Midnight Scenes: A Safe Place


Octavi Navarro and Susanna Granell are back, with a fifth entry in the Twilight Zone-esque Midnight Scenes series. A Safe Place may be the darkest entry yet, and continues the series’ drift toward more visual novel experiences, rather than point-and-click puzzlers. And very effectively so in this instance.

Phil is clearly having some sort of breakdown. The older teenager has locked and barricaded himself in his bedroom in his parents’ house for the last 30 days, never once leaving for any reason. He’s peeing in bottles, pooing in a bucket, and only able to eat because his friend Noelle – who works at the grocery store across the road – delivers him food in bags below his window.

That’s not for want of his mother’s attempts to feed him, leaving plates of pancakes on the other side of his bedroom door. But Phil can’t even approach the door, let alone open it, before visions of screaming horrors fill his mind. His father, a deeply cruel and emotionally abusive man, has far less truck with Phil’s peculiar behaviour, hurling threats and insults at him. His younger teenage sister, Piper, is going through her own issues, as often demonstrated by the thudding music coming through Phil’s bedroom walls.

It’s quite the claustrophobic setup, and as Phil interacts with Noelle via his phone, the two watching movies “together” while texting, there’s the strong impression that there’s an awful lot we don’t know. It’s not particularly comfortable that Phil is watching his neighbours, including Noelle, through a telescope pointing out his bedroom window, especially noting how much time she’s spending with another male friend.

Being a Midnight Scenes game, you know this is heading toward a grim twist, and the pacing of the drip-feed of clues, and the final reveals, are splendidly delivered. I was also delighted that my initial guesses were all entirely wrong, which always makes for a more fun experience.

As I mentioned, this – like previous game, Into The Woods – is very much in the territory of visual novel. There are a couple of puzzles in here, and moments of using inventory items, but they’re throwaway, and the majority of the game is about clicking on the only available interactive element. However, in this instance this feels incredibly appropriate, given how much Phil’s life feels like it’s under some sort of oppressive control from the first moment of the game. Click on anything other than the correct item, and the game delivers the same nagging line to focus on the single task, and rather than a cop-out, it feels like a very deliberate choice to further drive home the emotions of the piece. In fact, a scene later on very briefly lets you have significantly more freedom, intentionally shifting the emotional vibes to offer an alternative perspective.

Still though, this is very deliberately not a true point-and-click adventure, so don’t go in expecting one. And be warned, this is a grim tale with unpleasant themes. It is, after all, a horror game. As you might expect, if you’ve played any of Navarro’s games before, the pixel art is impeccable. The writing is fantastic, too, and the hour-long experience – as ever – makes me crave a longer, more involved game from the creative team. However, these episodic bite-size games allow entirely different approaches, art styles, and themes, which is very welcome too.

The whole thing is less than a fiver, and well worth it, while the previous episodes are currently discounted on Itch and Steam, some under £3. This is some top-notch creepy horror, and I hope Navarro and Granell keep making new entries forever.

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