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Scrutinized

Scrutinized is an indie horror simulation game brought to you by Reflect Studios, also known for Welcome to the Game 1 and 2. Upon loading the game you’re met with one of the 2 killers to a sinister backdrop and foreboding music courtesy of Cpaws music. The premise is simple, just how I like it: You play as Luna Goodman, a Criminal Analyst for the District Attorney’s Office. Your task is to solve some crimes whilst keeping the 2 killers at bay, who are trying to break into your house. This is made difficult by the first world problem that is your internet cutting out, as well as the lights around the house intermittently switching off.

Unfortunately with this game you can’t just dive straight in, like I attempted to. There’s detailed notes on how to play when you first load the game up, which I highly recommend reading. Or, just check out the guide I put together which summarises it all for you. I personally am not a fan of having to do lots of reading just to play a game.

This game also comes with a warning from the developer, it revolves around reading fiction reports of suspicious people filed by concerned citizens, which can contain references to sensitive matters such as murder, kidnapping, abuse, assault. All reports are fictional and all images are AI generated or stock images, but nevertheless, the content can be a little disturbing at times.

Once you get going, you’ll soon discover that the dodgy lights are a particular issue. One of the killers, known as The Kidnapper, will attempt to pick the lock of any windows in rooms where the lights are off. The Kidnapper will generally knock you out while you’re at the computer, or jump you while you sleep. If he kidnaps you it’s game over and you’re sold into the sex trafficking market. The kidnapper is fairly easy to keep at bay once you get used to the game, the real threat is the other killer. Tanner is a syringe-toting maniac with a creepily chipper demeanor. If he catches you, he will inject you with a syringe and abduct you, then possibly eat you. His activity is encouraged by Luna’s progress with the reports and generally how long is being spent at the computer. He has certain audio cues, which can be easy to miss. I got stuck on night 2 for quite some time because Tanner kept killing me. Without using some kind of guide you will probably die a lot when you first start playing this game.

I actually found Scrutinized hard to complete even on casual, the game does an excellent job of building suspense and a general sense of foreboding, then managing to terrify you with a variety of jump scares when you least expect it. I found that the anticipation of knowing there could be a scare at any point, made it even worse. The longer into each night I got, the more paranoid I became. To the point that I failed a night because I spent so long obsessively checking the cameras and lights, I forgot to do all the reports. Jump scares aren’t everyone’s cup of tea though, and you are given the option to turn them off. I did find myself doing this for a little while as my nerves were in tatters. You can also avoid all threats and jumpscares entirely by playing detective mode, where all you need to do is solve the crimes for 7 nights without going over 5 rejected reports. Although it sounded easy in principle, this game mode presented me with a lot of challenges. And you thought keeping the killers at bay was the hardest part?

With regards to the reports, there is a good variety to work through. A lot are fairly straightforward, you have a name and as soon as you crack the phone, you’re presented with a plethora of evidence. However, I was caught out numerous times by having too many failed reports. One thing you can do, is do the bare minimum number of reports for the night, then wait until the night ends. But I was doing as many as possible in order to finish the night early because I’m inpatient like that. So it’s not entirely the fault of the game for being really difficult. As you progress through the nights you need up to 4 pieces of evidence, which seems to be where my issues were. I had no trouble when it was just 2 and 3 pieces of evidence. I would have reports that were successful on 2 pieces of evidence, but then I had them rejected when I needed 4. I ended up just writing down the name of each suspect and the outcome, then just trying again with different pieces of evidence for any failed ones. I can’t say I’ve come across a game before where I have to keep notes in order to complete it, which I could definitely see as being off putting to a lot of people. I’ve added this list to our website, so feel free to use it

As well as Casual and Detective mode, there is also Normal and Nightmare. You can naturally progress through these modes after you’ve completed casual and spent some time on detective mode. It is also worth noting, that you can only get the game’s true ending on normal. You are presented with a ‘shit ending’ upon finishing casual, which is an especially sneaky way to ensure you play through again. Nightmare mode, which is only unlocked after beating Normal, has Perma Death, 14 nights in total, no saving, and the player isn't allowed to get a single report wrong. The ending is the same as on Normal difficulty. I haven’t tried this mode myself yet, but the game is enjoyable enough that I wouldn’t rule it out. One for a stream perhaps?

Scrutinized is formulaic and repetitive, yet totally addictive. The game does such a good job of building suspense that even the most seasoned of horror gamers will poop their pants at the jumpscares. It's great that the game is a bit more inclusive to those who aren’t a fan of jumpscares though, so it’s versatility means I would recommend this to anyone. This game is very difficult though and there are some elements I still haven’t completed after 35 hours of gameplay, so it may not suit more casual gamers.

Pros:
Addictive
Caters for those who dislike jumpscares

Cons:
Extremely difficult
Reading required before starting game
Formulaic 

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