- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2014

Trapped in his iPad, a gamer attempts to solve the puzzling psychological horrors of the unknown in the mobile mystery In Fear I Trust (Chillingo and Black Wing Foundation, rated 17+, $2.99).

As a volunteer of the Horizon Initiative, an apparent human-enhancement project tied to the KGB back in 1984, a player wakes up as test subject No. 17 but has no memory of how he ended up in a medical-research facility.

Through a first-person perspective, he must wander around, find written clues, collect objects, trigger a flashback and retrieve memories to slowly unravel the eerie story tied to biological experimentation.

Punctuated with bloodstains and scribbles on walls, trays of surgical instruments, pools of blood on floors, operating tables and the occasional cadaver and ghostly apparition, it’s a visual nightmare for the participant as he moves from laboratories to plush offices and eventually an abandoned school.

However, the atmosphere never attains the creepiness or grotesque levels found in similar genre efforts such as the television show “America Horror: Asylum,” nor does the action ever get violent, making someone feel they are caught in an nail-biting infestation like in the video game Dead Space.

Instead, what players get is the horror of having to solve multiple puzzles that would make mathematical- and logic-challenged individual’s weep.

A particular numerical conundrum early on, which required depressing the correct sequence of rods into an electrical panel to open a door, made my brain hurt. I had to actually pull out a pencil and piece of paper and write down potential solutions.

It actually gets worse later on with a puzzle tied to figuring out how to illuminate a series of spokes that is part of a massive vault door. Solving the sequence requires either a conference with a group of number theorists or blind luck. I chose blind luck after about 20 minutes of wheel twisting and button pushing.

The participant’s only power besides deduction is called retrospective. This sort of memory or clue-inducer gets enacted when two fingers pinch away on the screen. A haze covers the location and highlights lit areas that might lead to listening to a cassette recording or honing in on an objective.

Adding to help solve the mystery and puzzles, our patient, or experiment, gets easy to access journey housing everything he has found. All objects such a key for a door, an old photograph, a hastily written note, a flask with purple liquid, to name a few, can be carefully examined or read through a 360-degree perspective and simple text display for documents.

Despite the game’s difficulty, figure at least a few hours of explorative action, developers do a great job using the touch-screen functionality of Apple’s magical tablet.

Use a pair of virtual analog sticks on the iPad screen to slowly move about, or tap an area and walk there immediately. All of the puzzles require on-screen tactile responses such as using fingers to roll tumblers, turn door keys, twisting valves, pressing buttons, rotating hoses and tapping on piano keys, for example.

Additionally, lovers of an aural fright are in for treat. Pop in the ear buds and listen closely as Black Wing Foundation throws in near every combination of sound effects to set a claustrophobic mood and a few hair-raising surprises.

Nearly every sound tries to elicit a shiver — be it a door creaking, water dripping, an ominous musical chord, moaning, heavy breathing, weeping, a choir emoting (plucked from “The Omen”), church bells ringing loud enough to shake the screen, wind blowing and a crow cawing.

Although the action In Fear I Trust will keep the puzzle fan on the edge of his seat, it never attains the genuine horrors seen in comparable titles (reference The Walking Dead from Telltale Games) and will not entice seasoned gamers looking for a mobile fright.