A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Through the Woods is a downloadable psychological horror tale. It incorporates elements of child abuse that aren't seen but are implied, coupled with bleak Norwegian mythology. Occasional profanity pops up, including "s--t," in dialogue sequences.
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What's it about?
In THROUGH THE WOODS, Espen is a young boy who acts up and doesn't listen to his single mom. The two take a holiday to a cabin in a remote wooded setting. One morning, Espen leaves a note for his mom, telling her he's angry because she doesn't pay attention to him. She chases him down to the dock that she has told him to stay away from, only to see an unidentified man rowing off into the mist with her son in the boat. The mother tries to catch up to her son and his abductor but just can't seem to. Clues found in a nearby abandoned village spark the memory of an old folk tale about a man, Old Erik, who comes in the night and steals away naughty children. Is it possible to rescue Espen from danger?
Is it any good?
This game about abducted children based on folk tales has some scares but is eventually overshadowed by design flaws.Through the Woods is a very good-looking game, filled with self-blame on the mother's part, creepy sound effects, and the potential to second-guess each step taken in the eerie game world. The overall design is great, and the game itself blends Norse mythology with a modern setting with nice little touches, such as the dragon head on the bow of the short boat. The controls are minimal, which allows players to immerse themselves in the world without having to fumble with a keyboard or mouse. But where the game falters is it's short (only about 3 1/2 to 4 hours without any significant need to replay it). The actual navigation vantage point is about two feet outside the mother's right shoulder, so your perspective when moving is slightly off. Plus, the voice acting could have been a lot better. But you counter some of the game's weaker moments with strong characterization and motivation.
Through the Woods has touched on some real-world topics that might be slightly uncomfortable. It does have a decent ration of suspenseful elements, and it's extremely moody. It doesn't go for the often-used startle factor of things jumping out at the player, but it does go a bit deeper and leave players with a sense that neither the mother nor the son are people one can truly care about -- it's the situation more than the people that drives the game forward. If you can overlook its flaws, it's a good, creepy experience. But it's the shortness of the game and other issues that keeps this from being truly frightening.
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