I love trippy, experimental games. Strangeness doesn’t deter me from enjoying a good game, and is even a refreshing change of pace from the mainstream. Video game art exhibits and itch.io have been some of my main sources for pure strangeness—but Steam will have some good examples time to time. So when I saw that Strobophagia was coming to Steam, I was excited. I hadn’t played its early demo, but I saw footage of its neon psychedelic undead rave, and knew I wanted to try that out for myself. Be careful what you wish for.
Strobophagia is a first person adventure game where you attend a rave in the afterlife. You’re given a phone, which you mainly use to interact with your environment, and you can slap. And that’s about it. Your goal is to wander around, and find your way forward using both environmental clues, and narrative clues via text messages. Sometimes you may encounter an enemy that has to be slapped away, or mostly just avoided—and that’s the crux of the gameplay. Having relatively simple gameplay isn’t inherently bad, but poor execution is. And Strobophagia is full of poor execution.
First of all, as far as undead parties go, Strobophagia’s is mostly dull. There’s hardly any rave music, and most of the party goes on around you with little interaction. For a game that’s labeled as “rave horror” it’s not really very rave-like. And for that matter, there really isn’t much horror, either. The visuals remind me more of a neon day of the dead than anything horrific. It’s all in semantics, I suppose.
I really liked Strobophagia’s premise and its intoxicating visuals. But it doesn’t really translate into fun gameplay. Most of the time I spent wandering around, trying to find the next thing to interact with, occasionally slapping a fellow party-goer—and what made it worse was the bug that stopped gameplay. There were a few sections that, even when I was doing what was required, weren’t triggering the next part. I even restarted my early playthroughs a couple of times before deciding to come back to this title once a few fixes were in. There have been a few patches since release, and I’m not sure if they addressed my specific issues—but I was finally able to complete a playthrough.
Unfortunately, that playthrough was a mostly unpleasant experience, for a few technical reasons. First of all, I started out playing on a mouse and keyboard: the mouse acceleration is bad—though you can switch to raw mouse input. But the head bob is horrible, so much so, I decided to switch to a controller just so I can get further back from the screen—and be spared unnecessary motion sickness. There really should be a way to turn off the horrible head bob, or reduce it. There are no FOV options, either, which usually help reduce motion sickness for me. I don’t often get motion sick from non-VR games, so if anyone reading this is susceptible, Strobophagia might be uncomfortable for you.
There really isn’t much else I can say about Strobophagia. It feels like a demo, especially with its incredibly short length. It’s possible to play through it in just a few hours. The best parts of Strobophagia are the parts you can see without playing the games—its neon aesthetic. It doesn’t really have a raver or a horror atmosphere—not does it have much else going for it. It’s just wasted potential.
Strobophagia is available now on Steam.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites at twitch.tv/bokor