Unholy Review

Detailed environment and interesting combat let down by excessive bugs

Unholy Review
Source: Author.

You were raised in a cult and naturally were raising your son the same way. But you realize that – after they request to sacrifice your son on an altar – maybe it isn’t the right place to be. So, naturally, you decide to seek greener pastures.

But it’s already too late.

Unholy is a psychological horror that isn’t exactly scary in the way of the typically overused jump scares (they were a rarity). There are, however, a lot of disturbing themes and scenes. Duality Games does a good job of making us feel uncomfortable, and what would otherwise be a simple room or environment will leave players wondering what the hell went wrong. The game is dark in both atmosphere and story, and many of its aspects are reminiscent of Silent Hill, which I’m sure was an inspiration for the developer.

We start off looking for Gabriel, the son of the lead character Dorothea. As is the way of a cult, we find him passed out on a sacrificial altar in the place we are forbidden from entering. Some lady in an angry-looking antlered mask – I later found out this was Mother Superior – starts yelling as if someone kicked her out of the reindeer games, and everything goes sideways. Interrupting this ritual and attempting to save her son, things go horribly wrong and Dorothea finds herself unable to pick her son up from the altar due to a barrier and rising flames. An old crone appears to tell you that all is not lost, but the struggle is about to get real. Okay, maybe she didn’t say that last part verbatim, but you get what I mean.

Source: Author

Welcome to the Spring of Eternity cult, the Eternal City awaits! This is what everyone in the cult has been waiting for, and this is where you will be reunited with your son! Eternal life is a paradise for you and your families, only… it looks like everyone just keeps on dying, and not just to get in. There’s a plague running rampant, everything is creepy, dark, and covered in these weird vines that look much too sentient for comfort. In some places, people are just dangling from the ceiling wearing a ghost costume. Honestly, it doesn’t look like a paradise at all! I get the feeling that we all fell for some false advertisement and wound up in Hell. Thankfully, the random old lady in grim reaper-looking robes keeps showing up to help and get us on the right track to not only survive this trek, but to also find our son, and a way back out.

Of course, there’s more to it than that.

Our protagonist, Dorothea, is not in Kansas anymore. She gained access to this other world through an odd ritual she completed in her deceased father’s apartment, and finds that it is some kind of warped, twisted take on the world she’s used to. Not only is she in some kind of alternate horrific reflection of reality, but she also finds herself battling with her own repressed memories as she tries to navigate the hellish landscape. Everyone (well, almost everyone) hides behind a mask to protect themselves, even to the point of it being the difference between life and death.


With a variety of activities such as peeking around corners, sneaking around lights, hiding in lockers, and solving the occasional puzzle, the game feels very seamless as you go from one task to the next. When traversing the other world, you can collect emotion crystals that you can fling around with a slingshot. Evidently, the collection of emotion crystals is illegal, but how were we supposed to know? Keep doing it anyway, what they don't know won't kill them – it might just stun them a little. You can also use them in the environment to open up paths, solve puzzles, or hit something that will actually kill an enemy for you. There are four emotions you can pick up, and each serves a different function. Desire is great for distracting enemies and making a getaway, or luring them to something that will kill them for you. Sadness will create a smoke bomb that provides you with cover, shock can be used to blow things up or to power certain things, and anger is awesome for smashing things to bits.

Source: Author

As you progress, you can upgrade your mask and gain different effects. Being able to see useful objects through walls, breathing in poisonous gas without dying, all that fun stuff you don’t want to try at home becomes tools in your arsenal. Just as well, you may gain new abilities when you trade memories – or, in this case, objects with some form of memory attached to them, even if they aren’t of warm and nostalgic sentimental value.

Going with the theme of the game, there are points where you are going to have to find your own way ahead without much indication of where you're going. If you're forgetful like me about what you need to be doing, hitting the middle mouse button results in the “last thought” being given to you by Dorothea. This same control will also give you a guidance trail to follow if one is available. The goals are kept concise and clear, but the way forward may not be. For example, in one part of the game, you are going through door after door and winding up in the same room with different doors being locked each time. Sometimes, these sorts of things felt more like padding than a puzzle.

Unholy itself is not an inherently difficult game. What may make it difficult is the occasional bug inhibiting your progression and the uncertainty of where you may need to go from time to time. Working your way around enemies can be a task if they are of the variety that you can't directly kill with your slingshot, or they might not be killed at all thanks to an occasional bug that pops up when you try to blow them up with a canister.

More often than not, players are forced to take more of a stealthy approach due to the clear discouragement of combat. In some ways, this reminded me of Outlast, where you must sneak around, hide in lockers, or try to outrun something chasing you because you know you’re as good as dead if you’re caught.


Speaking of combat, you are equipped with a slingshot. Unfortunately, shooting enemies with it will only temporarily stun them. If you want to kill an enemy so they are no longer a problem and will finally get out of the doorway you need to run through, this needs to be done indirectly by blowing up canisters or switches when they get close enough to them. Even then, this won't always do the trick, and they will sometimes, somehow, survive this explosion. Most often you save a lot of time and frustration simply by running past them when it’s actually possible to do so, and, commonly enough, this is easier than it sounds.

There are often not that many enemies to maneuver around. The problem is, if they catch you, you're down and out in only one or two strikes from them. The pause in between strikes is also very short, so if you do get caught, you're usually as good as dead without enough time to break away fast enough.

Source: Author

While we're on the topic of avoidance, there are also these fully armoured guards walking around with flashlights that you are not going to want to mess with. They're patrolling around the Eternal City looking for trespassers or people illegally hoarding emotion crystals (oops) and if they catch you they kill you, no questions asked. Their flashlights also work as alertness indicators, turning from white to yellow when they grow suspicious, but the yellow very quickly turns to red if you linger even a second too long in their sights. They'll start chasing after you and seeking you out but, eventually, they'll give up and move back into their patrol paths.

If you're being chased, you can run away, hide in a locker, or lock yourself in another room. As long as you don’t run yourself into a corner, it works like a charm! If you get to a locker, they don’t tear you out of it and carry you to a hook. Instead, they mindlessly lose track of where you are and start angrily pacing, searching for you. The problem though is the waiting, you can’t very well look around and see if their red light has gone back down to a white one from inside the locker. Still though, sometimes your panic-running will even send you right on into progressing further in the game.

Graphics / Presentation

Environmentally, the artwork for this game was great. In what is likely the entire point of the design, the Eternal City has an underworld apocalypse vibe to it, similar to the alternate realities in Silent Hill; like a land being reclaimed by evil. Everything feels run down and broken, there are weirdly ominous vines that almost seem to have a mind all their own, things are murky and the whole space has an oppressing gloom to it. While it resembles the game’s “reality,” it is much more like the Upside Down version of it.

The animations are relatively smooth as well but when it comes to emotional expression, I was very glad to see Dorothea put on a mask. I mean this in the nicest way possible, Dorothea. I’m sorry, I know how it sounds, but Slenderman might have more facial expressions. What was odd though was, you remember that random old lady we kept bumping into? She had more facial expressions than any other character. At least, more than the ones not wearing a mask. Maybe it comes with age. I don’t know.

I’m just glad that there was an option in the audio settings to turn off Dorothea’s constant weird breathing noises.

Source: Author


Unholy is quite a short game, even with the clear time padding, but a short game is to be expected given the small development team and the amount of effort put into everything else. Even with my galavanting and pausing, it took me around 7 or 8 hours to complete. There were a lot of bugs, including a lagging and often jittery camera (especially upon game startup), enemies not being killed by what should clearly have been a fatal explosion, and occasional unresponsive controls ( specifically when trying to aim or shoot the slingshot) that were the biggest negative to my experience.

Despite the shortness of the game, the story was actually told very well, and the pacing of it was not rushed. The artwork and presentation were disturbing yet beautiful in a way only horror can be, and I enjoyed the unique feel of the interactions with the environment. I enjoyed the small details, like how the different emotions equipped would give the slingshot a different effect. There was a lot of attention and care given to Unholy’s overall aesthetic, especially in the environment, and it shows.

The puzzles were simple yet not something immediately solved, the game was decently difficult without being hard, and achievements offer some opportunity for replayability. If these things sound good to you and you don’t mind a few bugs, this game is definitely worth a try!


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