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AFFECTED: The Manor's new Darkness Update.. Worth your Time and Money?

AFFECTED: The Manor is a unique VR horror title, straddling the line between game and experience. It’s best described as a haunted walkthrough. The virtual equivalent of a haunted house. The player travels a path through the manor, pelted by spooks and jump scares, with little interaction. This is intentional, as the lack of agency heightens the tension.

When I first tried AFFECTED upon its release for Quest back in December, I was greeted with two doors in the entry hall of the manor. I went through the door on the left, which was a new, self-contained experience of about 15 to 20 minutes. On a second playthrough, I chose the door on the right, which took me to the original, “The Manor” experience. Now, with the launch of Quest 2, The Darkness update adds a third unique experience, just in time for Halloween.

Going down the left-hand path in the manor blind, I was genuinely scared. I had my hands raised protectively near my face and had my whole body tensed as I traversed the halls. Frequently, I needed to peek out through the nose hole beneath my headset to reassure myself I was safe inside my living room in real life. There were multiple effective jump scares, a few encounters with ghostly entities, and plenty of poltergeist activity with books and furniture flying through the air. In multiple instances, I screamed, ducked and covered my head, or ripped out my earbuds in a panic. There were also moments that made me drop my guard a bit and muse, “that’s pretty cool,” which were nice breaks in the tension.

Navigating the right-hand path was slightly less unnerving, simply because I was already familiar with the content and had an idea of what to expect. Nevertheless, I had panic moments in this path, as well. I had a bit of confusion at the end of each path, wondering whether I had “died” before making it to the end, or whether I had reached the conclusion. As it turns out, you cannot die in AFFECTED: The Manor, and everyone suffers the same fate at the end of each path, as “no one survives.”

The Darkness is the most recent update to this title, taking advantage of the capabilities of the Quest 2 to provide dynamic shadows, which add to the realism and atmosphere in the game. In the new path added with this update (accessed separately from the rest of the manor in the main menu), the player carries a small candle as their only light source. And occasionally, the candle flickers out leaving you momentarily in pitch black. Even if you don’t have a Quest 2, you can access the new path on the original Quest, as I did. Again, there were tense moments, jump scares, and one encounter with an entity that elicited a particularly shrill scream from me. However, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t find anything new in the way of theme or setting. It was mostly more of the typical books, baby dolls, and children’s rooms.

In the revamped menu are a few new options including multiple languages as well as a skin tone selector, which I found particularly thoughtful. As a woman, I know it can be a bit immersion breaking to look down in certain VR titles and see obviously manly hands. So, I’m sure players with darker skin colors will similarly appreciate not being stuck with white hands, particularly in this update which has you holding a candle out in front of you the whole time.

Now, upon playing through a path a second time, the tension and fear had completely evaporated. Everything happened the same way, with the same jump scares right on cue. So, there’s little value in replaying a path. However, where the replay value lies in AFFECTED is in letting friends and family try it. Assuming everyone's a willing participant and wants to try something scary, it can be hilarious to watch your friends and family members reactions to the jump scares. Additionally, there's The Gauntlet mode, added back in July, which is a speed run version of the experience and includes procedural elements for a slightly different variation with each run.

AFFECTED: The Manor is a VR horror classic that just keeps adding content. Every update has been included at no additional cost, currently including three distinct paths of 15 to 20 minutes each, for 45 minutes of solid content. You also have The Gauntlet mode as well, all for $9.99 – a bargain in my opinion. The horror elements can get a bit tropey and repetitive, but the scares are real, and the title is perfect for letting others experience horror in VR. I highly recommend AFFECTED to anyone brave enough to give it a try.

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