“If Minecraft and The Exorcist had a lovechild, what would it look like? A survival horror set in a voxel based world with a no-nonsense monster hunting priest solving puzzles in a haunted mansion? Cool, sounds fun!”… must have been how the conversation went between the Shotgun With Glitters design team as they set about developing The Padre. Taking a jaunt into the boxy supernatural might not sound like the greatest idea to begin with, but step into the clerics shoes in this intriguing puzzle game and you’ll find it’s not as ridiculous as it might sound.
Taking the role of the titular padre, you’re a demon hunting badass that’s in search of a cardinal missing from the church. With your job being to save the souls of the corrupted and send evil back from whence it came, you head out on the road to track him down. Several days of searching and our weary priest spies a mansion where he might find rest and respite before continuing on, though little did he realise what he was getting himself into. Without his monster slaying equipment, but accompanied by a book containing the soul of his dead brother, it’s up to Sandro to find out what’s going on in the mysterious place before figuring out how to escape. Here begins a jaunt through a haunted building that can be as lethal as it is headscratching.
The Padre is sort of a survival horror in that there are monsters to kill, weapons with limited ammo and health top ups to collect, but really this is a puzzle game at heart. It weirdly puts me in mind of Jet Set Willy from my Speccy days where each room feels self-contained with obstacles and collectables, yet is clearly part of the whole as your journey continues. It also stands out as a homage in some respects to Resident Evil, though that might simply be down to the zombies in a mansion theme. Of course, there’s lots of inspiration from other games (and movies too), and it wears these on its sleeve. Whether it’s in objects picked up, the design of a room, or the pretty constant narration from Sandro, there’s a lot of them to take in.
Spotting pop culture references isn’t the main part of the game though, it’s all about successfully solving a puzzle to head to the next part of the house, or to backtrack and unlock a door from earlier. These are typically logic based puzzles and interaction with the environment, and whilst they aren’t mind melting, there’s a decent amount of thinking and reading to get through some of them. Trial and error is an option, but if you’re heading down that route then it’s worth checking in with the book containing your brother’s spirit which acts as the hint system. That’s if it’s feeling co-operative, it might just go for a witty put down instead.
For combat things are kept very simple – it’s one button for melee and shooting, and an alternate that either blocks or aims depending on the weapon. It isn’t the best if I’m honest, with melee being effective, yet hard to judge distance and angle, and that’s assuming you’re not getting interrupted by the enemy. Firearms are better, though the pistol is arguably less use than a crowbar, so stick to the more powerful things that get picked up. Should you succumb to the zombie onslaught then it drops you into a respawn area that allows you to pick from the four most recent saves so that you can try again or go for a different approach. It has a limit though, when you fill up your vial of angel tears it’s game over for good and all progress wiped (if you’re observant, there are ways to empty the vial and avoid this).
I’ve got to give The Padre credit that for all its simplicity in art style, it really manages to nail ambience and tone in the setup. Character voices are solidly acted, the environments colourful when needed, and dark and creepy where necessary. Audio design is quite nice too with a purely classic horror score tinkling along in the background at just the right pitch to set the scene. Certain sound effects are ramped up a touch so that they overpower the rest and grab your attention, though it’s used sparingly so that it doesn’t become the norm. It’s a well put together format that pays dividends in its semi-isometric style.
It’s one of those games that’s easy to go in with no real expectations of story or type and end up being pleasantly surprised by what’s been served up. The Padre isn’t really groundbreaking in its story and twist reveals, nor its fetch quest nature, but it manages to feel fresh with the graphical and tonal approach – and it never takes itself seriously. If you’re on the lookout for a retro-ish adventure that provides a couple of surprises in presentation with a few laughs to accompany them, then I’m preaching to the choir. The rest of you can ignore it, but I can’t guarantee the safety of your soul.
A PS4 review copy of The Padre was provided by Shotgun With Glitters PR team, and the game is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch for around £17 depending on platform.