The Domaginarium
Platforms: PC, Mac

September 18, 2014
Reviewed by Jess Landry

If challenging, Silent Hill-style psychological games are your type of thing, then Enola may be the game for you.

Taking the controls as the titular Enola, you’re thrust into the surreal and broken world of your girlfriend, Angelica. She’s lost somewhere in there, and it’s up to you to not only find her, but to save her. The deeper you travel through Angelica’s tortured memories, the darker are the secrets that come to light. But you constantly have the choice throughout your searches – will you have mercy on those who’ve done Angelica and others wrong? Or will you let your vengeance blind you? The right answers may lead you to your love, and the wrong answers could have dire consequences.

When I began Enola, my expectations were not very high. The world in the opening sequence seemed unfinished, the set design had a lot of wasted space, the graphics weren’t overly impressive and the voiceovers felt ungenuine. However as the game progressed, I was pleasantly surprised – the layers of the game slowly peeled back to reveal this rich, dark story of lost love and serious subject matter.

The game itself comes with a warning: Some parts of this game are disturbing or cruel. Normally I chalk trigger warnings up to nothing more than feeble attempts to intrigue a morbid public, but Enola does have some pretty heavy stuff going on. Violence against women and rape are the main perpetrators here, which are not easy topics to for some to look beyond in a video game. Though nothing super graphic is depicted on-screen (nothing more than what’s considered “normal” anyway), if those subjects are too real for you, then it’s probably best to not play this.

Gameplay-wise, the game is light on combat and heavy on walking. You’ll spend most of your time running, walking, exploring and listening. It can get a little blah, especially after you complete a level and end up back at the main starting point, to which you then have to trek back to the area of the other levels.

As much as you run around, the puzzles are no walk in the park. Some of them were fairly simple but I found others quite challenging (good luck with one of them if you’re not a math scholar). A little more consistency between the puzzles maybe would’ve made solving them easier but if you’re a cheater like me, then you’ll find yourself on the game’s Steam message board scouring for the solutions (no judgement).

Though Enola is very atmospheric, it does take a while for it to build, and for the first little while there’s no sense of a threat. As you traverse through the first level, there’s brief chatter of monsters and the things lurking inside Angelica’s psyche, but all you’re exposed to are dark rooms and scattered memories. When the first monster finally pops up, it comes out of nowhere and all you can do is mash the keys like crazy in hopes that you don’t die.

Not that dying is a threat either. There are so many save points throughout the game that it kind of takes away from the tactic that other games use where there’s only save points when something big is about to go down.

For all its faults, Enola does have its pluses. The game gives off that Silent Hill-esque vibe in its psychologically twisted story and in later set pieces that vary from confined spaces to wide open areas. But the one major thing that redeems this game is the strip club level. I don’t startle easily when it comes to the genre (years of desensitizing will do that), but the atmosphere combined with great uses of dark, gritty colours and a villain reminiscent of the Rubber Man from American Horror Story’s first season come together to create a level that’s just plain terrifying.

Another positive is the relationship between Enola and Angelica. Angelica’s memories play an integral part of the game, often detailing her traumatic experiences but also shedding light on happier times. Though we don’t really see Enola and Angelica together, the act of love that drives the story is front and centre throughout the whole game. And the game itself never exploits the romantic connection between the women; it celebrates it.

Enola is not about strategy or survival or combat. It’s a game that lets the story take the lead, and that story takes the player through some dark, challenging areas. Though it’s far from perfect, Enola is a compelling, ominous gem of a game that will stick with you long after you’re done.