I have a confession to make: I have a secret obsession with the Cold War. My friend, a high school history teacher, and I will often discuss the space race, fallout shelters, and post-WWII conspiracies over beer, so the prospect of a psychological horror game set in the Soviet Union had me excited enough that it could be considered treason. I downloaded the first two chapters of In Fear I Trust, an episodically release game for iOS from Black Wing Foundation and Chillingo, and curled up with my iPad to have my Red itch scratched.
The game starts off rather beautifully, with your character signing up for a special Soviet program with a decidedly non-Russian sounding character. This inexplicable issue continues throughout the game, with all of these allegedly Soviet characters sounding more like Tony Soprano and less like Nicolai Volkoff. It’s a weird sticking point to have, but when there have been entire seasons of Archer chock-full of Russkie sound-alikes and Swedish-born man mountain Dolph Lundgren sounding Cyrillic for Rocky IV, it becomes more than a little frustrating when a game set in the USSR has a cast of American-accented characters.
This immersion-sapping fact is a tragedy, as In Fear I Trust is genuinely eerie. The aforementioned Soviet program is more than it appears to be, with tiny snippets of the truth being told through documents and ghostly flashbacks, detailing the machinations of the shadowy VERSA and the mysterious program. There are additional supernatural dealings with your character’s mysterious visions, which provide assistance with puzzles and other objectives, as well as helping you discover sinister recordings that slowly unravel the mystery surrounding you. There are far too many secrets to be revealed, especially in the game’s first two chapters, but the hints at occult forces, genetic enhancement and their dark misuse are genuinely compelling and disturbing.
The gameplay itself is simple and intuitive, opting for navigation either with virtual thumbsticks or a tap-to-move interface similar to last year’s The Drowning. Dual-finger movements are used to pull up your journal or activate your vision, and a double-tap will zoom in on potential pickups and puzzles. The Unreal-engine powered graphics are especially beautiful, but they come at a heavy cost: playing the game on my iPad mini resulted in muddy textures, a problem that wasn’t present on my iPhone 5S. Checking out the App Store page gives contradicting info, stating that the game is both compatible and incompatible with the iPad mini, the iPhone 4, and iPod Touch on the same page. That’s one hell of a caveat, so do yourself a huge favor and double-check before you tap the purchase button.
While it’s only two episodes into the run, In Fear I Trust offers enough mystery and scares to more than warrant its sub-$3 price tag. Sure, the complete lack of Russian voiceover is inexplicable, but the atmosphere and story more than make up for this aural oversight. Is it perfect? Nyet. Is it worth the money? Da.
In Fear I Trust is now available on The App Store for $2.99.