Saturnalia comes from the creative minds at Santa Ragione. It is inspired and influenced by the folklore of Sardinia, Italy. This survivor-horror adventure may have you lost in its labyrinth of a village, the structure which changes every time all your characters die.
Twists and Turns Await In Saturnalia
Seeing the trailers for Saturnalia, those slightly older gamers will struggle not to notice the familiar art style. My mind first jumped to the music video by the Norwegian band A-ha which used the same watercolour style. It grabbed me straight away as I was interested in how this would work in a game setting.
Saturnalia is a mix of Survival Horror and Adventure. The quaint village of Gravoi is the setting for our four protagonists. Gravoi is celebrating its own Saturnalia festival, the festival of Roman origin that celebrates merriment and role reversal. The village is a maze of nooks and winding pathways which can have you feeling all turned around. Having explored every pathway in the village, you may have thought that you had finally mastered the layout of the village. However if all of your characters die, the village reconfigures itself, and everything changes.
Anita is your first character, a geologist who has returned to Gravoli, previously she had been exploring the mines under the town for a prospective buyer. Anita’s return is based around falling in love with a married man (Damiano) and is now pregnant with his child.
It seems that all 4 of our protagonists want to leave Gravoli. Paul is the second character that you are able to control and is a friend of Anita and is a photo journalist. He is trying to find out details about his biological parents.
Claudia has spent her life in Gravoli and has decided to leave following the death of her aunt.
Lastly their is Sergio who has returned to the village after being exiled because he is Gay. His father has fallen ill and Sergio has braved the return.
As soon as the mine was opened, the creature was released. As you shuffle through the fog-filled streets of a sectioned-off village, you feel a sense of dread. This is where the stealth aspect of the game is included. How close is too close, do you know the safe route out? All these questions and many more occurred after I died (again). Whilst I want to avoid any spoilers for the game you do have the ability to collect items that can be used. For example, one of the earliest items is matches. These can be used to light the small fires placed on pathways in the town. These small fires are part of the festival and can be used to show you areas that you have visited, as it can be easy to get turned around.
Whenever the creature is close, there is a warning as the music changes and there is a clicking noise, just like in Friday the 13th with its iconic “ch ch ch ah ah ah”. There is something I did enjoy about the game, which is not having to manually select tools from your inventory to use. This means you aren’t frantically bringing up the inventory whilst being chased.
Graphics & Audio
The watercoloured art style isn’t going to be for everyone PQube ran with it and I applaud them for doing so it really brings a different element to the game. I never expected this art style for this genre of game, Saturnalia does break the mould and it does so by linking unique features together.
The fog that engulfs the village only adds to the atmosphere and helps to nicely combine the art style.
Playing using the new generation of consoles, things start to jump out more. The camera angle can suddenly switch, making life very confusing. However, I understand that sometimes there is a benefit to this, but there were times it just felt off-putting.
It is interesting that it is actually the audio that takes centre stage here. The audio has been specially designed using ancient music and sound and giving it an electronic twist. I don’t think either the graphics or audio on their own work for me. However, once you combine the two then you realise it is brilliant.
Saturnalia has around 10 hours of gameplay, this does vary on your game style and how quickly you manage to solve the in-game puzzles and navigate the streets of Gravoli. The 10 hours do go quick when you start peeling back the layers of the festival
Whilst I enjoyed Saturnalia I found the lack of direction really frustrating. It was a shame that it took my enjoyment out of the game the first few times I played it.
If you can persevere then you will get enjoyment out of it. It is probably the most unique title that I’ve played in 2022.
For that reason, I award Saturnalia the Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.