The Tartarus Key is the rare game that’s able to faithfully recreate an older, chunky 3D aesthetic while still establishing a unique voice of its own. Its brainteasers won’t pose much of a challenge to seasoned puzzlers and its endings are rather abrupt, but the intriguing mystery, variety of puzzle types, and brisk pace work together—much like the characters trapped in the mansion themselves—to ensure a ride worth taking.
The Tartarus Key is a good experimental indie horror venture. It never outstays its welcome and creates a thrilling, brooding experience that never cheapens itself with jump scares. Feeling a little existential in its atmosphere, this too is bolstered by the low poly PS1 era art style the game is going for. Though not every puzzle is the most fun to work through, they are at least all well thought out with plenty of fun quirks that work well with the escape room vibes. I enjoyed being in the heat of the moment, feeling something in my brain click when I solved a brain teaser and it resulted in rescuing another character’s life. Rounding it out is a fun cast I’m needing to see more of, with Alex as a force of nature of a horror protagonist. Rest assured, The Tartarus Key is a secret little gem that should be high on indie horror fans’ lists.
While the puzzle difficulty here won’t send most players to online guides, they’re still fun to tinker with, and opening up more of The Tartarus Key’s mansion soon becomes its own reward. Combat mechanics or other challenge elements may have added more spice to the experience, but the game serves as an accessibly light adventure game which is even more fun played alongside a friend to call out puzzle tips or clown on the script. A great ending sequence rounds out the experience, making The Tartarus Key a worthy throwback that doesn't waste time.
Very little about it is new or unique, but it’s well-executed, and that’s an accomplishment in its own right. It’s maybe about 4-6 hours long, which means it doesn’t drag out. Unless you get stuck on a puzzle, but that’s your problem.
It’s good that The Tartarus Key squeaks by on the strength of its puzzles alone, because the connective tissue between them seems determined to strip the game of narrative intrigue before our very eyes.
If you're allergic to puzzle games, though, it's not a gentle introduction to the genre. Depending on the ending you get, it might feel a little abrupt at the finish, but there are some puzzles in there that feel revelatory to solve. You feel smarter than one of those sheltered Mensa kids whose parents force them to learn to play the tuba. I figured out that bit with the blood serums, godammit, I should be eligible for lifetime membership of your little genius-person club without any tests.
SummaryThe last thing Alex Young remembers is being at home alone in her apartment... so why has she suddenly woken up in this strange mansion?
All the doors are locked by bizarre puzzles and traps, there are cameras following her every move, and she keeps thinking she sees... things... out of the corner of her eye. If she wants to escape aliv...