I’m pretty sure this creator is more well known for their game 10 PM- which was that charming little experience of speaking through pictures and signs to a caretaker as a little scared boy. The Second Floor is a pretty sharp deviation from that cozy, (if slightly ominous in terms of wondering what the original trauma was and what on earth the older brother(?) does in his spare time) tight knit experience. Think: roaring monsters, picking your way through poorly lit backrooms, and timidly ransacking the dead.
I liked it a lot. I was a little hesitant going in- I’m a little picky when it comes to zombie media. I don’t really enjoy the shoot em up’s and lean more so on having fun with systems management ala Project Zomboid, and the fussiness of keeping someone alive at the end of times. That meant this game was right up my alley! It is very accurately billed as ‘atmospheric zombie horror.’
Something I’d really commend the piece on was making me feel genuinely on edge and nervy about what to pick up. The threat of being bogged down by too much scavenged nonsense and eaten alive by the dead was really convincingly conveyed, and I found myself picking through rooms and circling back to swap out better items, or foregoing what would have been a ‘nice to have’ but not a ‘need.’
The game actually closes out before you’re given a chance to see if what you hauled out was actually useful or not, and there doesn’t seem to be a penalty for if you decided to be silly and only scoop up heavy towels or something, but I enjoyed the openness to allow your own curation of what you felt was useful. I mostly focused on water, a bit of food, random little tools, some clothing, a touch of medicine and self care items (like soap) and still came in at a cool 71%, while being pretty conservative and leaning more on the water.
I liked being able to make up a little backstory in my head as to why my character was stuffing what they did into their backpack, and imagining them fumbling around to store everything efficiently while tensely on edge and unaware of what was waiting in the rooms to be looted up ahead was wonderful. I feel sort of bad for my character, since I forced them to find all of the bodies, no matter how much they complained about the smell- but the deaths were very touching, and trying to piece together who they might have been before they met their ends was really immersive.
The tile approach was nice for guiding me about, since I fumbled around like a bit of a fool while clicking towards the letters blindly. I’m not really a hardcore gamer or anything, so I tend to be a bit slow on the pickup- having the letters signal goals of where to go alongside the compass system made it a hell of a lot easier to orient myself around the rooms.
The helplessness that underpins the piece -not having much by the way of weapons, needing to get out before it turns dark, the fear the character has and reluctance in approaching the bodies- helped set the stage for me nearly jumping out of my seat at the roar of the monster stuck behind the door. Knowing it was in there and between me and the exit made me rush through the rest of the rooms, petrified it would bust its way through- kicking up the ante several notches. It was a good transition to the mad scramble for your life after you choose to get the hell out of dodge with your goodies- from the tense, slow build up of anxiety and nerves in shuffling around items and trying not to stare at dead bodies, to the sprinting for your life like a mad man while cursing the weight of water.
I would recommend playing The Second Floor if you like: piecing together environmental storytelling cues, and enjoy more of the inventory management fussiness of zombie survival horror rather than a bloody brains bashing in fest.
You can play the game here: The Second Floor by litrouke