Sometimes a new game arrives just at the right time. The first part of horror game Scarlet Hollow, currently free on Steam and Itch, is one such project, a creepy visual novel that’s perfect for some Halloween gaming, and you can help fund the rest on Kickstarter.
In the story game, you’re visiting the titular town to pay your respects for a deceased relative. You get to stay in the family mansion with your cousin, a huge, decrepit piece of old money architecture that just reeks of bad memories and forlorn spirits. Everything just sort of spirals out from there, as you become involved in the mysterious goings on of this unsettlingly quiet and insular town in Appalachian mountains. Take a bit of Twin Peaks, some The X-Files, a touch of Gravity Falls, and a sliver of Life Is Strange, and you have the gist.
The whole thing’s the brainchild of Black Tabby Games, an indie studio founded by married couple Abby Howard and Tony Howard-Arias. Abby’s an established cartoonist, having published her own comic The Lost Halloween, with other credits in the No Sleep Podcast, The Crossroads At Midnight, and more. The hand-drawn artwork of Scarlet Hollow is one of its most charming features, browns, greys, and greens capturing the dreary isolation that’s compounded by the comparative brightness when other backdrops come into play. Coolest of all, the creatures and monsters you find in this wayward place are all Abby Howard originals.
As is typical the genre, you navigate using conversation trees, building, mending and burning bridges with characters. Naturally there’s a few romance options, and you can select traits at the start that may help or hinder your objectives. The first episode’s engrossing, if a little creaky, not unlike a TV pilot, but it was more than enough to make me stay tuned for more.
You can play Episode 1 for free through Steam or Itch, and Episode 2 is due next year. You can contribute to the Kickstarter here. It’s already funded, but there’s some nice stretch goals for more content down the line.