REVIEW: ‘Reveil’ – A Puzzling Plunge into a Disturbed Psyche

I hope you like the color red, Walter sure does

From the get-go, Reveil tells you exactly the type of game it will be. In the first real sequence of the game, you assume the role of a doting father, and obtain a key to open your daughter’s storybook. This key comes from solving a simple maze, the board of which reads: “Follow the path to unravel the mystery”. It’s a simple sentiment, but a compelling one. In fact, simple but compelling may as well be Reveil‘s slogan.


Reveil is a narrative-based linear puzzle game. Of course, this comes with all of the tropes that fill your typical puzzle game: walking down a lot of halls and sleuthing through clues to solve a greater mystery. In this chilling mystery, you are immersed into the role of Walter Thompson. You wake up and search for pills to aid your splitting headache, only to find that your daughter Dorie is nowhere to be found. Of course, your daughter must just be playing around, so you go out to find her. You wind up in a mind palace, seemingly of your own making, which always seems to circle back to the circus you met your wife Martha at.

Reveil makes great use of creepy environments to enhance the otherwise purposefully linear direction of the game. Most of the puzzles are somewhat simple, yet they are just as diverse. A design that prioritizes width over depth is very core to this sort of game, though it may not be for everyone.

Credit: Pixelsplit & Daedalic Entertainment

Solving Puzzles in an Immersive Environment

As aforementioned, the atmosphere is a particular highlight of Reveil‘s level design.  After all, the game dives headlong into “walking simulator” comparisons. Though not a downside, it simply has more focus on “puzzle” than “horror”. Thankfully, the developers employ a number of tricks and tools to a pretty strong effect. For one, there’s the classic function of turning around, and then turning back to find that your environment has changed entirely. This serves for a good spook or two aside from the several small jump-scares the game employs.

The game improves a lot around the time it implements the even more classic Hall of Mirrors. From this point on, both the puzzle and horror aspects turn up. The environments get more disorienting, the puzzles more challenging, and you even find yourself faced with a death-loop-causing enemy to hide from.

Speaking of which, the stealth sections designed around this sort of enemy was the only piece that felt definitively out of place. This is simply not a stealth game, nor is it a game where the player dying ever really felt like the major problem at stake. Thankfully, dying in these sections doesn’t lose you very much progress. It simply resets to the starting bedroom, which is just another nice touch for disorienting the player.

Credit: Pixelsplit & Daedalic Entertainment

Horror Hides Heavy Subject Matter

Nobody ever said the horror genre was all sunshine and rainbows. That goes as much for Reveil as it does any other game, and I don’t just mean for those of you who may be scared of clowns. Most of the scarier sections are welcoming enough to the faint of heart. For my money, the scariest segment during a late-night playthrough contains the flashing lights around figures covered in black cloaks.

The story suggests at some internal family issues that actually served as rather chilling for the first half. It makes the player question just how unreliable of a narrator Walter is. Could the reoccurring headache pills and scattered glass bottles foreshadow a theme of substance abuse? Well, not quite. By the time you “encounter” both of the family members you’re searching for, Reveil really begins to blur the line of reality. The monstrous forms you begin to hide and run from draw even more questions than answers. And oh lord, are there answers.

While that may have been my own train of thought, your own will certainly differ. Either way, the second half of the game dives into a mind-melting plot twist that is certainly worth not spoiling. While your own theorizing of Walter’s situations may start to paint a picture, it certainly won’t prepare you for the final chapter and the endings that ensue.

Final Thoughts

Reveil is a game where the scenery far outweighs the scares. It’s easy to be more engrossed in getting to the bottom of the disorienting web of Walter’s psyche than you will be with the difficulty of any given puzzle.

Just around halfway through this relatively short experience, the specter of a fortune teller states: “But if it is not your future you seek, maybe the path before you can lead to your past.” This is a perfect summary of the game’s theme and the method the player must use to solve Walter’s mystery.

Reveil isn’t earth-shattering, and it isn’t made for everyone. However, it is certainly a good time. With impressive set dressing and a game design that uses its own linearity to enhance the creeping feeling, you won’t disappoint yourself by playing this for a late night or two.

Reveil, from developer Pixelsplit and publisher Daedalic Entertainment is available now on both consoles and Steam.

A relatively standard delve into genre that will be a fun time for any late night playthrough.