Frictional Games’ Amnesia: Collection has finally released for the Nintendo Switch, and it includes the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent from 2010 and both expansions, Justine and A Machine for Pigs. This terrifying collection worked wonders upon release to drag us down into near insanity, and the port on the Switch does it again, providing a much-needed addition to the first-person horror genre on the portable console.
Amnesia – The Story
If this is your first time playing through Amnesia, dear reader, you are in for a treat. The story takes place in August of 1839, where a young man from London named Daniel wakes up in the dark halls of the Prussian Brennenburg Castle with no memory of himself or his past. Shortly after starting, he finds a note written to himself, stating that somehow, he has erased his own memory on purpose and is now being hunted by a “shadow.” More importantly, the note says that he must venture forth into the Inner Sanctum of the castle to find baron Alexander, and kill him.
Notes and texts provide the necessary pieces for the story to come together while you are pursued by the shadow, a monster that can destroy you in an instant. Amnesia is well-known not only for its great setup of a strange environment and the overall mystery of the castle, but also for making the protagonist a weakling that cannot fight the monsters like in other games. When the shadow appears, players need to run and hide, lest suffering a quick death.
The conclusion is not to be spoiled here, but the general feeling of mystery abounds throughout the game. The same cannot be said for the sequels, however.
Justine and A Machine for Pigs
While Amnesia is considered a great game, the sequels fall into rather odd spaces. Both sequels can be described as adequate, but unable to capture the terror of the first game. Enjoying the first game is likely to result in a good experience for the sequels, but not in the same way. Perhaps it was simply too hard to top the first game, or making the third game within the same overall universe, but with a different group of characters was too different. Perhaps, instead, switching developers is the root of the issue, as a significant difference between each game can be seen.
With that said, Justine is still an interesting title. It serves more like an expansion to Amnesia than a direct sequel, and it is much shorter. The ending is directly affected by your actions, which largely center around helping or leaving people to terrible fates and death. A Machine for Pigs, meanwhile, attempts to evolve the series in a different time and place, with adjustments made to the core mechanics of the original.
Controls Could Use Some Refinement
General movement while exploring is never an issue, though this is perhaps because players often move at a leisurely pace without much rush unless there is an enemy nearby. However, when one needs to focus the cursor on an item to pick up, or manipulate for an environmental puzzle, the lack of precision with the cursor and its movement becomes noticeable.
This was never an issue when playing on PC, since the use of a mouse easily makes for precision targeting, but here it was often immersion-breaking when needing to ever so carefully move the thumbstick to try and land the cursor on an item, like a small tinderbox often found on tables and desks.
Dated, But Not Terrible Graphics
When starting the game for the first time, players are instructed to adjust the gamma to a specific level. This is important to help with immersion in the castle and to see through the eyes of the protagonist. Although the graphics look a bit dated, it's hardly noticeable because we so often see only shadow and mist ahead.
Events that rip at Daniel’s sanity force a shift in view that obscures the world and seems to bend reality. Movement becomes less responsive, and we lose control for a brief while, which perfectly embodies the struggle in the protagonist’s mind to maintain some semblance of sanity in this place. Were it not for the great way in which the game sucks us into the mind of Daniel, the graphics might show their age, but as it stands, one hardly notices that the game looks a bit older.
Value and replayability go hand in hand. The games vary quite a bit in terms of completion time, with Amnesia taking a new player between eight and ten hours to complete, Justine about an hour if played carefully, and A Machine for Pigs taking about five to six hours. Afterward, one can cut this down considerably once the secrets and puzzles of the game are known. Speedruns are always an option, if you're is interested in that kind of self-torture in a first-person horror game.
Excellence In Sound Design
One of the best things about the game in 2010 and still today is the use of sound to create an immersive and terror-filled experience. Again, we do wish to avoid spoilers, but certain sounds that persist throughout the game are there to ensure that there is never a dull moment. From the second you wake up at the beginning of the game, the race is on to discover the truth and not go insane. The sounds toy with the player, and like Daniel, make us wonder what lies ahead, what exists in reality, and what is perhaps only in our minds.
The Amnesia: Collection joins the somewhat small collection of Nintendo Switch games that offer an immersive, first-person horror experience. Despite being almost a decade old, the feelings of dread and doom still remain at the forefront of the user experience. It might not be perfect because of the controls, but it is still an outstanding addition to game library of any lover of the horror genre.