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Image: Blumhouse Games

Blumhouse Productions exploded onto the scene in 2009 as a big deal in the horror film world. The studio had been around since 2002, but Paranormal Activity put it on the map. The use of home cameras to create something that felt much older than it actually was recaptured interest in the 'found footage' genre a decade after The Blair Witch Project.

Nowadays, Blumhouse Productions is a juggernaut in the movie industry, with names such as Insidious, Get Out, The Purge, and Five Nights at Freddy’s under its belt. So when the movie studio announced a video game division in late 2023, we were pretty excited. We didn’t get a peep from Blumhouse Games until Summer Game Fest 2024, but the wait was definitely worth it. And the highlight for us? Fear the Spotlight, which is coming to Switch later this year.

Developed by Cozy Game Pals, a husband and wife team with game credits on The Last of Us, Uncharted, Journey (Bryan), and art credits at Nickelodeon and on Animaniacs (Crista). That’s a heck of a resume, yet their first video game, Fear the Spotlight, is like nothing else they’ve ever worked on.

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Image: Blumhouse Games

Blumhouse was keen to sell Fear the Spotlight as nailing its “mission statement” for being a great story, with great characters, creepy vibes, and that low-budget feel. We got that as soon as we sat down to play the short 20-minute demo (which was a PC-build) at Summer Game Fest 2024’s Play Days event. The sepia-toned visuals, video filter, and droplets of rain as they hammer against the windows set the tone for the perfect ‘90s-inspired horror game. Lead characters Vivian and Amy have flat faces, and the whole game is low-poly and looks like something that could have launched on PS1.

Fear the Spotlight is pulling from that ‘90s era of horror games, particularly from Silent Hill; everything down to the menu system, the font, the text boxes, and the flavour text as you examine objects within Sunnyside High (yes, that’s absolutely a reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer) feels like they’re lifted right out of Konami’s classic horror game. All with a little bit of ‘90s sassiness.

The premise is pretty simple – Vivian and her friend Amy sneak into their school to perform a seance. As you’d expect, it doesn’t go well, and they get separated. The demo covers the start of the game, from the girls getting into the school to the pair reuniting. Vivian can run, crouch, and interact with objects that sparkle, and there are a few light puzzles to solve along the way. Creepy, unsettling horror is the name of the game here — jumpscares are essentially off the table. Nothing made us outright jump, but we had a nervousness in the pit of our stomach the whole time through.

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Image: Blumhouse Games

Part of this was because of the audio. Between the wind and rain outside and the echoing footsteps of the girls throughout the school, the sound was the driving force behind the game’s tension. The girls still share some cheeky moments of banter, gossiping about other students, or Vivian doubting Amy’s superstitions, but the atmosphere is unparalleled.

This stood out in two moments in particular. First, the girls walk through a pair of double doors only to spot a flashlight. Controlling Vivian, you crouch and hide behind a table. The camera zooms right behind her shoulder, and you can hear her shuddering breath as they watch the flashlight highlight the floor. The second instance is after the girls use the Ouija board, where Amy has disappeared. You guide Vivian back through the school library to find her friend, but when you enter a large room, you hear what sounds like footsteps. As you move, it gets louder, and Vivian’s silhouette, affected by the dim lights on the wall, shifts. We panicked. We looked around the room to make sure we weren’t being followed and started running. We found the culprit of the noise, however; books slowly tumbling out of a collapsed bookcase. Phew.

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Image: Blumhouse Games

These moments really capture that small-town teen horror that Fear the Spotlight is aiming to recreate. Back when this writer was a teenager, her friends always talked about scary stories, using spirit boards, and watching movies that we absolutely shouldn’t be watching. This is exactly that vibe.

Our favourite thing about Fear the Spotlight was all of the extra little details. Examining items adds flavour text to the school, and to Vivian as a character. A letter suggests she has a crush on her close friend, while school portraits remind her of moments of bullying or annoyance. The developers have really gone all-out to replicate the kind of horror experiences we played in the ‘90s, all while crafting an adventure that we all thought we wanted to experience as teens.

20 minutes didn’t tell us much beyond what we already expected, but it did confirm that Fear the Spotlight is yet another horror title – alongside the recent Crow Country – that embraces that polygonal PS1-era style perfectly, plus all of the jank that comes with it. Arm movements are wonky and lip flaps are flat. And the lighting is effective, if sometimes a bit too dark – we lost Amy at one point during the demo because of the poor lighting and ended up walking around the main library room multiple times just trying to spot her.

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Image: Blumhouse Games

Interestingly, Fear the Spotlight has already been released on PC, but it was only on sale for a few weeks before being removed from Steam for the devs to make improvements. It turns out that those improvements were much, much more than that – backing from a publisher like Blumhouse, that wants to give low-budget indies that create weird stories that will potentially mess people up. It also makes the game available to a wider audience, and that’s better for everyone.

We’re looking forward to shining a spotlight on Fear the Spotlight when it launches later in 2024 on Switch. Let us know what you think of the game so far in the comments.