DESPITE being too much of a scaredy cat to enjoy horror films, I’ve always for whatever reason never had too much of an issue with horror games. Admittedly, I still fall victim to the odd jumpscare here and there, but for the most part I fare okay. It doesn’t matter if it’s a well known horror game juggernaut such as Resident Evil, or lesser known indies such as Bendy and the Ink Machine and SOMA, I always find myself deeply engrossed and intrigued.
When I first saw the reveal trailer for The Fridge is Red, a bizarre looking psychological horror with nostalgia evoking PS1-era inspired visuals, I was immediately captivated by its retro look and expected the game to blow me away.
Unfortunately, The Fridge is Red had the complete opposite impact, as its boring gameplay, vague puzzles, confusing narrative, and glaring lack of actual scares results in one of the most bewildering games I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing.
The Fridge is Red sees you play as Frank, a struggling husband and father who repairs appliances as a side hustle, which in turn sees him come face to fridge with the ominous red appliance.
As you make your way through the game’s six chapters, which are accessible via items present in the fridge at the main menu, you will slowly begin to learn more about Frank, his wife Chloe, daughter Lori, and of course, the creepy big red fridge.
It’s clear that the family are having a bit of a rough time. Chloe is suffering from cancer and is essentially bed ridden, and Lori is struggling, as any child would be seeing their parents sick. Frank is drawn to alcoholism, presumably as a coping mechanism, which in turn leads to him being what can be assumed as a less than perfect father.
While the events you guide Frank through are otherworldly and bizarre, the final moments of each level appears to show the reality of the events you’ve just experienced, indicating that the unsettling events Frank tackles throughout the game may all just be hallucinations, other than the killer red fridge of course.
In saying that though, I’m not really sure, as The Fridge is Red’s narrative comes across as a jumbled mess that probably needs a YouTube explanation video to properly comprehend. Distressing puppet shows made by Frank’s daughter Lori can be found, and they do a great job at providing a base understanding of the state of the struggling family, but other than that, the rest is pretty much nonsense. Finding all of the puppet footage also provides an ever so slightly more satisfying ending, however it does little to fix a narrative that is too vague to easily comprehend.
Although the story doesn’t particularly hit in the way one would hope, the nostalgic low fidelity 3D visuals are pretty neat. As someone with a strong love for the primitive 3D graphics of the PS1-era, the console where I first cut my teeth on the gaming medium, I respect the modern revisit. The low resolution look with simplistic texturing paired also does a great job adding to the ominous nature of the experience overall.
The ugly truth about PS1 graphics however is that they’ve aged as well as skim milk in a haunted unpowered fridge, and your tolerance for the visual style will definitely be tested throughout the handful of hours required to see The Fridge is Red through to the end. The blurriness of the visuals can sometimes make things hard to see, which in turn amplifies the annoyance when trying to navigate the various pitch black areas in the game.
I for one still enjoyed the retro graphics despite their obvious drawbacks, and despite the fact that the visuals aren’t the best, I do feel that they lend themselves nicely to the game overall.
On the gameplay front, The Fridge is Red is a first person horror experience that is broken up into different levels. Other than the initial level “Fidgeted Sherri” which sees you frantically searching a room for fridge magnets to please the Red Fridge while keeping it in your sight to avoid being eaten, every other level is a walking simulator-esque journey through a different location.
Much like the narrative, the levels of The Fridge is Red and the happenings within them are confusing and poorly handled. Each level sees you exploring them for items to solve puzzles to progress further as plenty of games do, however The Fridge is Red manages to make most of the puzzles either bland and boring, or simply too convoluted and poorly signposted to be enjoyable.
Before I call out the bad, there is some enjoyable content worthy of credit. The level “For Daddy to Work” does do a great initial job of drumming up a sense of interest, taking you on an unsettling adventure through Frank’s workplace as he attempts to leave work for the day. It’s weird, somewhat unsettling, and atmospheric to boot, and does create a false sense of excitement that the game could be leading to something great. It isn’t perfect, but it does prove that The Fridge is Red’s idea for short horror experiences could have worked.
The aforementioned “Fidgeted Sherri” also provides a gripping and tense atmosphere the first time you play, however its impact is severely dulled on subsequent playthroughs due to its simple nature. Unfortunately, this is where the positives end, as the initial sense of intrigue and atmosphere all but evaporates as you make your way through the other levels.
The biggest offender here is the third level “Seaside” which sees Frank finding his way through a hospital to his wife in the oncology department. The initial goal is to retrieve the oncology department phone number by finding three phone books, with the three phone books hidden amongst what is basically an infinite loop of a select set of rooms.
The issue arises due to there being no real sense of direction to keep you on track, resulting in a tiresome slog where you meander aimlessly through rooms in order to find each book. It’s poorly executed, frustrating as hell to play, and ultimately sours the rest of the level, which doesn’t improve much at all anyway.
The other levels fare much the same, with “Goldi Vern” being another particular poor level mentioning. It starts out pretty interestingly, placing you in the driver’s seat of Frank’s car as he seeks a cafe for some coffee on a road trip. The level sees you driving back and forth between the objective area and the petrol station, with the mundane driving filling the majority of the journey. The outside of the car content sees you stealing a car part and hiding away from the owners of said part, but it doesn’t do much to drum up a sense of fear or enjoyment. It’s simply boring, and that is my takeaway from The Fridge is Red as a whole.
Although marketed as a horror game, and providing some moments of stress, I wouldn’t say that The Fridge is Red is particularly scary. It does get a bit wacky, and there are a few notably unsettling moments, such as the puppet show videos you can find in some of the levels, but for the most part, it simply doesn’t do enough to keep you scared and hooked.
I didn’t encounter too many bugs, however I did have one that left me frustrated, while also pointing out yet another of the game’s many flaws.
In the Seaside level, you’re required to collect some documents and return them to the receptionist in order to progress to the next room. While this task is as easy as it sounds, I accidentally dropped one of the documents, only for it to fall through the floor and become impossible to reclaim. It was a frustrating bug that was made even more annoying when I came to the realisation that the game has no checkpoint or saving system within levels, forcing me to have to play through the infuriating slog of a level all over again.
PS1-style graphics and a film grain filter make for a stylish retro look, don’t get me wrong, but they can only carry you so far when every other aspect of the game is as poorly mismanaged as they are here with The Fridge is Red. Heed my warning and give this one a miss.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron