Waking up dazed and alone in a room with a gun is bad. Finding out the windows have been bricked up and the front door is locked is worse. And finding out that you're not alone after all? Well, that's not as comforting as you might think in Inculcation, a horror game with action elements that may have you questioning your own eyes.
For the most part, Inculcation plays like a standard point-and-click adventure, letting you navigate by clicking your way around the screen to move locations, manipulate your environment, and interact with your inventory. The gun you'll find isn't just there to be used as a paperweight, and you can fight back by firing quickly at enemies whenever you find one, clicking on the screen to aim and shoot. Three shots will bring one down, but the same is true for you; luckily, there are strange syringes laying around that can help restore your health. Because everyone knows ingesting mystery pharmaceuticals when you wake up in a hostile nightmare world is the sensible thing to do, naturally.
The puzzles in Inculcation are a little odd, but not unreasonably so. With the exception of one frustrating occasion where I was required to pick a lock by treating it like a game of Operation, typical puzzle-solving abounds. Well, you know, typical in a "Seriously? Is that a stomach? Seriously?" sort of way. At least instead of being expected to think like MacGyver with an abstract collection of items, you tend to wind up doing things like finding a light bulb for a lamp, or superglue to repair an item.
Mixing a relatively sedate genre like the point-and-click with an action game is a tricky thing to pull off, not because the two types are mutually exclusive, but because people who are fans of either one tend to expect certain things out of their gaming experiences. Action gamers will find Inculcation too slow and unvaried, and point-and-click fans may be put off by reflex-required shooting sequences. What Inculcation does do right is atmosphere. A creeping sense of wrongness that tightens the muscles across your shoulders. While for the most part the game prefers to go for the loud, startling scares, it also manages to unsettle you just as often with strange sounds and imagery.
Inculcation claims to be inspired by some of the giants of the survival horror genre such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill (and, I would argue, Killer 7), and fans of those games will likely recognise a tip of the hat or two to them as they progress. On its own merits, Inculcation is a flawed but satisfying creepy treat for an evening alone, best played with the lights off and the sound turned up. Just remember to check underneath the bed and inside all the closets first. Oh, but there's probably nothing there... right?