There’s nothing scarier than endless fields of corn, abandoned buildings, and flocks of murderous crows. Unless you grew up in the basement of a haunted house, anyway. The casual adventure game Fright turns away from the tried and true settings of supernatural realms or Renaissance Europe and takes place in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. It’s dusty streets and run-down buildings as far as you can see — but don’t think there’s nothing going on in this quiet little place.
It all starts when your bus crashes and strands you outside of a motel. A creepy, busted-up old motel with a grumpy guy manning the front desk, but hey, it’s civilization. As you hustle about to secure the bus driver’s well-being, you start to trip over some odd sights, things like ten year old mail sitting in a mailbox, a girl walking on top of a roof, and a dark cloud of smoke that renders you unconscious. You know, normal Kansas stuff!
Fright progresses very organically through town, countryside and home, providing you with a detailed map to follow and a few diversions to encourage you to take your time and explore. Most of the game centers around gathering odd items and putting them to unique uses. Scorpion in your way? Don’t look for Scorp-B-Gone, just pick up a tin can, turn it upside down and the little guy won’t be a burden. It’s these logical but off-beat puzzle solutions that make each obstacle in Fright a joy to overcome.
Hidden object scenes are something of a rarity in the world of Fright. They’re built around text lists and cluttered screens as usual, but they take place in an alternate dimension and are never straightforward affairs. Most of the listed items require interaction to complete, making the hidden object scenes feel more like self-contained puzzle rooms. Mini-games have a similar set-up, piling on unique takes on old conventions to build fun diversions delivered at frequent intervals.
One fun side-feature of Fright are dollar bills hidden throughout the game. Pick these up to buy things in the gift shop, a totally optional section of the main menu that features things like unlockable jigsaw puzzles and a dress-up straw doll. They don’t really have anything to do with the main game, but they do flesh out the setting and give you an excuse to be thorough.
Fright wins some major points for its original atmosphere. This game isn’t supernatural in the conventional sense, nor does it feature jump scares or crazy magicians bent on world domination. Instead, Fright delivers intrigue. Creepy, semi-surreal intrigue, the kind you might find in a miniseries or novel. That alone sets this game ahead of the pack, but when you add in unique puzzle solutions, amazing mini-games, and hidden object scenes that play like puzzles, you have a recipe for an amazing adventure through the American midwest.