Anna is a “survival horror” game where you attempt to discover what is going on in a creepy abandoned sawmill.  The basic background of the story – and believe me, if you didn’t look for it you might miss it because it’s in a PDF in the game folder – is that you are a professor who is troubled by nightmares and fainting spells.  After passing out and being put on medical leave, the discovery of some old pictures leads you to this sawmill, where you attempt to figure out what is going on.

I bought this game for 3 dollars while drunk on New Year’s.  The extremely short review is: It is worth 3 dollars, but I’m not sure it’s worth 10.  I enjoyed it but it only took me 2 hours to get all three endings.  It will take you longer if you don’t cheat your ass off through the “puzzles”, but the sense of reward you get from that really isn’t going to be worth it.  Trust me.

Here’s the bad news:  The game essentially emulates old nostalgic point and click adventure games, complete with fuzzy “adventure game logic”.  Not only that, but it suffers very much from pixel hunt syndrome… in 3D.  I attempted to play it “legit” for the first couple of sections, only looking at a walkthrough when I was stumped, but it quickly devolved to the point where there would be no way to figure things out without painstakingly going through your inventory and clicking everything onto everything else.  Now, I have done that for games before!  But the inventory system is clunky and slow and I just didn’t have the patience for it.  I played an old game called Scratches which had some pretty bad adventure game logic, with the worst of it probably being when I had to use the phone X number of times and check a certain location X number of times between calls before the plot would advance.  I didn’t come across anything quite that obtuse in Anna but it was pretty close.  There were two turning points – one was when I had to use the ritual knife to start an event.  First you have to do something to “activate” the knife for rituals, and then you click it on the thing.  Except I did that and it didn’t work so I wandered around for a bit trying to figure out what to do with this damn knife, until I looked it up and it turned out I had clicked two pixels to the right of where I actually needed to click.  The second turning point was during the leaves puzzle, which seemed super obvious until you had to place a leaf on the picture indicating death, and they pretty much all look like they’re displaying death.  Trial and error revealed that the one that properly displayed death didn’t really look anything like death at all.  The walkthrough explained why it was supposed to depict death, as opposed to, say, the one with corpses and gravestones, and it made a bit of sense, but it annoyed me.  At that point I stopped wasting my time trying to figure things out on my own, and I feel better for it, because some of the later ones… yeah.

Adding to the annoyance of the puzzles and interface, is the completely superfluous items.  You start with a cell phone and a diary, neither of which can be used.  The cell phone, as far as I know, never becomes a factor in anything aside from making you scroll around it to get to the other shit in your inventory.  The jotter is just there for ~~immersion~~ as far as I can tell, because it corresponds to the PDF file in the game directory.  Except nothing really points you to that… I discovered it later while trying to figure out what the jotter was actually doing in the game.  It could have been implemented much better.  Then, there are a numerous points in the game where you can pick stuff up out of a pile.  You can pick ALL of them up, if you want to.  But you only need one.  Ever.  And then you have the rest of them in your inventory going “ha ha you used the crappy interaction dialogs and picked us up for no reason, loser”.  I think extraneous items get cleared when you move to a new area, but still.  I picked up some rocks outside (the description said “useful for scaring small animals” so I totally decided I should defend myself against the rabid squirrels I was undoubtedly going to encounter) but there was literally no use for them.  You can’t even pick them back up from your inventory to try to use them on things, it simply says you can’t do that.  Yet they sit there in the inventory.  I suppose it’s some sort of red herring to make you feel like there is more depth than there is… but really it just makes the player resent the poor planning.

Once you get past all of that, the game is entertaining.  I put “survival horror” in quotes because you quickly realize there isn’t much survival involved.  It’s not like Amnesia where there are things that are going to fuck you up and you are completely defenseless against them, so you spend the whole game cowering in a cupboard while slowly going insane.  There is no danger in Anna, but somehow the atmosphere of the game still gets to you.  I even had a genuine scare at one point, where I solved a puzzle and smugly turned around and went “AGHCK”. (And if you have played the game, it is probably NOT the one you are thinking of.  For that one, I obliviously stared at the opposite wall/other objects for the whole event and then turned around while it was fading away, then said “Hunh.  Well, that probably would have been really creepy.”) I felt silly afterward, but it shows that the game was effective in what it was attempting to do.  There are some super creepy moments too, like the mask on the chair.  It was such a simple effect but I really enjoyed it.  Each of the “supernatural events” were fun to stumble across and really added to the atmosphere.  I kind of want to go back and just try to trigger the events to experience them.

The story… well, I would play the game for the atmosphere rather than the story.  Let’s leave it at that.  There are three endings, each with a bit of a different perspective of the events.  Essentially the endings correspond to how deeply the protagonist goes down the rabbit hole.  You can bail out of the game fairly early if you do things “right”, and the ending is essentially just “Hey I’m not dead!  Well this place is creepy, I’m out of here” and you really learn nothing about the story.  But you also didn’t die so is it a “good” ending or not!?  In contrast, the most extensive ending includes a whole extra area of the game (complete with shitty illogical puzzles…) with a lot more dialogue and story reveals, as the professor gets his memory back.  I searched for some discussion about the endings, but it looks like the game simply wasn’t that popular.  There’s not a whole lot to discuss, I suppose, but they are ambiguous enough that something interesting might have come of them.

I don’t feel like I wasted 3 dollars OR 2 hours, which is more than I can say of some games I have bought, so if you can look past the flaws I feel that Anna has enough interesting elements to make it worth a look.  Wait for a sale, though…

About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

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