Tense, gripping atmosphere
Mike Smalling had it all - a beautiful wife who loved him, a home, a new job, and dreams for the future. Dreams which included starting a family - Mike and his wife Irma were both very eager to have children.
But everything changed, after some devastating news brought his dreams crashing down. It changed Mike forever. He sunk into a deep depression, and became paranoid that his wife was having an affair. But who with? His friend Chris? His boss? The doctor? Mike can't tell. If that wasn't bad enough, increasing pressure at work means that Mike has to stay later and later at work. His boss is giving him more and more work, which in turn puts more and more strain on his marriage.
Things go from bad to worse, when Irma finally has enough of his insecurity, paranoia, and depression, so she leaves him to go and stay with her mother. Poor Mike is completely devastated! Memories of happier times haunt him, and he desperately misses her. Will she ever come back to him?
But after yet another late night at the office, working on a report his boss demanded he finish, the stress on Mike begins to take it's toll. The line between reality and illusion begins to blur, and Mike's grip on reality starts to crumble. Corridors twist and distort, leading to areas that weren't there before. Distorted voices call out in the darkness. Things appear and disappear. Someone... or something... is haunting Mike. He can't tell what's real and what's not anymore.
As things become stranger and stranger, Mike has to decide - is his wife really having an affair, or is he being paranoid? Can he make sense of the things he's seeing, or is he loosing his mind?
And when things finally come crashing to a head... how will Mike cope?
Traum is a wonderfully atmospheric horror adventure game that uses the keyboard to let you interact with Mike's world. The game title could be a play on the word 'Trauma', but it's also the German word for 'Dream' - both of which is very applicable to the game.
As I said, the game is controlled by using the keyboard. Simply use the Arrow Keys to move Mike around. As Mike approaches certain objects or people, a little icon shows above his head, indicating if he can Look, Open, Pick Up, Talk etc. You just have to press Enter to confirm what you want to do. Your Inventory can by accessed by pressing Esc, and then choosing Items from the list. Likewise, you can also Save or Quit the game by pressing Esc and choosing the relevant option from the list. If you forget what your currant task is, simply press 'O' (for Objectives) for a reminder.
The key to the game is exploration - the more you explore, the more you find, and the more you discover about Mike's world. And very often, you get a choice of how the game plays out. Will Mike collect his Resignation Letter? Will he leave it on his boss's desk? Will he want his wife to come into the doctor's office with him? Will he change into his tuxedo for the party, or go as he is?
A lot of Mike's story is told through flashbacks. We see Mike & Irma's marriage crumble bit by bit, until she's finally had enough and leaves him. Team Ruskatuli (the people who make this game) have done a wonderful job in drawing us in, and making us feel sorry for Mike. There are some really tense moments in the game, that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up!
Traum is made using RPG Maker, and thus uses RPG Maker graphics, but Team Ruskatuli have also added in their own custom animations, which are lovely to see. They also use their own graphics to show when someone's talking - that person 'pops out' from the main game screen, with dialogue showing next to them. Their facial expression changes, as their mood changes.
Mike's own thoughts are shown as speech bubbles above his head in the game screen. I love the little icons above a character's head, indicating whether they're happy, sad, angry, confused etc.
As Mike's hallucinations worsen, corridors twist and turn, and lead off in directions they didn't before. A corridor that had a dead end, now goes straight on. The transitions between these changes are amazing! And dark scenes are very well done, with torchlight lighting up the dark room.
SOUND AND MUSIC
There's not many sound effects in Traum, but the sound effects that ARE there, are used brilliantly. Things like footsteps, doors slamming, birds tweeting, hospital monitors beeping away, papers rustling, and even water from the tap all help bring the game to life. And the distorted voices deserve special mention - they are brilliantly creepy!
Music is heard throughout the game to great effect, and it changes frequently, depending on where you are. Anything from tense, suspenseful music, to sad & mournful music, to haunting & scary music can be heard. And it adds so much atmosphere!
If you like adventure games. If you like horror games. If you like wonderful stories oozing with atmosphere. Then Traum is for you! The game is easy to play using the keyboard, and has some wonderful icons to express emotions. I love how Ruskatuli blends RPG Maker graphics with their own custom animations, as well as the clever transitions as corridors change shape. The music is beautiful, effective, and atmospheric. I frequently stopped playing the game just to sit and listen to the music.
Your emotions will definitely be put through the ringer - from sadness, to fear, to anger, and despair… you’ll feel it all! Quite simply, Traum is pure genius! And that ending will be staying with you for a long time to come! This is definitely a labour of love from Ruskatuli, and I highly recommend it.
Review by: Frodo
Blood. Adult themes. Violence. Strong language.
Safe for ages: 15+