Merendam: Escape from Seram Isle Chapter 1
Merendam: Escape from Seram Isle Chapter 1, also available (though not free) for iOS and Android, is an appealingly freaky horror action adventure where you play a young girl stranded in the middle of nowhere after an apparition attacks the car she's in and causes it to turn over. Considering the ominous words of the man driving the car, our heroine might have avoided a nasty situation, but is being lost with a bunch of vicious spectres much better? Merendam might be a little weird to pick up at first. On the PC, [A] and [D] are to move left and right, while the [spacebar] can be used to interact, though the touchscreen buttons work just as well. Most action buttons must be held down for a few seconds until they're confirmed, such as holding down the blue eye button for several seconds while the camera pans in. You'll want to keep an eye out for those contextual icons when they appear, as they'll let you know when there's something you want to take a closer look at. Your inventory is limited to two items at a time, so you can drop an item you're carrying on the floor by dragging its icon out of your inventory on the left until it turns from green to blue. You can save your game at a few select locations, which is something you shouldn't neglect since there are murderous spirits about that need to be defeated by following onscreen prompts. Quick time events may be scary enough on their own, but with a creepy atmosphere and tons of jump scares, Merendam is an appealingly freaky adventure that echoes some classic survival horror titles... though not without a few rough patches.
The game is, unfortunately, a little rough around the edges, largely because its interface could do with some optimizing, like making actions instant or allowing you to swap an item with one on the ground. Some of the puzzles can also be maddeningly vague or unintuitive... while there's a lot to be said for attempting to challenge a player's observation and deduction, but geez Louise are some of these stretching it, and we could probably do without the button-mashing "battles" altogether. Still, despite that and some vagueness when it comes to the story (is our heroine being kidnapped? out with her grandfather? no idea!), Merendam is still an atmospheric little adventure that manages to be engagingly creepy even with its Kewpie-doll characters. The slow panning of actions does add a touch of dread and cinema, and scares can come when you least expect them, even in places that were previously "safe". There's something very appealingly old school about its concept and gameplay that echoes classic console survival horror titles, and hopefully a second installment will tie up its loose ends and smooth out the rough edges, because Merendam: Escape from Seram Isle has a ton of potential.