Kidnapped does what it does not so well and not so far into what is already a short experience.
When a game is beating a drum, gamers tend to hear the tune. You see Mario hopping in colorful settings, you probably understand that this is a game for fun and relaxation. With this new title from Deceptive Games – really just one guy in Gavin Powell – you hear that rhythm from within a psychologically tense environment. However, it doesn’t keep up that pace throughout, switching beats in an attempt to keep the player guessing while the results just bring about questions and confusion.
You can split Kidnapped into two parts in terms of environment. Part one is the game’s first chapter set within a mansion which, while not terribly original, builds the environment to this title’s peak. Creaks and moans combine with close hallways and a slow gait to create a fairly tense scavenger mission to open your next path. This area could take hours just to explore and collect, especially when the house seems to shift after certain items are moved, while a gentlemen caller might show you to Death’s door if you’re too noisy in his presence. While this is a section of mostly build-up and a constant buzz of anticipation, it works and feels like an introduction to some kind of scare beyond the kitchen door that you’re anxious and excited to experience.
Then you hit part two, which is basically everything beyond that first section. You’re taken from the mansion into various environments that make sense rationally but don’t add anything to the pre-built suspense what-so-ever. Two of the four sections beyond the first are absolute zeroes that can be completed in less than ten minutes with build-up – more screams and haunt-y noises – that leads to nothing. Not kind of something: nothing. A gun is added for the third section where the game turns into a Red Dead Redemption side-mission for a bit, but the environment in which this “hunting” happens just feels generically bad.
“There isn’t much originality to speak of in Kidnapped…”
That feeling slips into the gunplay and other interactive areas as well. Most other gameplay is simple “point, click and see what happens” while walking, and wondering why you even have an inventory screen when you automatically use what you need. Regardless, this simplicity makes the gunplay standout in both directions as something that feels beyond what the rest of the experience offers, but does so without any weight, impact, or inherent desire to shoot again. Even the sounds seem generic and recorded through some sort of filter that does not represent gunfire well. That’s not to mention the inability of targets to get around invisible walls or ankle-high grass.
As was said before, there isn’t much originality to speak of in Kidnapped with the exceptions coming with the shifting of the house itself that can incite some level of panic at first. A few real-world posters and trinkets make their way into the mansion part and nowhere else, and the story is much like the majority of the environments with lackluster build-up to no pay-off. Notes and a somewhat scatter-brained narration are your lore guides and are basically the only consistent items throughout all of the game’s chapters. Even so, it all just seems like the par horror tale of using dark words to plant an idea of what might be happening in your head, then give nothing in the way of a conclusion.
The creature designs seem to offer far more laughs than jump scares, although there is potential for at least one of those in the game. Prime examples are these wooden marionette creatures with faces carved into their carved heads that inexplicably screech like eagles when killed. Sure, the design is somewhere in the ballpark of creepy, but that noise immediately sweeps that worry away after the first threat is put down. The other two creatures of note – the half-naked mansion bouncer and another near the end – shouldn’t ever be on your screen for long as their approach is often followed by a quick death and reload. On a positive note, the restart system does seem remarkably spot-on with your character almost never more than a few feet from your save or death location.
Kidnapped, in the end, is a front-loaded experience that can burn out just as quickly as some of its shorter sections. That first chapter runs through its flaws with a solid environment and some slightly interesting plot threads that the rest of the game cannot carry forward. It’s in that disconnect that so many of these criticisms seem to reside; would this game seem any better if the whole experience was in that mansion? Would a consistent story have strengthened the package? Much like the perpetual tale present here, there’s no way of knowing what could have been. What Kidnapped currently is seems to fall woefully short of a frightening experience.