Hinterland is a game where the setting is the star of the show. Lost in a blizzard in the middle of ‘Nowhere’, the protagonist is guided by talking scarecrows to an abandoned mansion. The exact nature of this mansion is the main mystery throughout the game and things only become more bizarre as the game goes on with impossible architecture, disappearing rooms, and hostile spirits. There isn’t anything particularly graphic in Hinterland, but there are a good number of creepy moments and a decidedly eerie atmosphere. Nearly every object in the environment can be interacted with and the game certainly encourages players to do so at every opportunity as important items are often found in surprising places alongside clever traps and flavor text which further enhances the atmosphere. The sound design is particularly notable here with abrupt sounds and disturbing noises contributing to the sense of unease as much as the writing and the visuals. Horror elements also have a chance to show up randomly, so you’re not necessarily safe from surprises even while backtracking.
The entire game takes about an hour to finish on a first playthrough, but every room has something new to offer. There is a very surreal sensation to exploring the mansion as its design makes increasingly less sense. From a convenience store in the basement to a painting which fills a room with rain, the mansion keeps players guessing at what they’ll encounter through each and every door and interactions with the most mundane of objects can have astounding consequences. The actual nature of the mystery behind the mansion is also just as surreal and clever as the journey through its corridors and, while I certainly won’t spoil it here, I can safely say that it’s far more original than an explanation of “a ghost did it”. Overall, if you want a horror game which is all about the location, you can’t can much closer than Hinterlands.