Review: Survival Horror Fobia—St. Dinfna Hotel Pays Homage to Resident Evil

Resident Evil was a hugely influential franchises that defined survival horror when it released back in the 90’s. Not only is the series still going strong, but there are also games that are even recapturing the original Resident Evil’s retro charms. One such game is Fobia –St. Dinfna Hotel.

Fobia—St. Dinfna Hotel is a first person survival horror game developed by a small Brazilian studio. It pays heavy homage to the Resident Evil series, and gameplay-wise, sits somewhere in between modern Resident Evil and the third person classic gameplay. Despite the obvious love the developers have for the Resident Evil series, Fobia has a few issues that make it a miserable experience.

Screenshot: Fobia: St Dinfna Hotel

While some survival horror games are combat heavy, Fobia leans more towards puzzle solving, and key hunting. Lots of key hunting. Finding keys and finding the doors those keys go to are a huge part of Fobia’s gameplay. It’s also full of puzzles, and some of these puzzles can be quite difficult, but not for good reasons. Unlike the masterful signposting for puzzles in the Resident Evil series, Fobia’s puzzles often left me frustrated even after finding the right answer.

Combat in Fobia isn’t terrible, but I’d almost prefer it didn’t exist. Again, the developers of Fobia used Resident Evil as a guide, even with some of their enemy types—notably the giant spider and the giant handed Tyrant-like foe that is introduced early in the game. The gunplay is basic, however, and enemy encounters are more often annoying than scary. I almost wish there was no combat in the game at all—especially with Fobia’s bafflingly bad save system.

For some reason, the developers of Fobia wanted to make it really old school and decided not to have an autosave system. You can only save at certain checkpoints. Even if you complete a climactic game moment, you still have to find a save spot or, upon death, be forced to replay huge sections of the game, and watch cutscenes that cannot be skipped. There is one section halfway through the game that, when I died, caused me to lose a couple hours of gameplay because I died to an enemy before I could find a save point.   

Screenshot: Fobia: St Dinfna Hotel

Since Fobia was made by a small Brazillian team, there is quite a bit of Portuguese writing that hasn’t been localized in the art. I actually enjoyed this detail, as it reminded me a bit of those foreign language sequels to popular horror movies back in the 70s and 80s. But even viewing Fobia through that context, those movies are fun because they’re over relatively quickly. And you don’t have to search for keys for an hour or more just to progress the story.

I can tell that developer Maximum Games has a love for the Resident Evil series, but unfortunately, Fobia only ever manages to feel like a cheap rip-off instead of the loving homage it was intended to be. It does have a few redeeming qualities, especially with its Unreal Engine graphics. But there are better Resident Evil homages to spend your time with.

Fobia—St. Dinfna Hotel is available now on PC via Steam, and on Xbox

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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.