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Review: Granny

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 10 and up
Genre: Stealth / Room Escape
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2018
Review Published On: July 8th, 2021
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Steam

Save System:

There is no way to save your progress. You either escape, quit the game, or die. Depending on your skills, this can take up to an hour per game.

On the other hand, if you want to pause, all you need to do is press ESC to bring up the game's menu.

Summary of
Major Issues:

Scary images and bloody decor are the primary problems here, with violent actions being a distant second.

Screenshots

[view screenshot]
Time to run!

[view screenshot]
Car Mechanic Simulator - panicked hostage edition

[view screenshot]
Evening the odds



Game Overview

Escape the Room games aren't a new concept; even the earliest text adventures invoked the genre by using inventory puzzles as a way to prevent players from progressing towards their goals. Today, these games used a point and click adventure style interface, allowing the player to take all the time they need to look around, gather items, and solve the riddles holding them hostage. While Granny is also built around the concept of solving an elaborate inventory puzzle to escape, that's about as close to usual conventions as it gets.

This time, you have five days to make your escape. These "days" aren't a time limit per se, as they function more like a lives system. So, each day lasts as long as you need it to, only coming to an end when you get seriously injured or caught by the crazy old lady (aka, "Granny"). Note though that these failures are cumulative: each day, the player's character grows weaker and more banged up. They'll start limping on the second day, and by the end, your own blood will slightly obscure your vision. The five day limit comes from you being so beaten up that you literally won't survive another blow.

Which also brings me to the game's other core mechanic, namely, Granny herself. She's always tracking you down, trying to catch you as you move about. Whenever you make a sound, she'll hurry over to investigate, and there are plenty of things that make noise. Several of the floorboards creak, you can accidentally knock over furniture, and some areas even have bells rigged to tripwires. Worse, since you can only carry one item at a time, you'll often need to set something down in order to pick something else up, and that can make a lot of noise if you're not careful.

There's also an important point about this mechanic that needs addressed. Most stealth games tilt things in favor of the player. For example, if you alert the guards, you can quickly hide in a closet or something, and after a moment, the guards will just lose interest and wander away again. There are places to hide in this game, but Granny doesn't fall for this trick, and may even check the closet or under the bed before she moves on. This can frustrate new players, as other games have taught them to expect a more forgiving style of play.

Fortunately, you do have several ways get around this constant threat, though they might not be obvious at first. The main trick is to cause a distraction to lead Granny away from where you want to work. You won't have long, but if you can keep it up long enough you'll eventually find one of the weapons she has stashed away. None of them can actually stop her rampage, but they do knock her out for a short while, which may just give you the time you need to escape.

On a different note, it's fairly easy to tell that Granny began as a mobile game. The graphics are simple, the controls moreso, and the entire game feels rough and unpolished compared to most other games in the Steam library. But what's here works, and it really doesn't need anything more to provide a scary experience. In fact, the limited graphics might just work in the game's favor, as it keeps things from feeling too real.

Now, I'm a little hesitant to recommend this game. This isn't because it's a bad game -- it's actually pretty good -- it just that you can't easily pickup and expect to win. Unlike most of the stuff I've reviewed, players need to be willing to learn how to play this game. Otherwise, you're not going to have much fun. But, if you're willing to git gud, grab your headphones, turn off the lights, and start running.

Points of Interest

Randomized item layout
There are roughly five different possible layouts for the items in this game, and it cycles to the next layout in the set every time you start a new game. It's not true randomness, but it does make it tricky to memorize where everything is hidden. A lot of games like this don't even bother with this much effort, so it's definitely a perk here.
Two solutions
There are two ways to get away from Granny's house. The obvious one is the heavily locked front door, which requires a keycode, hammer, wire cutters, and two keys to breach. But, there's an alternative solution: in the sub-basement is an old, rusted out car. It needs a lot of work, but if you can find the items to fix it up, you'll be able to drive away -- through Granny, if needed.
Adjustable difficulty
This game is HARD. Fortunately, you can tweak the rules to make it easier. On lower difficulties, the floorboards don't creak, Granny moves slowly, and weapons knock her out for longer. There's also a practice mode, which eliminates Granny from the game altogether. On the other hand, if you want to make the game harder (including adding a new lock on the front door), that's an option too.

Then there's "Nightmare" mode. This setting makes the entire house appear bloody, and rats will be scurrying about. Stepping on a rat causes them to bite you with a loud squeak, alerting Granny to your location and temporarily inhibiting your movement!
Not just jump scares
Jump scares, while often effective, are basically the fart joke of horror media. They aren't present here, as everything that'll startle you is also a predictable and legitamate threat is its own right. A specific example would be the bear traps Granny leaves around. Stepping on one can be annoying on its own, but when Granny's closing in, they can become a serious problem!
Seems unoptimized
As simple as the graphics are, this game really made the computer heat up, much like I was running something like DOOM or Subnautica on the highest graphical settings. There doesn't seem to be anything here to warrant this level of effort on the computer's part, so that's a might worrying. I'm guessing the developer ported the game using a "code once, run everywhere" toolkit, and things like this are the price of easier developement.

Concerns and Issues

Graphic scenes
Granny's house is quite unkept. Aside from the paint coming off the walls and furniture, there's an awful lot of blood smeared around the place. The bathroom has the worst of it, with a bloody bathtub and sinks. You'll also see a quick flash of blood on your screen whenever your character gets injured, and as mentioned above, towards the end of the game, some of this doesn't go away.

If you fail to escape, Granny simply kills you at the end of the last day. These short cutscenes feature a number of nasty ways to die, such as being thrown face first onto a bear trap or getting placed into her guillotine (why does she even have a guillotine?!), but whatever method she chooses, the screen goes black right as the final blow hits.
Surprisingly mild violence
Despite all of the blood, actual violence is often shown very simply. For example, shooting Granny with a shotgun or the crossbow just makes her fall over. No blood, no gore. Likewise, her main attack involves swinging a bat at you, and the blow knocks you out almost instantly. There's also the matter of her "pet"; its attack doesn't even have an animation of its own -- it just touches your leg, you see a blood on your screen, and then you die.
Unexpected horrors
While you're exploring her house, you might run across three horrible things. The first is her pet, which is a giant spider. You can't hurt it or out run it. The best you can do is distract it. Thankfully, you only need to do this once. It also gives me some flashbacks to one of the first scary games I ever played as a boy, which also featured a giant, invincible spider.

The next bundle of joy is found in the sewers. It's the skeletal remains of another guest (probably the one that left the notes you can find). It's not too bad, but you might dislodge its skull when you go by, and seeing it slowly roll away is creepy.

Lastly, there are two hidden surprises that can be discovered if you place specific items in particular locations. One of them is a body suspended by chains like some sort of sacrifice, and the other is the ghost of a young girl (Granny?) who appears to cry over a crib. Finding either of these has no effect on the game, though if Granny gets very, very angry if she notices you carrying the teddy bear. From what I've read, one or both of these surprises are unique to the Steam edition of the game.