WARNING: This game contains themes you may find disturbing. Consider this a potential trigger warning for things implied. Please see my author's comment below for more detail hidden behind spoiler tags if you are concerned.
Despite its sunlit appearances, David Szymanski's Fingerbones is one of those horror games that sets you on edge right from the beginning. It's just you in a hushed, mostly empty room, dust motes dancing in the light filtering in through the windows... and the knives driven into the table next to the note left atop it. The only direction you're given is the most basic... use [WASD] to move, and the mouse to look around and interact. Progress depends on having a keen eye for detail, on spotting clues, sometimes hidden in plain sight. There's no save function, so be sure you have the time to commit before you sit down, although once you figure out what to do, Fingerbones is on the short side. Oh, and be sure to have your sound turned up... that's absolutely crucial.
A lot of horror stories talk about a feeling of "wrongness" to a place, but few games have managed to capture that as easily and as quickly as Fingerbones. It's the way its soundtrack is more than just music, audio that subtly changes as you move and explore. The still and silent environment, broken only by moving shadows and dust motes... and... of course... the notes. Fingerbones is, more than anything else, a sort of abstract psychological narrative, and the way just a few sentences will start making your skin crawl the more you explore is remarkable. All that being said, however, Fingerbones is definitely not a game you want to play if you're at all adverse to human horror. It's the sort of thing that can make your heart feel heavy the longer you play it, as you start to get an idea of what you're going to find at the end. Most of it is implied rather than outright stated or, thankfully, shown, but the themes here are definitely dark in a way that goes beyond the blood and violence in most horror games. Whether you feel that makes it out of bounds is entirely up to you.
On the gameplay side of things, however, though Fingerbones is relatively straight-forward, there can also be times when it's unintuitive. That buzzing sound from the computer, for instance, isn't actually a "wrong code, sucker" tone, and having to s-l-o-w-l-y trek around to see what else has been activated or to revisit an area to look for something you might have missed can be very tedious. Codes wind up making up for the bulk of any sort of puzzle solving, and some of them can be quite sneaky in the way that they're stated. Fingerbones is best approached as a sort of interactive short story, and the ending may leave some people confused, but if you relish some disturbing atmosphere and masterful use of sound, this is well worth the creepy-crawly feeling you'll be left with at the end.
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