Review: Cleansuit

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Review copy provided by developer

Let’s assume for a second that you’re home alone one evening, and a killer comes to your door. No, don’t get up and look, brainstorm with me. How would you survive the night? Call the police? Craft an ingenious trap? Hide and pray? Cleansuit gives you the opportunity to test your wits against just such a villain, with a house full of items to combine and use in your bid for survival. And not content to leave it at that, this stylish horror adventure presents it with a thick layer of off-beat humor and unique retro aesthetics.

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All alone in your unimpressive home one night, a knock comes at the door. A peek at your visitor reveals a maniac in a cleansuit, intent on sullying it with your blood. You only have so long before he finds a way into the house and your entrails, and in that time you have to find a way to survive. It might be through a phone call, or using household items, or have something to do with those trophies in your room, but you’ve got to do something before this becomes your last night on Earth. Creativity and experimentation are key here, and the chosen interface is perfect for allowing you to flex your mental muscles.

This creepy little romp is a text parser adventure, one more in the vein of the true classics than a modern revival like Stories Untold. The entire interface is text-driven with simple commands like “go upstairs” or “take knife” or “drink bleach”, plenty direct enough even for those new to the format. Each room is filled with details described with the “look” command, which you can then focus further on and interact with. Your living room, for example, has a door, window, chair, table, fireplace, painting, and bookshelf to fiddle with, each containing their own items and secrets. Expanding that across ten or so rooms gives you a remarkable amount of material to work with.

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You’ll need to poke at everything, too, because not only is survival a challenge, it’s an open-ended one. There are about a dozen different ways to outwith your murderous nemesis, ranging from panicked escapes to devious counterattacks. The many items laying around the house are clues to your options, and the text parser allows for an impressive amount of commands and combinations in making use of them. For the most part you’ll be able to see where a solution is going, like with the workbench in the basement that very clearly is set up for tinkering traps. The text descriptions are concise but contain very useful information for guiding your brainstorms to the right conclusions.

The text isn’t just practical, either. Cleansuit clearly takes inspiration from some lighter titles in the adventure genre to liven up its descriptions. Your imperiled avatar is pretty clearly a lonely, nerdy lump from the goofy descriptions of his strange art tastes, barren kitchen, and lacking physique. The robust interactions are also rounded out with plenty of humorous red herrings, like turning up rugs or trying to use the toilet. There’s a load of charm here that entertains without detracting too much from the genuine horror of being stalked through your home. One more than one occasion my chuckles at the writing were cut off by a gasp at the killer’s sudden appearance.

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Adding to the off-beat atmosphere is the unique look of the game, a sort of digital corruption over simple 3D models that gives it the feel of a nightmare Dire Straits music video. The music is another big stand-out, a synth-heavy selection of moody and oppressive tracks cued off of the killer’s movements and your approaching demise. There’s plenty of fun to be had just drinking in the aesthetic of the game as you search rooms and puzzle out solutions. And death need not be a downer because once you know how everything is situated, you can jump straight to the key commands instead of looking at it all first. It took me nearly an hour to puzzle out half of the solutions, so it’s not going to last you forever but I don’t think it needs to. Cleansuit is a charming, clever take on the text parser genre, combining enough humor and horror to entertain through plenty of slaughters and successes.

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