There’s Some Extremely Cursed Shit Going On In Dread X Collection 5

There’s something about low-budget horror games that just makes it extra disturbing. When you play Resident Evil Village or The Last of Us, it’s hard to ignore how much these market-tested, corporated-approved games with sparkling, next-gen graphics are begging for awards. The games in Dread X Collection 5 are about as far away from The Last of Us as you can get, and I mean that as a compliment.

These are the dusty homemade video tapes found at a creepy garage sale that put a curse on you if you watch them. It feels wrong to play them, like you’re inviting something dark inside by even installing them on your PC. These look like games you’d expect to find on a dark web forum, not your Steam library. There’s some real twisted shit in here, is what I’m trying to say. If you’re a fan of micro-horror or if you want to see what the most promising up-and-coming indie developers are capable of, grab the new Dread X Collection, turn down the lights, and get ready to piss your pants.

The Dread X Collection series is relatively young, but it’s already established itself as a staple in the indie horror scene. The first collection launched in May 2020 and featured 10 horror games made by small or solo developer teams in a single week. Each subsequent Dread X Collection has maintained that format, with some variation on the number of games and development time in each. Dread X Collection 5, which launched at the end of May, features a dozen games made by a mix of new a returning creators. Though I haven’t played every Dread X Collection game, this one features some of the most bizarre and experimental projects I’ve seen yet.

Each Dread X Collection features an overworld story that takes you in and out of each game. This collection takes place in a sci-fi-themed party venue called Outpost 3000. It plays on the dread long established by Five Nights at Freddy’s, but the individual scares it delivers between micro-games are often surprising. While I preferred the more puzzle-focused overworlds of previous Dread X Collections, this one is still worthwhile. You can play through all the games without following the story, but I enjoyed these little interludes for what their worth.

The 12 games are each around a half hour long, with a few only lasting a couple of minutes. The collection is made up almost entirely of first-person games, which did lead to fewer stand-outs overall. There’s also quite a few that use the same low-poly filter to give them a retro aesthetic and smooth out some of the more unpolished areas – a clever solution for making games quickly, but a bit overused throughout the collection. Rather than describe all 12, I’ll detail a few of my favorites to give you a sense of the kind of horror you can look forward to in this collection.

The shortest game in the collection is Hunsvotti, a game about a midsummer celebration in 19th century Finland where a group of townspeople chase you around a village chanting “Hunsvotti! Hunsvotti!” in creepy, high pitched voices. Your goal is to find all the flowers in the village and toss them into a well before they catch and sacrifice you for their ritual. Hunsvotti captures the same kind of sunlit terror as Ari Aster’s film Midsommar, which Hunsvotti clearly draws some inspiration from. I won’t spoil the ending, but the tone of atmosphere of this little game still haunts me.

There’s a group of games that seem to be competing to be the most surreal and bizarre in the collection. Two stand out, Interim and Gallerie, for having the most ‘what the fuck did I just see’ moments in the shortest amount of time. Interim starts in a garage movie-studio with a giant bouncing eyeball and an abusive FMV boss, who’s then mysteriously killed, sending you into a dimension-hopping nightmare. That’s really all I can say about it because the rest is nonsense – but the good kind of nonsense. Gallerie takes place in an art gallery where statues of long-limbed spider people come alive when you’re not looking and chase you around. You’re trying to help some trapped spirits escape while the museum’s curator leads you on a dreamlike guided tour, whispering to you through an earpiece. It’s the first example of weaponized ASMR I’ve ever experienced and I hated every second of it. You’ve got to try it.

The Book of Blood, developed by the creator of the upcoming The Mortuary Assistant, Darkstone Digital, is a game of deadly hide-and-seek at a carnival. You are being stalked by a mime with a knife who keeps turning the power off, forcing you to sneak around the carnival to avoid getting stabbed. Jump scares are not my thing but I can still appreciate how well they’re executed here. The mime is a truly terrifying enemy thanks to some slick animations and the disturbing way he moves his body to chase you around. I hate this game, it’s great.

I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own, but I’d be remiss not to highlight We Never Left by Fyre Games, my favorite game in the collection. While searching for clues in your missing friend’s house, you discover he became obsessed with developing a text adventure. You sit down at his computer and start playing the game, but soon you realize that your action in the game are having some effects in real life. This game-within-a-game-within-a-game is a fascinating meta-experience that will make you look over your shoulder to make sure no one is sneaking up behind you in real life. I’m still in awe of how clever We Never Left is, and how uncomfortable in my own skin it made me.

DreadXP, the publisher behind the Dread X Collection, has already expanded into standalone games with Sucker For Love, Spookware, and several more this summer. I’m glad to see that the Dread X Collection is still going strong as well, because I think these collections offer a unique micro-horror experience that you can otherwise only get from scouring for hidden gems. These are great collections for only $10, and Dread X Collection 5 is one of the best.

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