Them and us is a retro inspired horror puzzle game, and you can clearly see the inspirations from the likes of silent hill and the classic resident evil games both in the setting but also in the enemies and types of puzzles available alongside the fact that more often than not the next piece of the puzzle will be on the opposite side of the map from where you are.
This being said there are some quite glaring problems with the game, while you have the option to select your playstyle from first person shooter, and over the shoulder camera modes to retro camera’s with free movement or tank controls these are essentially split into 2 seperate games as some item drops and maps may be different between the two but there are far more glaring problems than these.
If you have chosen to follow the nature of the game in retro fixed camera mode, especially on hard mode where there is specifically said not enough ammo so you have to choose to run past some enemies you will start to notice some problems due to how the game is designed, far from the unintelligent expectations of zombies the game will fill rooms full of sprinting veloceraptor level intelligence zombies who delta split to cover all alleys of escape and ensure you cannot escape them while they sprint after you relentlessly, and while tank controls are suitable in smaller numbers when there are several zombies after you in narrow environments you’re forced to upgrade to free movement because turning in tank controls is too slow to evade such fast moving zombies.
With free movement you now have the issue of retro camera transitions, where the game has actively made it so that at every opportunity the camera flips back on it’s alternative axis to ensure every transition while you’re running from zombies flips you back towards the ones you just escaped, and because it doesn’t maintain trajectory while transitioning it adapts to say down was running away before but now down is running towards the zombie so time to revert back the way you came and often cause enough problems in transitioning a screen that you will get eaten by the pursuing sprinting zombies.
So this essentially rules out playing in classic mode because it’s too frustrating to deal with the camera transitions effecting your movement and you cannot use tank controls effectively quick enough because the zombies just sprint you down and are too intelligent to allow you time enough to ever turn and evade them and you will never get the opportunity to hurd them becausethey will split up to cover all exits rather than brainlessly pursue you.
Over the shoulder camera would fix all of these issues you would assume, and while that is the case that all camera problems are now resolved this is essentially a different game, as item spawns are different but also the entire control scheme is completely different to retro mode in such significant ways beyond different buttons, because simply different buttons and different item spawns you could adapt to.
The real issue that comes from over the shoulder camera is the fact that the game now does not want you to play this game in any way that people would play the classic games, and you are not only no longer expected to run away from zombies but you’re actively punished if you try to run past them as in this mode if a zombie gets close to you (and they will get close to you because if you try to avoid a zombie they will sprint after you and lunge at you to eat you because of how this game is programmed) In this mode howeer if a zombie gets too close to you it will switch you into a “locked on” mode expecting you to be in combat regardless of whether you’re trying to run around an enemy or not.
Combat mode is a significant issue because in this mode running is deleted entirely and nothing you do can switch it on, even if you have the “always run” checkbox enabled it will delete your run entirely, and the only way to get it back is for the game to not lock you on, and this often won’t even change if you leave a room only clicking L3 toggles this mode with any degree of guarantee because once a zombies gotten too close while you’re running safely past, and then the game goes nope you’re supposed to be in combat now so no running and then the zombie eats you. This problem did not exist in retro camera mode so is entirely unique to this mode and completely problematic forcing you to play in a completely different playstyle to adapt.
There is absolutely no way you’re able to run past zombies consistantly in this mode and the zombies continue to have the AI programmed to run at you and chase you and lunge to eat you, however the biggest issue comes with what happens when you decide to just be in combat and not run and to use the games knife weapon as suddenly in this mode it becomes the most overpowered nonsense in the world.
If you miraculously decide to just knife and sidestep around a zombie which nobody in the world would ever do in these games suddenly the zombies don’t know what to do and will just slowly saunter around you waggling their fingers in your face and it’ll be pretty rare that they’ll actually lunge at you to eat you (unless they’re very specific enemies like the first undead cultist boss) I found this rather annoying and frustrating as it forces you to play the game in a way that absolutely nobody plays these games (unless you’re resident evil 4 which is stagger then use dropkick nonsense which I refused to do in the entire game) this is not a fun way of playing and not in the spirit of the retro games which inspired this.
Now you might presume that this solves the issue however it’s not just the zombies that have an issue with you knifing them doing this move as more often than not the hit detection of zombies is just ridiculous and knives will just pass right through them, shots will often just not get detected on enemies and this becomes pretty problematic to make the combat entirely unfun after you’ve already been heartbroken by not being able to play in the retro mode in the way you would like to.
Beyond all of these problems there is the potential for a pretty good game in there, the setting and story are interesting and the puzzles can be good but there are also more issues with the puzzles that certainly occur within the game as more often than not there’s absolutely no way of knowing things like in the first room knifing the door doesn’t work and clicking on it with the correct items in your inventory don’t work but you have to know that only right next to the specific of two doors if you go into your inventory the knife gains a “use” option to allow you to use it to open the door (if it was always there but not available it’s more signposted, and clicking on the door while having the knife should just say use the knife to open so needlessly hidden and conveluted)
I should have known right then that there would be problems with the puzzles and the game but I continued on blindly wishing this to be the game I wanted it to be, and then more issues would arise for example there’s a podium to place an orange crystal on that you’re no way told and just have to know it goes on there (and it’s protected by a zombie too) and nobody would just trial and error that and will progress gate many people, and these issues do continue with many of the puzzles within the game where you will essentially have to trial and error what you have to continue
Again it doesn’t quite end there as sometimes inconsequential zombies will just have key items on them that you need in order to progress and you will not be told they have these, one example is a zombie in a cellar who just happens to wear a different robe in a room you can easily ignore the zombie and leave and you’re not locked into but you will need this item to later be able to operate puzzles, and other puzzles which you need to have read specific pieces of paper in order to even be allowed to interact correctly with items.
The game continues to ignore tropes of past where if there’s a boss you have to fight you will be locked in with them, and while it does initially lock you in with some bosses like the zombie cultist, the demon, and then the first instance of the groundskeeper it then ignores this when it’s a boss fight you have to defeat and every piece of paper you collect tells you “this guy is immune to bullets try to avoid him and ignore him” several times over, and you treat him like mr X or the nemesis (which he is clearly inspired by) and run away, now in the retro games if you are required to fight him you will be locked in with him and forced to and when you’re able to run away it’s time to save your ammo and not bother, however in this game there’s an instance where you’re outside the mansion in the gardens and encounter him again and once again you’re not locked in with the fog gates that get raised in forced boss fights and you get a paper in the literal room saying “just give him a wide bearth” however you actually have to take him down (and he takes so much ammo that the game acts like you’re not supposed to and is punishing you for trying) but he drops an essential key to progress the game and this is yet another soft lock that could be resolved by simply making it clear that you have to fight him at this point by locking you in with him.
One final gripe is a clear puzzle that has numbers written around a statue, where the numbers read 0171 and then there’s a safe that requires a number combination to open, now you would assume that the numbers required would be some series of that which radially is possible so you try every combination around the circle starting at every number, however the actual solution while using the numbers is something entirely impossible radially from the numbers shown, as in no way shape or form can you start at one point on the circle and type 1701 while walking around the circle but you are expected to figure out logically that this is the solution to the puzzle. I’m sure if you brute force every possible combination of the numbers or are just thinking like a braindead super intelligent veloceraptor demon hybrid zombie vampire cultist it makes sense, but logically it is not possible because it involves putting 2 numbers then jumping to the other side and going in reverse which is just utter nonsense for a game that tries to be logical.
Many of the puzzles can be quite arbitrary and at one point a worn old dry rope on a door can’t be cut with your knife to open but simply only burnt when using petrol and your lighter even though a knife would clearly cut old dry rope with ease. A lot of the awkwardness of how this all works just ruins the game with what could have been really good but just ends up completely disappointing. I really hate the way you’re forced to play one specific way and can’t be allowed to run from zombies as they’ll be super aggressive if you run but if you fight they’re just the worst braindead nonsense incapable of even biting you.
You will find a lot of gates that “can’t be opened unless you do the path of something” which actually gate you off from fully completing the game on a first playthrough also, so even though it will warn you of a “point of no return” by saying check out everything right before the end you will not actually be able to get the best endings on your first playthrough and will be forced to essentially play a second time through just to even get these, and even more arbitrary puzzles that seemingly could be solved like jammed doors which your lubricant could open but won’t even though it tells you it’s to be used on a door
There are easter eggs (or blatant ripoff of) not only retro games with the enemies being inspired by all the retro games mentioned but also puzzles sometimes include easter eggs like at one point it’s literally just the final part of fifth element but with pyramid rubix cubes as well as “fire burns, wind blows etc”
I do think if a lot of these issues were resolved this could be a really good game but if you’re coming in expecting to be able to have a retro experience you will be completely dissappointed and if you want to be able to run around zombies again you will be completely heartbroken as this game is only made for you to fight in combat with every single enemy, which is never the purpose of these games and especially so when this game does not give you enough ammo for the bullet hungry monsters you will face as the game progresses (not to mention the potentially annoying infinite life monsters if you don’t have the correct items to deal with them which run out quickly)
Them and us just left me disappointed rather than what could have been a really great game it just has too many frustrations and severely problematic things, so I cannot recommend this game even with finding ways around the issues it just continues to find new and plentiful ways to dissapoint, but if you want to check it out for yourself you should however if you’re looking for a modern retro game that is more enjoyable and better programmed you should check out my review of tormented souls as that’s a much better experience which I would rather recommend to you than this
However if you’re interested in checking this out for yourself go check out them and us for yourself on steam now at Save 50% on Them and Us on Steam (steampowered.com)