In Serena, you play as an unnamed protagonist who is wondering where his wife has gone. For the entire game, you reside in a small cabin that you’re unable to leave. Beautiful shafts of light penetrate the dusty windows into the inner atmosphere of your tiny game world. There is a concession to be made about the level of freedom. While I would have liked to leave the little cabin at least some point during the game, the reason for your imprisonment slowly unfolds; and is a logical step to emphasising the premise of solitude.
Serena has an unyielding obsession with the details. While other games may resort to the atypical jump scares, Serena goes in the opposite direction (Cosmic Horror? – Lovecraft Ed). It picks away at your soul. It slowly embellishes this emotion of sadness and frustration, you can’t help but feel succumbed to. It’s accomplished in the most extraordinary of ways. Rather than proverbially drowning you in information, it prefers to slowly and carefully reveal its unsettling narrative. Gone Home is another example of this. Notes, images and objects have just enough subtlety to put you at unease. Our protagonists dialogue slowly begins to devolve into an aggressive and unsympathetic poem of indulgence and relationship problems. The narrative is a mine and the developers give you the pick-axe, if I was to symbolise it as so.
Serena contains all the key ingredients for a spectacular atmosphere. In the beginning, the sound of the birds in the trees is beautifully crafted. The music is good also. There is a melancholy tone which makes you vulnerable to anything that might occur. Visually it is spectacular also; albeit the colours do remain monotone, I think this was the right thing for this sort of game. The correct pallet induces the right feelings in players; none more so than Serena.
Ultimately it is a very short game, 40 minutes on my count. Regardless of its length, its story and superb voice acting is something to be experienced. It’s fucking horribly frightening too. Without the atmosphere it would not be anywhere near as well structured as it is. Pick it up for free on Steam.
– Luke Kennedy