I can’t say I’m one for jump scares and horror, but if you ignore all the murder and deathrattles of your fellow campers you can have a delightful time by the shores of Higgins Haven in Friday The 13th (opens in new tab). Set deep in a remote forest full of pine trees and bordered by a serene lake, the camp is an ideal place to get in touch with nature. A visit is also sure to get your adrenaline pumping thanks to the pursuit of a lumbering and eccentric local called Jason. There really is no better way to appreciate the atmosphere of a forest at night than by being chased through it by a harpoon-wielding maniac. Now there’s something that should be included on the brochure.
While the game itself is small, it’s still found great success (with a fair few technical hiccups along the way) thanks to the design of its locations. Each map is tiny, but is packed with places to hide and items to uncover. Every time you enter the map, the location of various things such as the radio, phone and car parts, shifts so it always feels fresh when you feel the urge to hunt down counsellors as Jason Voorhees, or be hunted by him. It’s the compactness of the camp that makes it special; it’s the perfect size to get lost in while still being tight enough to keep you on your toes. It’s a perfect example of a small space done well, utilising every inch of space to its fullest.
There are also plenty of activities on offer to keep you entertained while you’re out there, including moonlit walks, classes in car mechanics and frequent hide-and-seek tournaments which award great prizes such as bear traps and even, if you’re very lucky, the gift of life.
Should you decide to visit you can get closer to nature and rough it in a tent by a log fire, but the only way to experience camp life at its fullest is to rent a rustic chalet with your friends. Each one has several rooms for you to spread out in and includes drawers to hide your knickknacks, as well as plenty of underbed storage space should you feel the need to hide. Scattered around the forest, they are little oases of hope in a wilderness full of dread – sneaking inside one gives you a brief moment of calm and a source of inspiration as you uncover items to plan your next moves. Healing items, car parts and makeshift weapons can all be found in your lodgings when taking part in one of Jason’s games.
There are two places in Higgins Haven that stand out above everything else – the main lodge, and Jason’s cabin. Spread over two floors with multiple rooms and a cosy fireplace, the lodge feels like a smaller map within a map. With plenty of room for the counsellors to run around in and narrow stairs to contend with, players are forced into attacking Jason to escape if he steps inside. It feels very much like a condensed version of the whole map – you’re forced into close contact so all of your interactions are far more intense, but being such a large cabin you’ve got loads of options in how you handle things. Do you dive out of a window? Or stand your ground and stun Jason with a flare gun? Or do you hide in a closet and hope he walks right past so you can escape later?
By comparison the forest outside feels positively wild; the tall pine trees feel overbearing, adding to the tension. You find yourself jumping at every shadow in the pale moonlight, nervously looking over your shoulder every time you duck into the bushes to hide. Stay outdoors long enough and eventually you’ll stumble across a tiny, isolated cabin with a morbid secret inside – the dried-out remains or Mrs Voorhees and a crusty jumper that can stop Jason in his tracks. Finding it feels like winning a horrible jackpot – the prize being the most powerful item in the game, though you’ll have to slip into a dead woman’s jumper to be able to use it.
No matter how horrible it is, Higgins Haven is a joy to explore inch by terrifying inch. The nights you spend there are dark and full of terror, but it’s worth the visit to see just how well a small space can build such a tense atmosphere.
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here (opens in new tab).