At this point, slasher horror games are kind of an old hat, having never totally reached escape trajectory from the indie sphere. 2022’s Stay Out of the House seems like the culmination of the standards, and we’re in need of innovation before falling back into the distressing comfort of abstract, existential horror.
Cannibal Abduction is not that innovation. It is very much submerged in the conventions of the slasher horror genre. But even having said that, it is an enjoyable, bite-sized sampling of what the genre offers.
The console release of Cannibal Abduction is actually a compilation of Tomás Esconjaureguy’s two releases: 2022’s Night of the Scissors and 2023’s Cannibal Abduction. Since Night of the Scissors was released first, I’m going to start with that, even if it’s not the feature presentation here.
Night of the Scissors has you play as Adam, who, with an accomplice, breaks into an abandoned post office to rob its valuables. Stamps, I’m guessing. However – and you may be able to guess this – Adam’s exit gets cut off, and he finds himself trying to escape while a scissor-wielding maniac tries to cut him into paper dolls.
And not like Clock Tower’s ginormous set of sheers, either. This guy just has the kitchen scissors. The type you cut open a bag of milk with. My lawyer was unable to convince the jury that these cannot be used as a weapon, so it’s certainly a plausible murder implement, if maybe a bit sub-optimal.
Night of the Scissors is a lo-fi, PS1-style game with fixed camera angles. You can switch it to full rotational third person, which I did because it gave me better directional awareness. However, I found I couldn’t hold the run button and move the camera at the same time, so it wasn’t perfect. I had to check, but the run button isn’t alternatively bound to a should button or a thumbstick press. That might be by design since you’re typically supposed to panic and scramble when a killer sees you in these games.
Night of the Scissors is very short at under an hour. There isn’t a whole lot of puzzle-solving, and some rooms don’t have much function. It’s not bad, but it is kind of rough. It’s nice that the slasher isn’t constantly circling you like a vulture, leaving some quiet moments. You can tell they’re getting close to you when you hear “snip snip, snip snip,” cutting through the silence. Get it?
Cannibal Abduction is only slightly more ambitious but far more polished. In this one, you play as Henry, who gets picked up by a one-armed hillbilly after his car breaks down. The stranger offers to fix his car if Henry, in turn, will fix his wife’s wardrobe, and it’s absolutely hilarious that nothing smells off about this exchange to Henry. Obviously, Henry discovers that his furniture repair job is nothing more than a ruse, and he’s locked in the house with a roaming killer.
Predictably, this stays more focused on a puzzle-solving escape from the house while under duress. The mysteries mostly involve finding a key to open a lock, but sometimes, the lock is a dog, and the key is food. It’s rather boilerplate.
That’s not a compliment, but I’ll soften that by saying it’s a very solid boilerplate. The fact that the killer isn’t constantly present and sometimes can’t even be heard preserves the tension, never losing momentum along the way. It actually makes for a comfortable experience, which may sound counter to the horror genre, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how great Cannibal Abduction felt.
Most of these lo-fi indie horror games have rough edges. Even the best of them. And some of the worst have edges so rough they can lacerate you. So, to find one where it’s just simple and solid feels kind of good. I feel smart and horrified without all of the added frustrations of something too obtuse, and that’s a good feeling.
If it fumbles anywhere, it’s with the last puzzle. It’s slightly cryptic. The hints are there, but if you overlook them, you might wander around trying to find a way forward. Also, the fixed camera angles are back, and there isn’t an alternative. I had better directional awareness in the house than I did in the post office, but at one point, I missed a really obvious door because of it. However, I again stress that the camera system is rather important to the horror feeling.
Cannibal Abduction also uses a VHS effect, so there’s visual noise on the screen at all times. Usually, there’s an option to turn this off that I never use, but there isn’t here. However, the noise is used to indicate that the killer is nearby, so turning it off would be a disadvantage. I like the VHS effect, though, so it didn’t bother me.
To circle back, Cannibal Abduction doesn’t really do anything surprising or innovative. It’s another indie horror game with lo-fi PS1 visuals where you’re stuck in a house with a killer. It’s terrain worn bare. And in terms of house-dwelling horror, Stay Out of the House kicked the ball down the field.
However, Cannibal Abduction is solid for what it is. It’s to the point where I might recommend it to any newcomers. If you want to introduce someone to slasher horror games, it’s a comfortable entry point that might not immediately scare them away. For any longtime fans of the indie scene, however, it might feel a bit too familiar. Nonetheless, it’s still an enjoyable morsel that, at the very least, justifies its price tag.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]