Despite the large number of ghost stories in Vietnamese media, video games featuring Vietnamese horror stories are still few and far between, and that’s where the recent indie game Thần Trùng finally comes in.
Thần Trùng is a first-person horror game made by indie game developer DUT Studio. The game was released on 25th August 2022 and has since terrorized many gamers thanks to its evocative depiction of Hanoi.
In Thần Trùng, you play as Dũng, a young man looking for a cheap place to rent in the middle of Hà Nội, and who comes to view a small house in the middle of a shady alley.
Despite hearing from neighbors that the house might be haunted. Dũng, in typical horror protagonist fashion, decides to stick around, setting the story for the game.
Thần Trùng’s gameplay features a lot of puzzle-solving and rapid-fire jumpscares. Most of the puzzles are easy enough to solve with some observation.
While there are some difficult puzzles where players are only allowed a limited amount of time to solve before getting a “game over”, the game will still reset itself right to the beginning of the puzzle so as to not waste too much of the player’s time.
The entire story can be done in under five hours. However, for players who want to 100% the game, there are collectibles in the form of dolls hidden across the game that players can find to get to the game’s secret ending.
Some of the jumpscares in the game rely mainly on loud sounds and gory images, which has proven to be very effective with us thanks to the atmospheric environment setting the scene for the imminent terror.
However, the fact that these scary moments occur frequently at the start of the game means that players might find themselves desensitized after the first hour of play, leaving all jumpscares afterward to come across as outright funny.
On the other hand, the indie horror shines the most in its environmental design, with a lot of design elements Vietnamese players may find some familiarity in, such as the moldy, cracked walls of an old house in Hà Nội, images of Buddhas neatly lined on glass walls, or typical household items like a colorful plastic food cover that one might find on their dining table.
Another important part of a horror game is sound design, where the game has a few hits and misses. Typical sounds that would leave a player unnerved like heavy rain and sudden thuds on doors were done fairly well, but certain sequences would have questionable sound effects that might make you laugh.
An example is a sound that was used to indicate a mysterious phenomenon after resetting your room’s wifi at the beginning of the game. Its corniness might leave player thinking, “Am I playing a horror game or am I watching a cheap horror movie?”
Besides immersive sound design, there was also voice acting, which was surprisingly good, sticking faithfully to the Northern Vietnamese accent. However, we found ourselves laughing over supposedly scary pieces of dialogue due to their cheesiness – something that not only Thần Trùng, but many local video games and dubbed films still struggle with.
Thần Trùng is DUT Studio’s first step into the game industry, and while there are some hiccups here and there, the game still has a lot of charm and has proven itself to be one of the higher-quality Vietnamese games that have come out this year.
If you want to immerse in a unique horror atmosphere set in Vietnam, give Thần Trùng a try!
Cover image adapted from Thần Trùng
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