Boogeyman - PC / VR Review

Boogeyman has one job, and that is to serve up some serious scares. While it is a brief game with limited gameplay, fans of jump scare horror will undoubtedly enjoy their time spent here. This is especially true of those making use of virtual reality, which ratchets up the intensity a great deal.

Released late last year, Boogeyman is one of those indie titles like Five Nights at Freddy's that relies heavily on tension, lighting and sound to build up to jump scares. Fans of that and similar horror games will enjoy Boogeyman despite some of its flaws. Early on, you are given very little direction, and death seems a little unfair as you learn the rules through some trial and error. The controls are simple but easy enough to learn that you start to get the hang of things pretty quickly despite very little in the way of tutorial early on.

Our story follows a young boy named Thomas. Being a first person horror game, we play the role of Thomas and see the world through his eyes. Having recently moved into a new house, Thomas begins to discover audo messages from a girl named Alyssa. These creepy bits of audio backstory are pretty common in horror games, and while there is no new territory being tread here, the voice acting is good enough to help set the stage as Alyssa explains that the titular boogeyman hunted for her and her sister at night. She warns Thomas to use the flashlight she has left under the bed, because the boogeyman is afraid of the light. This forces Thomas to sit up through the night armed with a flashlight to defend himself with as he has to continually sweep the room.

The boogeyman has a handful of ways to get into the room and get to Thomas. The most obvious ones are the closet and the door into the room. There is a nearby window that requires turning around to see, and there is also a vent up above - that I didn't discover until it was entirely too late. The other area of importance in the room is the space under Thomas' bed, because he will need additional batteries to get through the night, but when you don't see the boogeyman at one of those four prior locations, there is a good chance he is under the bed - so reaching under it for those batteries comes with its own risk.

There is a limited amount of exploration in the house prior to the time spent on the bed each night, a sort of prep scene. The house itself is rendered nicely enough, the visuals effective if not brilliant. The real key here is the audio design, which comes into play as Thomas sits on his bed at night waiting for the safe dawn hours to arrive. The first aspect to the sound design are audio cues that are tied to the boogeyman's behaviors. Learning these are paramount to success as you start to figure out what creeks and groans to listen for so you know where to have Thomas point his flashlight. Because the audio design is so important to success however, future nights where weather elements like snow and rain that can change the white noise levels adds challenge to what is overall a relatively simple premise. There are a few other nice nuggets worked into the room audio, such as the occasional crackle from the nearby radio just to add some extra noise to the affair.

While the actual boogeyman itself is not terribly scary, the first person perspective (greatly enhanced by the Oculus' virtual reality presentation) and clever audio design build up excellent tension. The creature itself simply relies on jump scares though, never really doing enough to seem interesting or creepy beyond startling you when you least expect it. Alyssa's backstory helps to add a little narrative nuance to things however, keeping the game rooted in something deeper than just quick-cuts to a deadly monster.

The problems with Boogeyman are somewhat expected. This is clearly an indie effort, so while the visuals are night for the most part, they are not a technical achievement by any means either. This is also a relatively short game. Once you get the hang on it, Boogeyman doesn't really deliver a lot of challenge even on the higher difficulty levels. That is in part due to the limited gameplay mechanisms. It essentially is a matter of scanning the room and quickly shining a flashlight. On easier levels of difficulty it seems that batteries last longer, helping to reduce the need to look under the bed and opening Thomas up to another means of grizzly demise. However, this lack of depth means that the gameplay is relatively repetitive and while I am glad that Boogeyman doesn't needlessly pad just to make itself seem longer than it is, that lack of depth does reveal itself rather quickly.

Boogeyman serves up some quality jump scares and makes good use of the Oculus Rift for its visuals. Seeing a dark room through a child's eyes is the perfect gateway into a horror game, and by and large Boogeyman does a good job on that front. This is especially true of the solid audio design. However, this is neither a long game nor a game that offers a lot of depth, so you will probably get through most of what it has to offer rather quickly.


PC - Oculus Rift
Barry McCabe
Barry McCabe
Single Player
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Article by Nick