When retro aesthetics wrongfoot you

I can’t stop thinking about Faith, that lo-fi horror game that came out a few weeks ago. Well, I call it “lo-fi” but frankly it looks old – like, really old. As though it came out on a BBC Micro 35 years ago. And that’s why I keep thinking about it. It’s not meant as a criticism, I’m not trashing it for looking dated. Its aesthetic is actually one of the things I find most inspired about it, because in presenting the game in that way, it does something magical: it plays on our expectations.

We look at Faith: The Unholy Trinity, to give it its full name, and think we know how it will behave. We remember BBC Micro games (I’m using the royal we here so I don’t feel alone). We know what they were capable of, and the answer is not a lot. It’s not their fault, technology was primitive back then – charmingly primitive, but still. So we feel safe in the knowledge that Faith can’t pull one over on us. We’ve got it figured out.

Except, Faith does pull one on us. It shows us what we want to see while sneaking its surprises around the back. And then, boom, when it needs to, it breaks or bends what we thought we knew to land its big moments – those in-your-face depictions of disturbing horror. We didn’t know it could do that; we will never forget that it did.

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