The premise for so many great horror games involves getting trapped inside an eerily foreboding location. It can be a haunted mansion, an abandoned police station, or even an entire town besieged by ominous fog. What they all have in common is that nobody in their right mind would choose to be there. Retro-horror-inspired indie Endless Blue is no different, taking place in a laboratory in the ocean’s depths. In its latest demo, Endless Blue excels at embracing the claustrophobic anxiety of its setting. For fans of the horror genre, Endless Blue is a terrifying and promising project to watch.
The Endless Blue demo is a short 45-minute affair that can be finished in one sitting. It begins with our (as of yet unnamed) protagonist infiltrating the facility for what we gather are nefarious reasons. The seemingly abandoned state of the facility is the first clue that something is off. Eventually, the player discovers a wing of the facility is under lockdown, and collectible journals reveal experiments that have unintended consequences. Then, the undead monsters show up.
Endless Blue’s demo is loosely segmented into two sections, with the first part heavy on dread and anticipation of bad things to come, while the second has more combat but also more hints at how trippy the game’s story could end up being.
Horror has seen something of a renaissance lately in the video game space. This year revived genre classics like Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space — with a Silent Hill 2 remake coming soon — as well as the anticipated release of Alan Wake 2. While on the indie side of the industry, the likes of The Haunted PS1, an indie project that highlights work inspired by the hardware limitations of the original PlayStation, and 2022’s Signalis represent the ever-growing retro-inspired horror scene. The latter category is where Endless Blue falls, and — like many games from that community do — wears its inspirations on its sleeve.
The expected inspirations of Resident Evil and Silent Hill can be felt in Endless Blue’s hazy aesthetic, tank controls, and puzzle-based door locks — which are certainly OSHA violations. What makes Endless Blue more intriguing are its less famous inspirations, with Parasite Eve, Square Enix’s cult sci-fi horror game, chief among them. You can feel the central dynamic between protagonist Aya Brea and antagonist Eve in Parasite Eve in what little screen time we get between Endless Blue’s protagonist and the mysterious woman we see wandering through the nearly abandoned underwater facility.
Further still, Endless Blue pulls broadly from non-horror titles. The tease of some kind of corporate espionage gives the title flavorings of Perfect Dark and Metal Gear Solid that help it feel unique. Not only are the events leading up to the facility’s horrific state intriguing, but so are our protagonist's reasons for coming here in the first place. There are levels to the story that the 45-minute demo hints at, leaving me wanting more.
The horror genre as a whole is often less concrete and more of a vibe. If that’s the case, then Endless Blue’s demo acts as its attempt to pass the vibe check and draw the attention of the horror game community — and it succeeds. If you're a fan of horror games, you should keep an eye on Endless Blue. I know I will.