Number of Reviews: 1
Write a review Just a fun party. Right?, September 27, 2022
Your best friend has a change in plans for Friday night. Instead of watching movies like usual you are going to a party hosted by Henry, a former classmate. Henry... Vaguely familiar. No one fully knows why he stopped going to your high school but hey, a party is a party. Everyone will be there.
The player first customizes their best friend with a name and pronouns before the game begins. There is a brief intro that is skippable after your first playthrough. On the drive to the party your friend hits a pale and gangly creature unlike any animal you know. You can then choose (and this is where the gameplay begins when you skip the intro) to either step out of the car to look around or to continue driving to the party. This choice is relatively trivial, but its effects will worm its way into the rest of the gameplay in the form of tiny details.
At the party the player can roam around in three main areas: the barn, the yard, and the house. The game gives the player some free range of moment where it feels like they are strolling from each location. In these areas are some partygoers and light scenery, some of which the player can directly interact with. This is not a puzzle-oriented game, but it does require the player to use creative thinking to find every ending. Its combination of ten endings and short playthroughs make it a game with great replay value. At the time of this review, I managed to reach all but the fifth ending.
There are some rough areas that stood out. If you talk to Henry in the loft, he climbs down the ladder but leaves his thermos and key behind. You can then choose to take either item or simply leave. However, if you (Spoiler - click to show) do the latter and then return to the loft, the game repeats the encounter as if the player never visited with Henry in the first place. This did not give the impression of being purposely designed to cultivate a surreal effect for an otherworldly party. It just seemed like rough implementation. He can also be in different places at once. If you wear the mask, he will be telling a story around the bonfire while waiting in the loft at the same time (unless you previously took the key or the thermos).
Someone is sitting with his legs dangling over the edge, his back to you. It's Henry.
Climb back down to the barn.
The other rough edge that stood out is when content seem to replace each other. If you (Spoiler - click to show) eat five cookies in the kitchen you hear your friend calling you from the basement (and in fact, they are there when you open the door) but if you go to the cornfield instead of opening the door you find them under the suspiciously UFO-looking light in the field which defaults to either ending 8 or ending 7. It is as if the game suddenly rewrote the fact that the NPC was in the basement. This is not commonplace but still dulled the shine a little while I experimented with the gameplay. Nonetheless, it still offered immersive and compelling playthroughs.
One of the strongest aspects of this game is its atmosphere and familiar spooky themes. People telling unsettling stories around a fire, seances, a strange host, mystery beverages, etc. Then there is the odd fact that, when asked, none of the guests can say they know Henry at all. Intriguing. All of this sets a stage for the story.
But the storyline laced through it all almost stops short. The player does not quite feel like they are peeling back a mystery or some deeper layer. Some of the endings have a bit of cliche horror, such as the (Spoiler - click to show) Skin Suit ending. Others are more contemplative or make the player blink and say, “what just happened?” I liked all of these. It is tough to put into words. I sometimes felt like I was just skimming the surface of something more. Then again, horror games do not always need ultra-complex and detailed stories to be effective. Regardless, I still greatly enjoyed this game.
If I were to piece everything together to find the underlying story this is what I think it would be. Also: mega spoilers with yuck factor. (Spoiler - click to show) An evil (perhaps alien considering the UFO over the cornfield) entity killed Henry a while ago- explaining why Henry left high school- and stole his skin as a suit. If you go into the attic you see “Henry” slip out of his skin next to a clothing rack of, you guessed it, other human skins. Of course, the game ends with the entity claiming the protagonist as a new wardrobe piece. The game is not (particularly) graphic. Mostly implied horror (Halloween, anyone?). (Spoiler - click to show) These themes are only explored in endings 3 and 9. The other endings take a more generalized approach to the story. Does anyone have a different take on it?
The game sticks to a black screen, blue links, and (almost exclusively) white text. A strength is that the text is evenly spaced and easy to read. I know you are probably thinking, "So? Why are you rambling about this?" Well, text formatting can leave a dent in the game or enhance it. This game, I think, is a good example of a polished but basic look. It has a slightly distinctive look.
The game will occasionally incorporate some text effects to convey an effective atmosphere. This includes light animation and colours. It even dabbles with different font here and there. My favorite effect is when the lights in the den go out and the player has to "search" for the light switch by sweeping their mouse/cursor across the screen until the link appears. This demonstrates how special effects can be used to tell the story.
That Night at Henry’s Place is a solid and well-fleshed horror Twine game. Despite some rough areas the game effectively draws the player in with its dawning sense of horror and flexibility in free range of movement. The player can stroll freely from location to location but leaving the party entirely is another matter! I enjoyed the atmosphere and was motivated to try for every ending.
Right now, we are getting close to the end of September which means Halloween is coming up. If you are thinking about compiling a personal Halloween IF playlist for October, consider That Night at Henry’s Place. In fact, there are some Halloween references in the game!