With cryptic puzzles, a Lovecraftian atmosphere, and a surprising amount of humor The Padre does a great job at building a sense of progression and keeps players guessing. At first, it seems to be a love letter to Alone in the Dark. In fact, The game practically borrows some of its mechanics from it. We even go as far as seeing the first room from the former replicated in the latter.
Now that I think of it, everywhere I turned in this eerie world I found references to a myriad of different games; from Zelda to Portal. This sort of referential treatment is usually annoying but, in an environment as grim as The Manor , the jokes and subtle nods were more than welcome.
There may be a lot of references to other games but the plot is very original. You follow a priest, the titular Padre named Sandro and set out to find a missing priest whom he has no love for by the name of Benedictus. As Sandro searches for his colleague, he finds himself in a manor.
The man of the cloth is unknowingly entering a house infested with otherworldly monsters, demons, and parallel shadow realms connected via mirrors!
A Lovecraftian Twist
Games of this genre are well suited for a homage to Lovecraftian horror. Their oftentimes slow and clunky controls only exemplify the cosmic dread of Lovecraft’s work. Still, while The Padre sometimes strikes a perfect tone for the cosmic horror, it spreads itself too thin in an attempt to convey many themes.
There are several visual references to Cthulhu; including the primary antagonist who is practically a spitting image of it by the end. The various notes found around the manor are yet again a perfect examples of cosmic horror. The letters – sometimes torn notes, occasionally official documents – are oozing with agony, confusion, and dread.
On the contrary the Voxel style, while aesthetically pleasing and sometimes outright beautiful, doesn’t do much to contribute to the atmosphere. In addition, it can make the pixel-hunt that is all too common in adventure games even more frustrating. While the lighting does go a long way to establish atmosphere, it can turn the previously mentioned pixel hunt and some puzzles into scanning the room with your mouse, trying to see if the cursor changes.
By the time I was done, I still wondered where to stand. There is a lot of fantastic attention to detail and artwork throughout this game, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was adding or detracting from my immersion.
Sandro’s a Real Gordon Freeman
Initially unarmed, our protagonist quickly finds a trusty crowbar. While you do unlock guns later in the game, the crowbar remains your most useful ally and the weapon you will most regularly have equipped. The click to attack style of combat used here is acceptable throughout the best part of the game, as you typically face only one very slow-moving enemy at a time.
The combat does devolve when multiple enemies appear. Stun-locked in place by enemy attacks, you find yourself unable to move and frustrated. This combination will leave you helplessly stuck. When you’re not stun-locked, you might unintentionally move while intending to attack allowing enemies to attack and stun-lock you.
While mostly serviceable, this system can become a real source of existential dread, and something tells me that might have been Shotgun with Glitter‘s intention. Similarly, the controls can sometimes combine the perfect feeling of anticipation and horror.
Whenever swift movement or timing is required, you will be forced to wrestle with your keyboard and mouse. You will plead endlessly with Sandro to move accurately, even while doing something as simple as trying to open a door.
Pacing The Padre
The Padre‘s narrative is one of its strongest selling points. While the story is a little vague and mysterious, you end up liking Sandro as a character; not to mention the tales of loss, torture, and the occult found around the manor. Near the end of the game, I knew every room in the estate and had comprehensive knowledge of the layout.
There is a sense of progression to most adventure games that I find to be the draw. Going from only being able to explore one or two rooms to slowly unlocking more and more. Seeing how new items become applicable to puzzles in old rooms will not only make you feel like a crafty genius but helps further the feeling of progress.
Yet, some of the puzzles can be more frustrating than amusing. While I enjoy difficulty, the level of complexity and obscurity to some of these puzzles border on extreme. It took me around 8 hours to beat this game, most of that time was spent trying to solve a push and pull block puzzle that seemed impossible and was resolved by sheer luck.
The unique aesthetics and humor of The Padre go a long way, enough to set it apart from other games in the genre as well as the indie early access space. The frustrating puzzles and lackluster combat may turn some people away, but the sense of exploration and discovery should be enough to keep fans of the genre entertained.
This is a game for not only adventure game lovers, though. Chalk-full of references and gritty storytelling, The Padre aims to enthrall a much larger crowd. I for one look forward to seeing what happens next to Sandro!