I’m no stranger to different kinds of weird horror games hiding in the darkest corners of Steam, nor am I unfamiliar with the weirdly exhilarating thrill of finding these kinds of titles with the possibility of stumbling across a hidden gem. Sure, I’ve played more than a few outright bad games, but for the most part, I quite enjoy RPG Maker horror games like StarSkipp’s Cover Your Eyes. This game caught my eye with its intriguing premise, that of surviving in a town overrun by bizarre monsters while trying to keep your kids alive. It harkens back to classic survival horror titles of old, although the fact that such an action-heavy game was made using the RPG Maker engine makes the end result feel ambitious, if slightly uneven.
In Cover Your Eyes, you play as Chloe, a young mother with two kids, who struggles to make ends meet at her dead end job. She generally tries to keep a healthy, positive outlook on life, especially when her kids are around, but she soon discovers that her deadbeat husband is having an affair. When she goes to sleep after overhearing a conversation he has with his mistress, Chloe wakes up to find her home town crawling with odd monsters that seek to do her, and her kids, harm. She also has a surprisingly complex backstory, with her being an ex-cop who quit the force after emptying her gun into the face of the Emoji Killer.
What follows is a strange, uncommonly ambitious story for a game of this nature. Rest assured that the plot twist isn’t that it’s all in Chloe’s head, or that it’s the result of some terrible thing she did in the past (although when we do learn more about the circumstances surrounding her execution of the Emoji Killer, it hits like an eighteen wheeler). There’s an intriguing, minimalist atmosphere the story creates, where it almost feels like you’re wandering through a really bad dream, and while the late game introduces some plot elements that feel a bit uneven, on the whole it’s an intriguing, mysterious tale that is unafraid to go to some really dark places.
The gameplay proper is a 2D recreation of old titles like Resident Evil or, more accurately, Silent Hill. Whereas the former is about exploring very specific, small scale environments and solving their greater puzzle, the latter is more in line with what Cover Your Eyes is going for. In those old titles, you explored surprisingly open environments in-between the regular survival horror levels, and this is the formula Cover Your Eyes apes heavily, for better and worse. There’s always a very specific place you need to go, dictated by the story. However—and this is something that will either work well for you or drive you crazy is that—the game restricts where you can go at different times. On the one hand, this does a lot to cut down on tedious wandering, and ensures you pretty much always know which direction to head in. On the other, I could see people being frustrated by the rather rigid structure the game uses.
Monsters roam the streets and the various buildings you explore, and these range from malformed babies with giant heads, to inside-out creatures, to actual devils that fire projectiles at you. You engage in the rather simple combat to fight them, and it’s here that the game will either stick the landing for some or frustrate others. You hold the right mouse button to aim, and must be on the same plane as the monster you’re firing at. Early on, it leads to some nice moments where you kill a monster right as your back hits the wall, but later on it can be fairly aggravating since the game will throw all different kinds of enemies your way. Enemies are gone forever once killed, meaning that you must pick and choose which monsters can be easily dodged and which must be disposed of in order to travel safely.
The level design in general is surprisingly realistic, meaning there are a lot of corridors and narrow hallways to check out. This can become a problem when the game decides to throw a lot of enemies at you. They move erratically, and, often times, will move out of the way of your gun at the last possible second, and then move right back to hit you. This can often feel rather cheap since Chloe’s control is rather sluggish, and there are definitely times where it feels like you take damage through no fault of your own. This is compounded by the late-game’s reliance on enemies that fire projectiles as soon as you’re on the same plane of movement as them, and the rather scarce health pickups mean that certain sequences come down to trial and error.
Meanwhile, objectives are typically very simple, with them focusing on finding a key item to progress. There’s nothing here that’s too taxing, and for the most part the game does a good job of communicating where the important items are by having them flash white. There are a few times, though, where you must defeat monsters in order to pick up the critical item. This led to a lot of wandering on my part, which frustrated me quite a bit. Once I’d found out what to do, I was kicking myself for not seeing it sooner.
This all boils down to an indie game with lofty ambitions and mixed execution. The story is rather intriguing, and the atmosphere in the beginning is mysterious and enticing. However, frustrations and limitations of the RPG Maker format crop up more and more the further in you get, and I can see some players being turned off by them if they aren’t used to the gameplay style. For me, I enjoyed my time with Cover Your Eyes overall, and would be interested to see how StarSkipp games refines their vision in a potential follow up.
Special mention should be made of the game’s soundtrack, which was done by Austin Jorgenson, aka Dingaling, the indie developer behind the magnificent LISA: The Painful. The game is fairly quiet overall, but there are certain tracks that play at different times that really add a lot to the area you’re in, and like the music in that game, the soundtrack here is creepy and oftentimes flat out odd.
A review code was provided by StarSkipp for the purposes of this review.
Cover Your Eyes is now available on Steam.