You are advised, when Shadows II Perfidia first loads, to play in the dark with headphones on for a fully immersive horror experience. This is definitely worth doing if you want to really feel your heart pound, but it is not necessary. This game is plenty scary even in the most comfortable environment.
You play as an office security guard, a little tipsy after a staff party, keeping watch over the building once the fun has died down and everyone else has gone home for the night. Alone in the dark, you hear noises that don’t seem human. First, your objective is to investigate, then simply to escape with your life.
You have a flashlight with you and a can of soda. You have to look for the intruder in the office and, when you decide you’d rather not fight the mysterious figure hulking in the doorway, get away. You find keys to the doors you have to unlock to get out and batteries to keep your light on. You keep yourself safe by knowing exactly when to turn it off so you can hide.
Shadows II Perfidia is constructed in such a way that you genuinely experience the fear your character would be feeling. One of the key things you have to consider as you play is your own health. Along with how much battery your flashlight has left, you’re also shown a meter tracking how mentally healthy you are. You have to remember to close your eyes and breathe every so often.
When things do get hairy, your vision blurs and your heart pounds. This is where the headphones make playing this game feel so real – your frantic heartbeat throbbing in your ears mimics the sensation of real fear. Drinking soda, closing your eyes, breathing deeply and reminding yourself that you’ve got this will help.
As you progress through the game, things get more explicitly horrible. Rather than just footprints and shadows, you find blood splatters and body parts scattered around. The shadows take on a stronger, more fearsome form, eyes glowing out of the darkness.
But the fact that your character has been drinking beforehand makes you wonder if you’re just drunk, with the idea that there might have been something in your drink exacerbating this. The thought that you might just be going mad, or that you were drugged, adds so much depth to the game, especially in the early levels.
Shadows II Perfidia makes decent use of the Switch controls. Each button has its own function and it’s easy to remember what each one does. You have the choice to play as one of two characters, which each explore the office in a different way. This offers a different experience for players of varying skill levels and also a solid way to replay the game with a bit more differentiation than finding batteries in different places.
Shadows II Perfidia creates tension masterfully. While its general premise and even its aesthetic is quite simple, it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into crafting an evocative and profound experience.