Created by Shadowshifters, a small indie team based in New Zealand, Huntsman: The Orphanage is categorized by its creators as 'alt-horror', meaning as it has little in the way of actual gameplay, and deals mostly with piecing together a complex and tragic overarching lore while also hiding and evading an unkillable enemy, the titular Huntsman.
As either one of two investigators, you decide, out of either curiosity or disbelief, to look into 'the legend of The Huntsman' by checking out the old creepy orphanage where it was said that he killed 12 orphans one fateful night. The place is now abandoned, and is haunted by the ghosts of the orphans and the adults that witnessed the horrors that went on there. You must communicate with these ghosts in order to piece together the story and set the spirits of the orphans free from their resting place, picking up small threads over time that eventually accumulate into a big overarching lore. Think Gone Home but with more danger, because The Huntsman will stalk you and hunt you over the course of the game, and it's never clear exactly where you are and aren't safe.
In its relatively short life on Steam, it has already proven to be a divisive game, with some praising its razor-focus on storytelling and creepy atmosphere, while others criticize the lack of gameplay hooks and that, rather than being able to explore as you listen to the ghosts, you have to simply stand and listen to them, because moving a single inch causes the audio to cut out. Not to mention, the game is buggy.
Huntsman: The Orphanage provides examples of:
- Character Portrait: Played straight in a very obtuse way: you don't actually talk to any characters per se, you only get to talk to their portraits hanging all over the orphanage.
- Dialog During Gameplay: This trope is entirely averted.
- Empty Room Psych: Of the tons and tons of rooms that you can access in the orphanage's interior, few of them contain anything at all.
- Exposition Break: Maybe the most over-the-top and controversial use of this trope to date: the entire game is one long exposition break.
- Foreboding Architecture: Right before you catch your first glimpse of The Huntsman, you'll find yourself surrounded by piles of discarded mannequin parts. Eventually you find yourself in a room with very real arms and legs hanging from the ceiling, and before you can even process what you're seeing, The Huntsman drops from the ceiling.
- Jump Scare: So far, this trope is mostly averted, although as The Huntsman becomes more prevalent in the final product, who knows?
- Late to the Tragedy: The game takes place a few years after twelve orphans were murdered by the titular Huntsman, causing the orphanage shut down. You arrive on the scene to investigate this 'myth' and you end up being tasked with setting the orphans' souls free from the orphanage. You must converse with the ghosts of both the dead children and the adults who were in charge of them at the time, in order to piece together what has happened, why it happened, and how to set all of the ghosts free from the orphanage once and for all.
- Locked Door: Averted. Nearly every door you see can be accessed from the word go. It's just too bad that there's never anything in most of them.
- Real Is Brown: In typical survival horror fashion, the game is pretty much entirely monochromatic, although it arguably helps set up the dreary mood the game is going for.
- Story Breadcrumbs: Played straight, although 'breadcrumb' is hardly an appropriate description of the bits of dialogue scattered throughout the orphanage. Every portrait you encounter will spout exposition at you for anywhere from five to ten minutes, and the only thing the player can do is sit completely still and listen; unless of course, you want to have no clue what's going on at all.
- Story-to-Gameplay Ratio: The only example of any kind of gameplay on display here is the initial exploration of the orphanage and the short sequences of The Huntsman stalking you in the hedge maze. Besides that, the game is essentially about listening to long-winded vignettes that only play while you stare intently at one spot.
- Violation of Common Sense: Look guys, helping orphans is fun and all, but do I really have to go into the hedge maze?