When Emily Wants To Play, you can’t just say no.
Wow. Not many other words come to mind when I think about the experience contained within the small package of Emily Wants to Play. Released at the beginning of December, Emily Wants to Play packs some of the greatest jump scares in memory through what could be an approximately 30 minute experience. You play as a pizza delivery guy who’s stopped at his last destination of the night. Upon entering the boarded up house – the door was left creaked open – you discovery something far more terrifying than what you signed up for.
The idea of Emily Wants to Play is extremely simple and fairly clever. After entering the house, you have about six minutes or so to explore the floor plan. While doing so, you learn how to interact with objects, turn lights on and off, find a flashlight, and find other collectibles throughout. In the kitchen, “Let’s play at midnight” is written upon the whiteboard. And, true those words, once the clock, which overtakes your screen, ticks to midnight, the game truly begins. Sure, when you wander throughout the house beforehand, creepy dolls seemingly run about, lights turn on and off, and doors open and close at random. But once the game truly begins – you’re locked in the house, by the way; don’t think I didn’t try – the scares unleash.
Emily Wants to Play is split between four phases. Each phase incorporates a new enemy and play style. For example, once midnight begins, you must play a game of hide-and-seek with Emily’s doll. The whiteboard hints that you shouldn’t look at her to win, but in actuality, you need to stare at her until she disappears. Once you hear a child giggling, you must turn around because the doll will most likely be creeping up behind you. As long as she is in your sights, she cannot harm you. If not, though, be prepared for an intense jump scare. As your progress by each hour (which takes about 6 minutes each), a different enemy is included in the game, until you finally face off against Emily. Each enemy requires a different strategy to outlast. Eventually, you have to face them all at the same time, which requires precision and a solid strategy… and perhaps a little luck.
If the game does one thing extremely well, it is that it builds an extraordinary sense of anxiety and anticipation that leaves the player almost too tense to continue onward. Except you have to, or you’ll end up dead. I love horror games. Outlast was phenomenal, and I’ve always been huge on survival horrors… but none have given me the jump scares that Emily Wants to Play did. Seriously, give it a try for yourself.
Now, with my praise of atmosphere and creativity, there must come criticism. Obviously, the major fault with the game is that in can be completed in approximately 30-40 minutes. For five dollars, that seems like a fairly steep price (though when I compare it to the price of, say, The Stanley Parable, it’s not so outrageous). I’m not sure what else to do with the game now that I’ve completed it. Maybe I’ll see if my fiancé, Emily, really does want to play. I’m sure she’ll love it.
The last piece of criticism is that, while I was really interested in the backstory of the game, I did not have enough time to understand, enjoy, or even find it. I was able to scoop together an audio file from Emily’s mother before midnight, who apparently sees a psychiatrist regularly. She admits to depression, but she blames her daughter, Emily. Unfortunately, midnight struck shortly thereafter. I then had to concentrate on surviving the night and my anxiety. If you’re still interested, however, at the end of the game, you can explore to find the remaining collectibles.
When I look back at the brief experience, I can’t help but think of the great things Emily Wants to Play could have been – and maybe it will become. The atmosphere and sense of anxiety that emanates from the game is thick and dark and dreary, and the jump scares were admittedly some of the best in my recent memory. But with a lack of time to explore Emily’s past or even, really, consider the present, Emily Wants to Play will leave many seeking more.
Note: If you are interested in this game and don’t have a capable PC, developer Shawn Hitchcock announced that he plans on bringing the game to the PS4 and Xbox One.