Anna is a puzzle/horror title from the interestingly named Dreampainters. You play as an unnamed man who, after having many nightmares about it, turns up at a small rural cottage. You must then enter the cottage and solve a variety of puzzles in order to discover the strange truth about the place and the snippets of disembodied conversation you hear throughout the game.
Let’s start with the most basic problem: Anna is not scary. It tries to be, it certainly tries, but I can count the number of times I was scared on one finger:
A few minutes after I entered the cottage, a strange man-shaped shadow appeared on one side of the room. I took a look at it, noted that it was completely flat, and turned around to be met by four identical shadows blocking my way. I turn around again and see that the singular shadow from earlier has moved right up to me, then everything goes dark and the shadow-men vanish. This was really good, I was surrounded by strange humanoid shapes that only moved when I wasn’t looking and then vanished without a trace. It was terrifying and I spent the rest of the game looking over my shoulder for the shadow-men to re-appear, although after a while it was less out of fear that I was watching for them and more out of wishing something scary would happen again.
Secondly, the puzzles in Anna are terrible. I can’t say anything nice about them at all; they’re the most horrible form of adventure-game puzzles you can think of. Everything has a stupidly obscure solution; the very first puzzle in the game had me running around for about an hour trying to find the answer. I was given the hint “It looks like an eye, but there’s no pupil”, which I assumed meant I needed to find something to act like a pupil, instead I had to place a dried pinecone on top of the eye and light it on fire. The only way to finish the game without checking a walkthrough is to go around using every item on every other item until something works.
The puzzles are almost entirely like this, to the point that I was honestly shocked when I found “spare parts for stove” to fix the broken stove. On top of this, many of the items you find are completely useless, making you think that they’re necessary to continue, but being nothing more than distractions.
Apparently, and surprisingly, there are three endings to Anna. Although only one will give you the real answer behind the strange goings-on in the cottage, the other two are far saner. The only way to get the real ending is to act like a complete idiot and venture further into the cottage rather than leave when the opportunity arises.
Another thing that made me want to strangle the creators of this game is the immense mouse-speed difference between gameplay and inventory. The only way to move the pointer with any kind of ease in the inventory menu was to turn sensitivity all the way up, this resulted in my being unable to click on things during the main game because the slightest twitch of the mouse caused me to turn 90 degrees. So I either struggled with the inventory menu (50% of the game) or constantly changed my mouse sensitivity.
I suppose I could have checked in the options menu to change this, but after trying to pause the game a few times I noted that the escape key did nothing. In my foolishness, I thought that it was a design choice meant to keep the player from pausing the game and calming down during the exceptionally scary parts. Turns out the pause button was F1, who the hell designed a PC game with F1 as the pause button? It’s like changing the movement keys from WASD to something else, it just isn’t done.
Anna just isn’t very good. I went in expecting some fun, clever puzzles and a spooky atmosphere; instead I got a tedious, nonsensical game that couldn’t scare a five year-old. Don’t play this.