Feeling a Little Unwelcome in Welcome to Hanwell

Coming to the week’s end, I figured it would be a nice time to talk about another horror game. This time coming in the form of a game that I honestly had no clue of even existing until I was told that I should check it out. The game in mention being the open-world horror game, Welcome to Hanwell. Normally I try to find out a bit about the game before I write about it, however, this one was kind of a hard one. Searching the game online, reveals that it was developed by someone named Nathan Seedhouse, but according to the description on PlayStation, it says Steel Arts Software Ltd. Either way, I’ll just dive right into this one because well… it’s a bit of an interesting one.

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Upon booting up Welcome to Hanwell, you are immediately thrown into a menu screen, no mention of anyone who designed the game, no credits, nothing. Continue, New Game and Gamma – these are your only options. Selecting a new game, starts out with a brief cutscene of somebody slinking out of a container and then the game officially begins.

You start off in what appears to be a morgue of some sort, and after acquiring a key, and heading to a locked gate afterwards. You are then chased by an extremely buff dude who is covered in blood. I wasn’t completely sure of how to react to this one, because trying to run away to the locked gate resulted in this guy picking me up from behind, thus causing me to have to restart from a checkpoint. It felt as though there was no consistency in this guy’s location after continuing either, with him sometimes appearing in different places. After restarting several times, with the feeling of being put in an unwinnable situation, I was able to finally escape the game’s first area, which then brought me out into the game’s open world.

The open world seemed to be surprisingly large for a game of this stature, with locations becoming marked on your map as you come across them.  For the most part, however, it felt barren outside of the games collectibles and the occasional weapon pick-ups, which unfortunately you had to drop before you could go into buildings. The accessible interior locations of the game consisted of finding keys to access locked doors, with the main objective of Welcome to Hanwell seeming to be collecting six pieces of a citizenship card in order to gain access to the council. Back story in the game seems to come from reading notes, or listening to tape recorders and phone messages throughout the world. The subtitle text in Welcome to Hanwell is honestly the smallest text I’ve ever seen in my life, so unless you have a magnifying glass laying around, I’d highly suggest playing with the sound on when listening to the recorders and phones, at least if you are interested in the things that have gone on in the game’s world.

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The game mechanics are relatively simple, albeit annoying in some aspects. You have a map you can access by pressing down, this obviously shows the games locations. Clicking on the PS4 controllers touch pad brings up an items menu, this shows current items in inventory as well as collectibles. There is a run button, which can be done by holding down R1 on the controller, and the ability to look behind you while running by holding down the L2 button, and pressing down the R3 will allow you to crouch. There is a flash light, which can be clicked on and off by pressing square, unfortunately the flashlight has limited use and can be very annoying when exploring indoors, as the lighting can be extremely poor, but after waiting a while you can use the flashlight again. At times, I found myself just standing around waiting for the flashlight battery to recharge just so I could further progress, there did seem to be batteries that would instantly recharge the flashlight but I found them to be rare.

Another mechanic of Welcome to Hanwell that I noticed was becoming blind after becoming tainted by the darkness, pressing triangle will allow you to see briefly. Like the rechargeable flashlight, this was also another thing in the game I found to be relatively annoying and completely unnecessary. There also are the sirens you will periodically hear to signify an anomaly, which are the games enemies. Not being done just yet, there is finally the combat. When holding a weapon, you can press R2 to attack, with L2 being a block button and L1 allowing you to drop the current weapon held. Oddly enough, outside of the occasional anomaly attack, I really didn’t notice there being too many enemies.

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I also wanted to make a mention of the games world design and atmosphere. Surprisingly, this game was actually able to make me feel a bit uneasy. Some of the indoor buildings and houses you could enter felt unsettling and occasionally there would be moments of odd things happening, along with random jump scares. In one instance, I remember searching for a key to enter a bathroom. After finding the key and opening the door all I was greeted with was a monster yelling and the door shutting. Upon opening the door there was nothing there. It was so sudden and unexpected that it admittedly caught me off guard.

Not being the only strange occurrence that I had witnessed in Welcome to Hanwell. Upon avidly exploring a different house, I noticed there was someone sleeping on a bed. After looking through the place and coming back to the previous room, I had found that the person was gone from the bed, no where to be seen. After searching the house some more I noticed an eye on some kind of mirror on the wall following me and after some more examination and then finally trying to make my way to the exit, I was knocked out and dragged out into some woods, with only a note left in front of me. I felt like the things that would happen in these buildings were actually the strongest point in the game and the ambience of these interior locations managed to come off with a very creepy tone. In terms of other aspects of the game, surprisingly the voice acting sounded relatively decent. It was definitely a sigh of relief for both me and my sad ears after enduring the pathetically tragic voice acting that was in DYING: Reborn. Lastly, I also feel like it would be at the very least worth mentioning that the game also has a day and night cycle, with periodic spouts of rain. Though I wasn’t entirely sure how long the cycle actually lasted in the game, as it felt like night hours were extreme long.

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Coming to a close and my final thoughts of Welcome to Hanwell. It’s surprisingly a relatively creepy game, albeit noticeably low-budget. I guess I’d say that I think it’s pretty okay. At the very least, I’d say it’s way better than DYING: Reborn. It’s pretty decent at least in the game’s core, but I feel there are things that could have helped improve the game. I thought it was quite annoying to have to drop weapons when entering places, and not having a way to carry them in your inventory did feel rather unfortunate. I also found the games brightness to be a problem, even when adjusting gamma. I also felt as though the flashlight just didn’t help enough with how briefly it felts like it lasted. I could at least say that the game really shines when thinking back on the world design. It did feel relatively creepy and methodically thought out well enough when reflecting back on the interior portions of the game. Even then, I still feel like I’d have trouble recommending this one for the current price. I feel like for the quality it’d be an okay pick up for maybe $2.99, or less. As it stands currently, the game is normally priced at $13.99. I just feel like that’s a bit much for now. In the end, I could at least say that I didn’t mind Welcome to Hanwell that much, there was some thought to the design of the game and I can definitely appreciate that… but I guess I just don’t feel there is enough to the game to the point where it’s difficult to justify the cost of something like Welcome to Hanwell when there are far better games available at a similar price range.

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