Reveil Review – Puzzling Horror

Reveil Review

Playing through Reveil’s five chapters only takes a handful of hours. I mention this because games often try to be longer experiences than the premise allows. In Reveil’s case, form and content are in alignment. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, it’s mysterious and creepy and the story and puzzles end before becoming laborious.

What the Heck Happened?

Reveil is a game entirely dependent on narrative surprises and puzzle-solving. This means it’s hard to talk much about the story, but the basics are that you play as Walter Thompson. Walter wakes up with a headache and an uneasy feeling. His wife and daughter are nowhere to be found, but there are lots of intriguing clues scattered about. The game helpfully tells you what’s interactable and important to examine. Reveil’s puzzle-solving isn’t really dependent on pixel hunting but on paying attention and using just a bit of brain power.

Walter finds his way out of the starting rooms and from there on, things get tense, surreal, and mysterious in equal measure. For one thing, Walter’s house keeps organically changing form and location. A lot of Reveil also takes place in and around circus attractions like fun houses, halls of mirrors, and those halfway busted-down rides that shuttle guests around pop-up characters. There are enough unique locations and mechanics to keep the player interested and invested.

While Reveil has a walking simulator vibe a lot of the time, there are some chase sequences and a bit of stealth tossed in for variety. There’s also a pretty significant surprise along the way, but we’ll say no more. The five chapters are a little formulaic but the game ends before repetition really sets in.


One of the biggest problems with puzzle games is they’re one-and-done experiences. Once you’ve figured out a solution, there’s little reason to play again. To at least some extent, Reveil solves this problem by having collectibles, achievements, and several possible endings. Compulsive collectors and those wanting to maybe figure out a bit more of the story can play through again.

An issue I frequently have with puzzle games is that they’re rarely organic, with objects and clues laying about a little too intentionally, and everything else becoming set decoration. Reveil doesn’t entirely overcome this problem, but the circus setting does lend itself to some naturally occurring creepiness and the opportunity for psychological manipulation. There are some jump scares but Reveil is more about tension, mystery, and confusion than pure horror.

Undercutting some of the power of the unsettling narrative is the game’s script and voice acting. The voice-over is often too blandly expository and acted with a dispassionate tone that’s at odds with the story. It can sound like the lines were recorded without a sense of connection to the moment.

Circus Boy

Like in all of the best horror or mystery games, Reveil’s environmental audio and soundtrack are understated, tense and add to the atmosphere and action. The game’s art direction and graphics are sharp. The effective lighting and visual distortions in the circus scenes are appropriately unsettling. Personally, any game set in a carnival or a circus starts out at about an 8/10 on the creepiness scale for me.

Although true horror or explicit gore is nowhere to be found, Reveil’s gameplay is filled with tension, mystery, and some genuine surprises. Its many puzzles are fairly well integrated into the narrative and rarely too frustrating or illogical. Part walking simulator, part puzzle game, and part mind-bending mystery, Reveil is a genre-bender that packs a lot of story and memorable creepiness into its modest length.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***


The Good

  • Effective settings and art direction
  • Logical puzzles
  • Variety of mechanics
  • Interesting narrative

The Bad

  • Dispassionate voice acting
  • Can be formulaic at times
  • Very short