FMV (full-motion video) is a style of game development and aesthetic that has come in and out of fashion, with most well known games released in the 90s- early 2000s era. However, with growth and improvements in video and game development, it’s no surprise the two would cross paths once again in Baggy Cat Entertainment’s most recent release, At Dead of Night.
It’s not surprising the game physically looks great. However, what this game does exceptionally well is blending the realistic nature of FMV with modern in-game graphics, making a truly terrifying experience as you creep around Sea View Hotel, stalked by the ever persistent Jimmy.
Released on November 19, 2020, At Dead of Night has you stepping into the shoes of Maya who, after being rained out of camping at the nearby music festival, goes to meet up with her friends who have booked rooms at the nearby Sea View Hotel. Run by the eccentric Jimmy Hall, the hotel itself appears fine at first, with Jimmy merely seemingly like just a strange guy with an off sense of humor.
However, Jimmy soon reveals his alter ego Hugo Punch, a psychotic comedian counterpart convinced that, because these students don’t want to see his performance, they’re “bad eggs” who need cracking. Late at night, Maya awakens to spy one of her friends being attacked and dragged off into their room by Hugo, and does the ACTUAL SMART HORROR MOVIE THING and tries to escape, or call the police. The lines are cut, and the doors locked, but Maya finds a few tools she can still use at her disposal: a master key to most of the hotel rooms, and a spirit box.
Maya and her friends are not Jimmy’s first victims, and the ghosts of the hotel are happy enough to reveal Jimmy’s misdeeds from the past, provided you ask them the right questions. Revealing these misdeeds leads to an avenue of escape, but all the meanwhile, Jimmy roams the halls, bat in hand, hunting you down. Players have to balance searching the rooms for clues and hints with hiding from Jimmy, who becomes more and more aggressive with every story you reveal, stalking the circular halls. Seriously, why is every hotel so hard to navigate? Cramped and narrow, with confusing signs and directions, I have enough trouble finding my way to breakfast without having to worry about some bat wielding maniac walking around.
The blend of FMV and realistic animation in this horror game makes nearly every cutscene terrifying, since there’s very little delineation between gameplay and cutscene. One moment you’re walking around the halls, looking for your ghost, and the next your ghost is right behind you, real as can be, acting out that particular moment of their life. It’s the same feeling, that same jump, of when someone sneaks up on you in real life, and your tensions are probably already pretty high as you’re trying to avoid Jimmy.
Everything is largely grounded in this realism. This FMV setting makes everything feels real in a way that more fantastical horror games like Five Nights at Freddy’s or Resident Evil don’t quite have. I’m unlikely to work night shift at a pizzeria, or visit a strange family in the swamplands of Louisiana, but a hotel? Jimmy is just a guy. A messed up guy, but those exist in real life. One day we’ll travel again, and boy howdy will I be double checking the locks on my hotel door at least twice.