PT gets forcibly disappeared, Silent Hills gets cancelled - Allison Road is either a deeply lucky or unlucky game, depending on how you look at it. A photo-realistic, first-person horror experience (currently planned for release on PC in 2016, with console versions “almost certain”), it was conceived of and started just two weeks after the release of the Kojima-del Toro teaser/most terrifying game of all time. Suddenly, however, it’s unwittingly shifted from an homage to a spiritual successor in a single, sickening Konami PR calamity. As scared as I am of playing it, I’m very glad Allison Road exists.
“I still find it almost unbelievable that people could actually see Allison Road as a spiritual successor to something like Silent Hills”, says creator, Christian Kesler. “I mean, I grew up with Silent Hill! I feel truly blessed that some folks out there are giving us a chance to grab a spot alongside something like that, and we'll do our best to live up to it.”
There’s a reason for that chance being given. You need only see that header image to understand how Allison Road is following in PT’s icky footsteps, and with Kojima and del Toro’s vision for the full game all but unknowable by this point, Kesler’s additions to the formula make it as close to a fully-realised version of the teaser as we’ll likely get.
Like PT, you’re in a breathtakingly detailed, yet oddly humdrum location – in this case, a cramped British townhouse – being intermittently disturbed by the presence of a filthy, horrifying ghost-thing. But Kesler points to some fairly major differences:
“PT was a big influence in terms of atmosphere and visual quality for sure. However, I think that's where the similarities end I'm afraid. Allison Road is definitely a game in its own right, with its own story/universe and vibe.” Primarily, those differences seem to lie in what you’re trying to do. Far from PT’s obtuse goals and looping environment, Allison Road presents you with an entire house, and a mystery to solve:
“The whole idea of Allison Road is that the player should get completely immersed in the fact that they are in a real house. In their house”, explains Kesler. “You have no recollection of the previous few days leading up to the start of the game, and you will have to discover where your family is and what happened to you and them.
“The player will encounter Lily, who is pivotal to the story and who, at the same time, is not what she might seem to many people out there right now. While Lily does present a mortal threat to you, there are other forces way beyond your comprehension at work; and while the clock is ticking against you, you will have to find a way to escape this deadly peril while your fate and Lily's fate are inevitably linked.”
While the mechanics of that mystery are still, well, mysterious, Kesler points to the likes of Gone Home as an inspiration in how to create atmosphere and a sense of place, and discusses how tiny objects in the house can have a huge significance – it almost sounds as much of an adventure game as it is a survival horror.
With more reveals planned for the coming weeks (Kesler is being remarkably open and discursive about development on the game’s Facebook page), and a full 6-person team now in place, there’s far more to find out about Allison Road yet, but I am positively shivering in anticipation.
At least, I hope that’s anticipation.
Intrigued? Here's my interview with Christian Kesler about the game, how the project started, and getting Guillermo del Toro’s email address.