – has another camper found something in the lake? Is there blood covering the floor and walls? Do you hear or see an unknown creature just outside your window? Once you’ve located the issue, attempt to contact a camp counselor. These young adults may just hold the key to your survival. Once the situation is resolved, please enjoy the rest of summer camp, and remember – don’t stay up past midnight.

The Quarry is the latest title from Supermassive Games, known for their cinematic horror titles such as Until Dawn and House of Ashes. Despite being a coward, I still greatly enjoy their games because of the choice based, character focused narratives. In The Quarry, you need to guide eight camp counselors through the most bloody night of their lives along with some interpersonal drama. You see, everyone was supposed to leave earlier that day, but their van broke down. In a strange panic, Chris Hackett goes to get help and warns the counselors to stay in the lodge no matter what. Of course, they decide to have a party by the fire pit and, after a game of truth or dare, Abi and Nick are attacked in the woods. It slowly dawns on the kids that they are in grave danger, and it’ll take all their wits just to survive the night.

The game begins pretty slowly, with several hours at the beginning to introduce you to the characters. That may sound unappealing on paper, but I really liked this aspect as caring more about the characters lets the tension get significantly higher once the scares come out. I think this is Supermassive’s most terrifying game to date, and it’s all because every single one of the playable characters is likable. I had my favorites in previous games, but here I desperately wanted Abi, Kaitlyn, Nick, Emma, Ryan, Dylan, and Jacob to all make it out in one piece, or at the very least several ALIVE pieces. There are fewer jumpscares than ever too, I only counted two in my 10 hour playthrough, the rest of the fear comes from the incredibly tense, live or die situations.

In these situations, you’ll encounter mechanics both familiar and new. Quick Time Events, or QTEs, are of course back in full force though thankfully missing a few won’t ruin your playthrough – there’s no distributor cap situation here. At times you’ll also need to hold your breath to hide from something. You do this by holding the A button until the danger has passed, though you’ll want to be 100% sure it’s gone before you let go. This time around, there’s also some light combat. You’ve got a shotgun or two to protect yourself when necessary, but it’s got some nasty spread so you need to wait until the target is close – but not too close – to fire. Of course, you’ll also be making dialogue decisions which will change the characters’ relationships and alter the course of the story. Most of these aren’t timed, so you can take a minute to choose, but a few are so stay on your toes.

If you really screw up and get someone killed, there’s another optional mechanic to help fix your mistakes: Death Rewinds. Up to three times in a playthrough, once a character meets their grisly end, you may be asked if you want to rewind to prevent this. Choosing yes will take you back to the moment their fate was sealed, possibly one or more chapters back, in fact. I’m not ashamed to say I used all three of my lives and managed to get everyone out alive, but the way I had to use them felt a little cheap. In one instance, the game suddenly introduces the only puzzle you’ll encounter with no explanation and you only have two chances to solve it. It’s not the puzzle I have issues with, it’s the fact you can’t even tell it is a puzzle at first glance. In another instance, I had one shot to shoot a monster and the timing was inordinately weird. In the first attempt, it looked like the shot landed but I died anyway, this wasn’t too big a deal. However, in the second instance I waited until the last second to shoot but I guess the timer ran out a second before the bar did because I didn’t get a chance to shoot. Thankfully these are the only instances I felt something going wrong wasn’t my fault, but they’re blemishes on what is otherwise a great game.

I know I said this about House of Ashes as well when that came out, but The Quarry is Supermassive’s best game yet. It knows exactly how to walk the tightrope between scary and delightful 80’s VHS movie camp. You know exactly what the monster is going to be from maybe two minutes in, but they don’t actually acknowledge it until near the end, skirting around the topic constantly in a charming, rather than frustrating, way. Part of this is because the characters actually feel like people in a bad situation – they may make stupid decisions sometimes, but they can also put their feelings aside and act rationally for the most part. What helps the horror hit harder is that the game is genuinely funny as well. Characters will joke around both in and out of danger either because they’re scared, flirting with each other, or just to relieve some tension.

Unfortunately, they don’t get nearly equal screentime. Abi and Emma have by far the least amount of playable scenes, while Ryan has the most. Ryan was my favorite of the bunch and it’s clear Abi and Emma were less playable because they could die early, but it’s a bit frustrating since I wanted to get to know them more. I suppose that does speak to certain strengths of the writing, what I saw of each of these characters got me invested very quickly and the actors give amazing performances, but also a weakness in the choice based narrative with life or death consequences. While their horror titles are great and they’ve finally hit their stride, I’d love to see Supermassive dip their toes into other genres just to see what they can do.

Part of that wish is because The Quarry is visually and sonically stunning. You get to explore the camp a bit before night falls, and the colors look so nice and warm, but a little desaturated by the summer sun. Once the moon does rise, Hackett’s Quarry is bathed in an otherworldly and eerie glow that makes these once familiar places unknown once more. Likewise the sound design is incredible, you’ll hear every creak and moan of the old wooden structures as you walk along them while keeping an ear out for more… beastial noises. There are a ton of licensed songs to accentuate the mood as well, the game begins with an Ariana Grande song and Fly Me to the Moon so you know they had some cash behind this project. There was one instance where a song cutting in felt frankly inappropriate considering what had just happened and I think a few scares would have been more effective without a musical sting, but it’s mostly great. On both fronts, there are some incredibly charming tutorials framed as animated safety guides that look great and sound like ancient VHS tapes.

The game does have a great VHS aesthetic as well. Each set of branching choices is represented by their own cassette, where you can view what affected your current path. There are several more types of collectables too: Tarot cards which reward you with visions of the future between chapters (though you can only choose one to view), some history about the camp, and pieces of evidence to prove you’re not making all of this up. I really enjoyed both the Tarot cards and the evidence. Being able to get forewarning of most situations in previous games felt a bit stacked in my favor, so having it as a reward here levels the playing field a bit – it also helps that Grace Zabriskie of Twin Peaks fame is the one telling your fortune here in a delightfully off kilter performance. It’s made clear that evidence will be crucial early on, so you’re incentivised to really explore each environment before choosing to move on, and putting together all the clues about what’s really going on is a lot of fun.

The Quarry continues Supermassive’s trend of a wide array of accessibility options. You can set mashing QTEs to be holds instead, extend the timer for each mechanic individually, toggle color blind settings and death rewinds, or even automate mechanics if you need. If you don’t feel like playing at all, there’s even a movie mode with four options: Everyone Lives, Everyone Dies, Director’s Chair (where you can choose how characters will respond to situations) and a Gorefest which I think is DLC. Once you’ve beaten the game, there is also a chapter select so you can go back to certain scenes to start playing from there.

Before I wrap up, I do feel the need to mention the game will occasionally use a slur for the Romani people. It’s only used once or twice and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that the developers aren’t aware of its connotations, but it is there and the depiction isn’t… great, exactly. I’m not sure I’d call it incredibly offensive, especially since as a very white American I have no say on its offensive-ness, but hopefully it can be patched out, a content warning added, or just being aware will help those sensitive to it.

Lastly, I played the PC version for this review and, while it looked and played great for the most part, there were some very noticeable hiccups throughout the game. Between scenes the game will usually fade to black, to load the next area or the consequences of your actions, and this can be pretty jarring at times or even ruin a dramatic effect the game clearly wanted to accentuate. I saw very noticeable framerate dips and stuttering just after every scene finished loading, sometimes even causing delay between animations and voice acting for a minute. There is a day one patch coming to add in multiplayer features as well as improve performance and fix bugs, but I don’t think it can fix a certain moment where the game tries to cut between two different characters saying the same thing, only to be thwarted by a fade to black, even on an SSD. Still, despite a few humps, The Quarry is an absolute scream.

The Quarry review — Nightmare believer
95

Excellent

The Quarry

Review Guidelines

The Quarry is a tense horror adventure with incredibly likable characters and some effective scares. The central mystery is fun to figure out, and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. While there are a few hiccups, you can either work around them or ignore them as they’re not so major as to detract from the overall experience. This is Supermassive’s best work yet.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book. David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.

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