Among the Innocent: A Stricken Tale
Gameplay 7
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Among The Innocent features a very unique setting, interesting story and puzzles that are immensely satisfying to solve. It also manages to keep you on edge the whole time, despite your idyllic surroundings, which is impressive for a game with no jump scares. There are some rough edges, but nothing that should deter you from grabbing this game and helping its protagonist crack the mystery.

Gameplay: Explore a desolate farmstead while solving puzzles using everyday objects.

Graphics: Nothing mind-blowing, but gets the job done and sets the mood perfectly.

Sound: The audio is rather low-key, but definitely enhances the creepy atmosphere

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Among the Innocent: A Stricken Tale

Developer: Zero Degrees Games | Publisher: Zero Degrees Games | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Adventure | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Everyone knows that if you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere on an American farm you are in big trouble. Either you are going to get caught and eaten by a cannibalistic mountain man or someone with a mask made out of human skin is going to try and introduce you to their chainsaw. In fact, don’t even think of going out into the cornfields as you might run into creepy children, evil scarecrows or extraterrestrials with nothing better to do than make circles and fiddle with cows. That’s why a farmstead located in the eastern Free State of South Africa sounded to us like a holiday in comparison to the bad rep isolated American farms get in movies. However, Peter York, a struggling writer and the protagonist of Among The Innocent, might not agree. After a bitter spat with his girlfriend Steph, Peter hops on his motorcycle and goes for a ride in the countryside. Unfortunately, along with some fresh air, he also ends up with more alone time than he bargained for when a crash leaves him trapped on a remote farmstead. His number one priority is to get out of this forsaken place, but it turns out that the 12 acres of farmland hides some pretty dark secrets and Peter has a lot of time on his hands to do a little digging.

Among The Innocent: A Stricken Tale, is the debut effort from Zero Degree Games who are based out of South Africa, which would explain the unique setting. The game is also the first installment of what promises to be a five part series based on the Kübler-Ross model, or “five stages of grief” as it is more commonly known. The first stage is denial, which is pretty much how Peter deals with the increasingly sinister events that unfold during his search for an escape. Although ATI is played from a first person perspective, it is not a shooter, so you are not going to find any weapons to wield. Thankfully, the area is also free of lions, rhinos or whatever else there usually is to fear on South African farms. You will encounter some creepy stuff eventually, but instances of having to hide in cupboards or flee from things are mercifully absent. Not that there is anything wrong with games that feature these elements, but it is nice to play something that has a creepy and foreboding atmosphere and no proclivity for throwing gibbering monsters in your face every five minutes.

What you will encounter in ATI is puzzles. Some of them are easy, some require a little more lateral thinking and one or two had us completely stumped for a while. Most of the puzzles are quite logical and clever, apart from the aforementioned two that are maybe a tad too obscure for their own good.

Zero Degree Games definitely seem to have a fondness for classic point & click adventure games as you will find a lot of elements from this genre in ATI. Plenty of seemingly everyday items are scattered around the farmstead and it is your job to figure out how they can help Peter make his escape. Thankfully, you don’t have to try out all kinds of obscure inventory item combinations as the purpose of everything you pick up are usually quite straightforward. We do have one gripe, which is that some of the items that are vital to your progress are quite small and can easily be overlooked if you are not paying attention. This is something that Zero Degree Games have promised to address in future updates, though, along with various bugs related to world interactions. We only encountered one bug during our first playthrough when an important key failed to materialize where it was supposed to, but a quick restart solved the problem.

Visually the game is pleasing and, considering it is virtually a one man effort, quite impressive. There are a couple of quality levels to toggle through, depending on how powerful your gaming rig is, as well as effects that can be turned on or off. These include post-processing effects, dynamic depth-of-field, and screen-space ambient occlusion. Even with everything cranked to the maximum the graphics still have some rough edges, but overall the amount of polish is very decent by indie standards. The 12 acres of farmland feature pretty much what you would expect to find, including a cabin, barn, treehouse, windmill and lookout. There are also a couple of unexpected things to find, but we are not going to spoil the surprise.

The user interface is quite intuitive, so apart from using the WASD keys to walk around, everything else is handled by pointing and clicking. The game features a handy map, which allows you to fast travel to any previously visited location. Since a few of the puzzles require a bit of backtracking this is a blessing. Apart from a narrator, the game doesn’t feature any voice acting and the music is rather low-key as well. It fits the mood of the game nicely, but we would have liked to hear some more sound effects. Everything from the birds screeching in the trees and your footsteps crunching on the ground are crystal clear, but picking up and dropping objects resulted in silence.

Among The Innocent is a rather short experience, provided you don’t get stuck on one of the puzzles, but it is quite enjoyable while it lasts. To pad out the experience a little more you can read all the books and notes that are scattered about or hunt down the elusive alphabet letters that are tucked away in all kinds of nooks and crannies. Neither of these are essential to completing the game, but make for nice distractions and reward you with Steam achievements for your effort.

Overall we enjoyed our time with Among The Innocent and it is going to be interesting to see what happens in future installments. The game captures the feeling of being isolated and unsure of your surroundings perfectly and manages to tell a creepy story without having to resort to jump scares. It isn’t perfect, but most of the things we had issues with are being addressed by Zero Degree Games and they seem to be pretty committed to ironing out all the wrinkles. So, if you enjoy adventure games, can appreciate a good story without having it shoved in your face, and love puzzles, this is the game to get. It is also very affordable and has a free demo, so there really is no excuse for not grabbing it.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 / AMD A6
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 460 / AMD 4870
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 4 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: Keyboard and mouse only
  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 / AMD FX
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 680 / AMD 7970
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 4 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: Keyboard and mouse only

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