If you’ve been anywhere in the gaming section of Youtube or wandered into the many horror fandoms on the Internet, you’ve probably heard of Amanda the Adventurer in one way or another. This new indie horror game, as many indie horror games are known lately, invades our familiar and comforting memories by taking something innocent from our childhood and turning it into something terrifying. For those who hate horror, I can only imagine the shock at seeing these horrific reimaginings of childhood favorites.
Sesame Street, Tickle-Me-Elmo/Toy Factories, Chuck E Cheese – none of these popular childhood stables have been safe from the creation of some of the biggest indie horror names of late. Now, Amanda the Adventurer joins the scene with her own original touch, turning Dora the Explorer and early childhood educational cartoons into horror. I can only imagine what comes next; paw patrol? spongebob? Maybe Berenstain bears?
Jokes aside, Amanda the Adventurer uses a unique concept to convey some big scares. Developer MANGLEDmaw Games definitely used watching entire vintage anime on VHS tapes to get over the feeling of familiarity. Old, horrible, 90’s cartoons were something I’m sure those of you familiar with cartoons would recognize, and the relevance of the place is what created the real horror for me.
However, enterprising Amanda isn’t limited to nostalgia for some cheap scares. Besides the game’s excellent atmosphere, there’s a really well-written story that had me, as an aspiring horror writer, gasping for tons of “oooooh” and “whaaat” and “noooo” before it was over. Without spoiling it for you, Amanda the Adventurer tells the story of a family being torn apart (not literally) by a powerful corporation with sinister motives. From angry and confused ghosts, striking back at the world that wronged them, a deep classified conspiracy is up to you to discover it before it’s too late.
The game begins with a letter written to you from your Aunt Kate, a former librarian and, as you soon discover, a detective trying to discover the secret behind a series of missing children. As Kate explains in the letter, she will already be dead by the time you receive the letter, and will leave her house and the contents of the attic to you. She begs you to continue her investigation and apologizes in advance if you meet the same unfortunate fate.
The Kensdale House’s attic atmosphere is dusty and cluttered and serves the game’s horror very well. You are locked away from all modern devices here; There is no cell phone, no computer, and nothing but a combination of children’s toys and an old television set to help you finish Aunt Kate’s investigation. If confined spaces do your thing, you’ll find adventurous Amanda quite claustrophobic, because at no point in the game do you leave that attic.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that other things can’t go into the attic, but try not to think too hard about it.
The game controls are very simple. You move with WASD, interact with objects and menus with your mouse, and crouch with Ctrl. This is all you really need to interact with the attic and your main puzzle-solving tool, the VHS player/TV. While watching the many VHS copies of Amanda the Adventurer episodes, Amanda will occasionally prompt you to answer a question. You can then use your entire keyboard to answer, and there is an amazing amount of responses you can get from Amanda depending on what you say.
As you play the tapes and follow Amanda’s instructions, you’ll learn about some spooky moments that will make you think “Wow, that shouldn’t be in children’s animation.” However, the real concerns come from Amanda’s disobedience. Repeatedly failing to do what she says will, at first, get some snide comments, but will make Amanda progressively more and more resentful until she starts lashing out in more horrific ways. In the end, you will feel very threatened by this cartoon kid.
Each bar will have clues and symbols hidden inside it that you can use in your environment to progress in the game. These puzzles are short and range from something as simple as baking an apple pie to entering secret codes in a talking robot game. It becomes immediately clear that your environment is very haunted, and Amanda is leading you toward something – what exactly isn’t always obvious.
There is an amazing amount of hidden messages and puzzles that only the committed player will unlock. As of now, there are five endings to adventurous Amanda that I know of, ranging from the simple and bloody to the complex and bittersweet. After your first ending, you will return to the attic with new tools available. So don’t start a new game after your first ending.
As you discover more about the hidden story of Amanda the Adventurer, you will find more questions to face. The game seems to be hinting at a sequel with two “real” endings, and I hope to see more from MANGLEDmaw Games in this series – the story is very captivating, just like the Hameln cartoons.
The last word
Amanda the Adventurer is a clever little puzzle horror game with loads of scares and a great story to tell. The tragic story behind this children’s cartoon is bound to keep you up at night, either with questions or constant worry about what’s behind your closet door.
Amanda the Adventurer reviewed on PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the game reviews section of our website! Amanda the Adventurer is available on steam.