Guys, I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to start playing Dreadhalls. I really don’t. But I can think of no better way to round out our #Spooktober celebration than with my story about this unique and scary VR game, which is at once unforgettable, and for me, unrepeatable.
Way back in 2016, when me and my other half picked up new Samsung phones, they each came with a free Gear VR – a headset that held said phones. The idea was simply this: sign up for an Oculus account on the phone, load up the Occulus app, place phone into Gear VR, plug earbuds into phone, and get loads of VR content through the Gear. Despite a few personal issues with the headset, like not being able to comfortably wear my glasses under it, I heartily jumped into exploring the world of VR gaming. With a Bluetooth controller in hand, I had a grand time with Stern Pinball Arcade, especially, as well as a couple “endless” motion games, such as 405 Road Rage and Temple Run VR, and some decent shooters, like InCell and InMind. But eventually, in a flash of apparent bravery, I found myself wanting to really test not only the immersiveness of gaming in VR but also my personal VR limits. Hence my folly of a trip into the Dreadhalls.
Video from YouTube user White Door Games
I’m going to hazard that many of you have likely seen reactions to this scary game on YouTube , mostly notably in my mind from Markiplier. Billed as a horror dungeon crawler, its levels are procedurally generated, so every experience within the Dreadhalls is new and different. Your only goal in it is to escape the dungeon, and the only tools at your disposal for doing so are an oil lamp and a map. Traveling throughout the dim halls, you have to find oil to keep your lamp brightly lit, while also stealthily avoiding the creatures that lay within. These monsters range from dark apparitions lurking in darker rooms to a very unfriendly dog-like beast. But managing one’s fear of things that go bump in the night is one thing; in Dreadhalls, the worst is what you can’t see but can only hear. I mentioned before that the monster sounds in the DOOM games were far more horrible than its demons – the same goes doubly…nah, quadrupedly! in Dreadhalls. Its gold-star sound design, from rattles to footsteps to snarls to garbled I-don’t-even-what-to-know-what, effectively turns Dreadhalls into terrifyingly heart-stopping experience.
Of course, it took me several tries to earnestly get into the game. My first few consisted of me loading it up and moving only a room or two before removing the Gear from my face and thinking I just can’t do this! Even just hearing the slightest sound of something scary behind me was all it took for me to abort the game. But, I eventually found a setup that helped me feel more physical comfortable while playing. I had to sit with my head and back fully against something – picture leaning back slightly in a recliner – which sounds silly, but it actually helped me feel less worried about stuff “creeping up behind me” in the game. I also had to adjust the headset so that it let in a sliver of light around the bottom of my eyes. Having just that little bit of brightness available was something of a mental safety net, something that at least helped me complete the game, once. And once was all I needed.
Creating my physical “safe space” for playing Dreadhalls didn’t come without at least a few flawed tests. While the game does have some good jump scares, I found myself more likely to drop my controller upon running and fumbling to make it through a door. Once I flung it up and hit myself in the chin, which was fun. Before finding my preferred “VR horror game seating position,” one time I was sitting on the floor with my back against our sofa. After flailing blindly through a hallway, I met face-to-face with one of the game’s bloodcurdling denizens. In one startling moment, I flung the headset backwards off my face, over my head…and right onto the cat, who was laying on the seat just above me. Luckily the Gear VR isn’t very heavy, but Mr. Kitty was none too pleased.
While I don’t have much with which to compare it, Dreadhalls remains my most scary horror game experience, one that, admittedly, I’ve not repeated since. With its claustrophobic atmosphere, chilling sound design, scary enemies, and those “run for your life” feels, this game is definitely one for any horror game fan. If you have the VR means, a stalwart will, a preference for scarily immersive games, and some extra time this Halloween night, make a point to visit the dreaded halls of Dreadhalls.