Creaks Review

Matt Lorrigan

The opening hour of Creaks thrives on its atmosphere. There’s something deeply unsettling about the creaking wooden world that Amanita Design has created - playing it feels akin to being a kid and stumbling across a foreign language cartoon on the TV that isn’t actually meant for children. That creeping uncertainty that you don’t really understand what’s going on, the worry that something animated shouldn’t be scary and yet there you are, thoroughly disconcerted by the shifting shapes and shadows across the screen. It feels wrong, and they’ve got that oh so right.

Creaks is a puzzle game, and it’s a good one at that. The world you find yourself wandering through is a physics-defying spider web of corridors, ladders, and lifts. Floorboards creak and snap beneath your character’s feet, as you gingerly make your way through the precarious premises, and, before long, you’ll begin to come across room after room of platforming puzzles. You have a very limited set of abilities at your disposal, but that feeds into the hostile atmosphere - you’re just a normal person after all, thrust into an abnormal world. You can climb ladders, drop down gaps to the floor below, and hit switches in a 2D space. The aim is always the same, simply to progress beyond the room, and the puzzle is to work out how to get past the bizarre creatures that stand in your way.


The game starts you off with simple guard dog creatures, morphed and almost robotic looking, and at first you’ll be getting to grips with their patterns and routines. Get too close to one, and it will give chase, and you’ll be forced to climb a ladder or cross a gap to escape it. The dog will remain barking there for a short time before returning to its bed, and this gives you the opportunity to get around it. Maybe you drop down to the floor below and run underneath, popping up a ladder on the other side, or maybe you hit a switch which drops a barrier, stopping the dog from returning to its bed. Light plays a major role in all of the puzzles, with the glow of a lamp turning any nasty creature into an inanimate object that can then be moved and manipulated.

The real challenge starts to come when these interactions begin to layer over one another. Slowly, over the course of the next hour or so, you’ll be introduced to more and more complex puzzles, embellishing the one concept and, just as you master it, the game will throw a new creature type at you that you have to get to grips with. The puzzle design is constantly evolving throughout the game, never having a moment to get stale. At its absolute best, these puzzle rooms will make you feel like a complete idiot one moment, as you try to wrangle a multitude of moving pieces together to no avail, and a genius the next, as everything clicks into place.

Brilliantly, Creaks accomplishes this without a single written instruction or piece of dialogue in the game, something I didn’t even realise until the credits rolled. So intuitive is the puzzle design that I was always able to push forward, despite never truly being told what to do. This lack of dialogue also feeds back wonderfully into the atmosphere. Over the course of playing Creaks, I came across a variety of creatures and characters, and I don’t have a single clue what anything or anyone is called. Trying to explain it to someone is akin to attempting to recall a dream, or a nightmare. “So there’s these bird people that are like humans, and I was in a big wooden tower that was more like a tall house. There are creepy creatures that can kill you, like there’s this dog that was actually a chest of drawers, or a monster that mimics you but is actually a coat rack if the light shines on it. Wait no, come back, there’s more…!”


When your brain isn’t being put to the test, you’ll find yourself exploring the labyrinthine underground structure you’ve found yourself in. Along the way, you’ll peek through cracks and see the happenings of the aforementioned bird people who seem to reside there, and you’ll come across unsettling animated paintings that wind and tick like the product of an old toymaker. These moments are only ever brief, and before long you’ll be thrown headfirst into another brain-bending puzzle. It can be a little overwhelming, and, as your mind becomes trained to search for solutions, you stop noticing the smaller, creepier details, and the horror begins to dissipate.

Luckily, the game doesn’t outstay its welcome, and, just as your head grows uncomfortably heavy from the relentless puzzling, you’re treated to an emphatic ending sequence that sees hours of world building and environmental storytelling pay off. Creaks is a constantly evolving puzzle platformer that does a hell of a job at making you feel incredibly smart, adding layer after layer of systems that will really put your brain through its paces. Its atmosphere is never quite as strong as it is in the first hour, but with an unsettling sketchy art direction strong throughout and barely a dud puzzle across its six to seven-hour runtime, Creaks is a difficult game not to recommend.

Creaks

Creaks is a wonderfully atmospheric game that is ingenious in its execution, with a unique art style and excellent sound design. The sheer number of mind-teasing puzzles can be a little relentless at times, but the way that the game's systems evolve and interact with each other over time is incredibly impressive. If you have any love for brain teasers, you should probably consider picking it up.

Form widget
80%
Audio
85%

True to the game's name, the ambient creaks and cracks of ancient floorboards help build an unsettling atmosphere. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is subtle but incredibly effective, and the cheerful chime that rings once you solve a puzzle offers a pure endorphin rush.

Visuals
80%

Creaks offers up a wonderful visual style, with beautiful hand-drawn artwork that lends the entire game the feel of an artist's sketchbook. Occasionally you'll find a scene so busy that it can be hard to spot an interactive object in the background, but that’s easy to overlook when the game is such a joy to behold.

Playability
80%

Puzzles come thick and fast, and almost every one of them is challenging and fun to solve. Messing up doesn't set you back very far, so you're never punished for experimenting, and the game succeeds in wordlessly guiding you through its world without any major roadblocks.

Delivery
80%

Creaks clocks in around six hours, and can be easily played in one or two sittings. The puzzles are well designed and the game’s art and music gel well, although it can be easy to get so engrossed in puzzle solving that you stop paying attention to the imaginative world around you.

Achievements
75%

A fairly easy list that focuses on discovering and completing interactive paintings littered throughout the adventure. It's possible to unlock them all during a single playthrough, although you may struggle to find every hidden room without a guide.

Game navigation