The widely anticipated Thần Trùng released on September 14th to much fanfare and for good reason. DUT Studio, comprised of only three people, has made waves by releasing one of the very first Vietnamese horror games in English. And for fans of the genre, it’s a refreshing change of environment even if its premise feels familiar.
Thần Trùng has you playing as a young man who wants to rent a room in a house that is reputedly haunted. But as we approach the house, complete strangers warn you not to go. You even have surreal, hellish visions at the house’s gate, which should be an ample warning that renting here might be a bad idea.
But when it comes to horror game protagonists, logic flies right out the window. You march right in, and the nightmare begins.
The scares begin immediately. A woman stands in a scarlet-lit doorway, her shadow twitching along the floor. Get too close and she’ll slam it in the face before you can get a good look at her. But don’t be disappointed. By the end of the first chapter, you’ll probably be desensitized to the amount of jump scares that Thần Trùng has to offer. There are so many that at certain moments, it almost becomes tedious. But if you decide to push through, the jump scares drop off significantly by mid-game, and there’s a significant shift towards unraveling the house’s mystery.
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You’ll spend a significant amount of time stuck in this house, looking for items like dolls and human teeth. But the best parts of this game is its environment, which had so much care put into its finer details. The jump scares broke my immersion half a dozen times, but the beautifully rendered rooms brought me right back in. There are even some moments where the game is beautiful, in a nightmarish sort of way. It’s such a wonderful change of pace from the generic, poorly decorated houses that dominate this subgenre of horror games.
There are also ample notes scattered around the house that you’ll find as you search for items. These notes are the cornerstone for unraveling the house’s mystery and the game’s plot. These notes aren’t just scattered journal entries. They’re receipts, legal documents, family trees, etc. which is so much more immersive and speaks to the level of detail and love the developers put into this game. It felt like the family who once lived in this house were real people, and that’s fantastic storytelling.
That being said, the translations aren’t perfect. But it’s an indie developer and a small team, and everything is understandable. There are moments where things are a little confusing and some of the dialogue feels stilted. But that’s a very minor part of the game.
You’ll likely finish the game in 2 to 4 hours, which isn’t bad for a price tag of $5.99. And while the pacing with regards to scares could use some serious work, the game gets better as it goes, culminating in some truly beautiful visuals and a story that you can engross yourself in. DUT Studio has talent and potential in spades. I’ve no doubt that if they keep going they’ll command the same cult following that Chilla’s Art has.