The Fridge is Red tried to build on the concept demo of Don’t Take Your Eyes Away From the Red Fridge with mixed results.
It’s spooky season, and what better way to spend it than with a fridge filled with frights? The Fridge is Red is an anthology horror game featuring six bite-sized experiences for you to shiver your way through, with an overarching plot much like the Dread X Collection series. I recently wrote a review of Cartomancy Anthology, another package of games with a completely different theme, and I’m going to use a similar review style of looking at each game individually. Whilst each other games on offer works in a similar way, being low-poly first person horror experiences, they all go about them in different ways, so I’ll treat them all individually.
This is the game that kicked off all the fuss over this anthology in the first place. In Fidgeted Sherri, you play someone who is tasked with staring at a red fridge that advances on you when you aren’t looking. If you’ve played Control you’ve probably seen something similar, but this is hardly the first instance of a horror sneaking up on you when your back is turned. Your protagonist is locked in place, and will need to figure out how to stop the fridge from getting too close and killing them.
It’s very simple, but it’s quite effective, as the only way to progress is to actively look away to find clues about what to do. There’s a sense of tension as it isn’t entirely clear at what point the fridge will actually kill you. With that said, Fidgeted Sherri isn’t too hard to get through, and really only lasts a few minutes. A solid first game that we’ll circle back to again later.
For Daddy to Work
You’ll take a much more active role in For Daddy To Work, as you awaken at the office to find it’s getting late and you need to head home. Once you’ve switched off your computer and head out of the office, you’ll head down the corridor to the lift, maybe even grabbing a beer from the vending machine as you go. Of course, this being a horror game you’ve probably already figured out that the lift doesn’t quite work as expected. Spooky goings on result in the death of an engineer, you being lost in the maintenance tunnels, and even paying a little trip to a nightmare hellscape to collect body parts.
The scares here are quite effective, with a few jump scares mixed in with some solid tension. Tunnels are suitably claustrophobic, and the events that unfold are just odd enough to make you feel on edge. Annoyingly, it took me a couple of attempts to complete this, as at one point the lift stopped and opened onto a void that killed me rather than the area I was meant to visit. I’ve no idea what caused this so I’m putting it down to a bug, but I was irritated that I needed to replay a solid 15 minutes of content due to the lack of checkpoints — a feature missing from most games here. Still, this was a fairly solid entry, that was also previously included in the demo.
You arrive in a hospital looking for your wife, but the receptionist is incredibly unhelpful and sends you off to find a hospital directory so you can phone the correct department. Quickly you find that this hospital isn’t quite right as you move from reception to identical reception. I say identical, they all have something different about them, such as being backwards or absolutely soaked in blood. Before long you’ll receive directions on where to go, and by following signs carefully you’ll progress. This is something of a theme to Seaside, with you needing to pay attention to ever changing signs to work out where to go. It reminds me of just how confusing real hospitals can be to navigate.
With another solid atmosphere, Seaside works well to maintain some tension, but it never seems to go anywhere with it. More annoying still, this one was also bugged and locked the game up entirely when I completed a stealth section at the same time I was caught by a pursuer, setting me back another good 15 minutes. I liked this one, but it did get a little samey as I repeated the stealth section a few times to manage to get through it.
Another great start that lets itself down later on. You arrive at a funeral to give a speech only for the coffin to lift into the air to begin attacking you like a battering ram. The use of lighting, sound, and NPCs is excellent at this early stage. It feels tense and uncomfortable as you try to work out how to stop the casket whilst still avoiding it. I liked the mechanic of using chalk to draw lines on the floor to drive the coffin back whilst you worked out what to do next.
Then things go downhill as you head into some catacombs below the church and have to navigate them whilst being pursued by a killer. This wouldn’t be all bad if you knew what you were actually meant to be doing down there, but your actual objective is really quite vague. Up until this point I was quite into Chaleen Mufi, then the ending really let itself down.
Next up is a theme that seems to have come up in a few indie horror games of late: driving at night. You’re heading to another town one night and stop off for a coffee to keep your energy up. As you carry on, all manner of things go wrong. Your car breaks down, the fuel tank runs out, there’s an accident on the road, and a heap of other things, some of which are creepier than others. For a lot of Goldi Vern you’ll be driving, with the occasional section in which you leave the safety of your vehicle to explore a little more, including a nice little section sneaking around a farm to find a new part for your car.
Other than that section though, the scares are few and far between, with a little bit of tension here and there that never really seems to pay off. The driving sections feel like they go on far longer than they need to, and the driving controls feel loose and unresponsive. Whilst this one wasn’t bugged, it felt like one of the weakest offerings.
And finally we have Chili Handled which brings everything back together. You spend the afternoon getting drunk and watching TV whilst your daughter plays on the floor before you receive a call asking you to repair a fridge. If you’re familiar with how these sort of anthology games go, you might be able to figure out where this is going. Before long, the caller arrives at your house to deliver a rather recognisable red fridge. After trying to repair it and not getting anywhere, you end up playing hide and seek with your daughter.
This is quite solid, and whilst it isn’t scary, the realisation of where all this is going is more than enough tension to carry the rest of the experience. The environment is small, meaning there’s far less wandering around with the interminably slow walking speed, and more getting on with the story. A solid final entry that leads to the game’s finale. You’ll once more find yourself playing Fidgeted Sherri before the final cutscene plays and everything is tied together.
I really did like how this was brought together at the end. The red fridge’s appearance in every game so far, as well as the secrets you can find within each one tells a good, classic horror tale. Whilst each game didn’t hit as well as it could, the resolution allows you to look back at them and realise all the things you saw along the way lead to this point and make a great deal of sense. It reminds me of Stories Untold in that regard, which is certainly high praise as far as I’m concerned.
Mechanically, each game is quite similar, walk around, click on intractable points and progress the story. The fact that each game had its own theming and an additional feature means that these elements don’t get repetitive, but the slow movement speed certainly does drag things out somewhat. All told, this took me around two hours to finish, but I think a lot of that time was spent walking.
There’s a common theme in the visuals in The Fridge is Read, with each game using the low-poly look that is bizarrely popular right now. It certainly gives it that grindhouse look that has a distinctly creepy look whilst simultaneously allowing for character models to look low quality without impacting the overall artistic direction of the game. Whilst it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly worked here. The voicework less so, with some strangely distorted text-to-speech style that made it hard for me to understand what was being said. Thank god for the subtitles.
The missteps here aren’t enormous, and many of them are supposedly going to be fixed in a forthcoming patch, which is certainly a good thing. I’m surprised more of these problems weren’t picked up prior to release, but I’m glad the developers are fixing it post launch. For the price point, I feel that The Fridge is Red is a solid choice for horror anthology fans, and it’s a good option to keep you entertained for one spooky night this October.
The Fridge is Red is out now on Steam.