Go axe murderer mode as a Victorian waif in this PS2 throwback horror game

Don’t let yourself get too cocky in Withering Rooms, though.

I thought I was hot shit for clearing Withering Rooms’ first floor. The tutorial covers the basics of hiding under tables to avoid flesh monsters, but I was having more fun with the back and forth of its melee combat, doing an impressive turn as a bloodthirsty axe murder despite playing as a forsaken Victorian child.

Then I descend into the basement of the manor, lantern in hand. The cozy interiors give way to a dank cellar where I only have a few feet of visibility. After an illuminating conversation with a Sigmund Freud lookalike at the center of the mystery, my exploration is brought to a swift and grizzly end by a gangly Silent Hill abomination patrolling the halls. She’s way too fast and aggressive for me to outmaneuver. I get got, caught mid-dodge and beaten to a pulp, and wake up back in my first floor bedroom. Time to give it another go.

Withering Rooms is a distinctly PS2-era throwback, calling to mind Japanese survival horror like the Resident Evil Remake or Clock Tower 3. It nails the melancholy, washed out look of a PS2 horror game, and evokes the slow paced intensity of tank control combat despite its novel (for the genre) 2.5D presentation. Withering Rooms’ Resident Evil-style menu sounds really seal the deal for me on the homage, while its Thief-y sound design, baroque sitting rooms, and harpsichord-forward soundtrack contribute to a great sense of atmosphere.

You take control of a little girl committed to a Welsh asylum in the 19th century, only she’s done and gotten herself trapped in a dream version of the repurposed manor house, waking back up to the nightmare every time she’s killed by the revenant of a cholera patient or cursed groundskeeper. Salvation seems to lie in uncovering the history of the manor, as well as divining the nefarious ends of the shifty psychiatrist and witches’ coven running things.

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