This is a confusing review to write, largely because The Padre is a confusing game. Not in terms of its design or its gameplay; it’s a traditional survival-horror game that pays homage to the likes of Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark. What’s confusing is…well, I’m battling to even put into words.
Did I enjoy my time with The Padre? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. Would I play through it again? Yeah, I think I would. Is it, in my totally subjective opinion that in many ways could seen as incorrect, a good game? Yes, I think it is. Is it a good game because it meets the criteria a survival-horror should achieve and excels in its design and polish? No, I don’t think so.
Look, The Padre is a budget title. Not just for your purse, but for the people making the game. It’s very clearly been worked on by a very small group of people that, if my research is correct, were working long distance and separate from one another to make this game. There’s no huge budget that’s been funnelled into recreating photo-realistic graphics or buying the rights to well-known pieces of music, and you can see it. The stylised, voxel graphics are charming from the outset, but the use of such a style doesn’t equate to the most blood-chilling of scares. To be honest, I’m not even sure if The Padre wants to be scary. If it does, it’s trying to do so in the same way The Evil Dead 2 was scary, which is to say, it wasn’t. It has horror themes and elements of gothic horror stories, but these elements are put at odds with how goofy the whole experience is.
Everything from the – for want of a better descriptor – comical graphic style to the silly one-liners our protagonist constantly throw out by our protagonist, The Padre feels like it’s not trying to take itself too seriously. “Groovy”, “Holy Cow” and “Son of a Motherless Goat” are just a handful of the type of familiar expressions our good priest uses and delivered in the impossibly gruff voice of the person playing him, they sound quite hilarious. This game made me smile a lot, but it wasn’t because I was totally engrossed in the world The Padre was offering me. It was a humour derived from what felt like a Monty Python sketch quickly converted into a horror movie, all the silliness being converted to serious overtones with the jokes sort of crammed in at the last minute.
So survival horror probably isn’t the best label for The Padre. If anything the game reminds more of 90’s adventure games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango rather than the scarier franchises it’s clearly trying to evoke. From the fixed camera angles to the puzzles that see the player collecting an odd assortment of items to cobble together some kind of solution, the game really does feel like a budget Lucasfilm title. I’m not a marketing expert but I think pursuing that line of advertising and design would have yielded a title that not only knew what it was trying to do but had a consistency in its tone that was desperately needed.
That being said, I don’t think The Padre is a bad game. It’s confused, low-budget, unpolished and struggles in the writing department but not in any way that made it unplayable or made me angry. In fact, there was a part of me that kind of enjoyed those hit-or-miss elements. I was tempted to use the analogy of the “so bad it’s good” movie, the type like Troll 2 that is so unbelievably poor that you can’t help but laugh at their earnest failure. But that doesn’t fit The Padre. It’s nowhere near incompetent enough to fill such a gap, but I don’t think it especially excels at either. The best way I can describe this game as is charming.
Charming not for the environments or the gameplay, charming because while I was playing I was so firmly aware that this was some people’s baby. The lack of polish, the little bugs and silly errors, all reminded me that a group of people with no other motive than to make a game sat down and did the damn thing.
There’s no ulterior motive at play, no microtransactions or overblown grind affair to sell loot boxes. It’s a passion project that a dedicated team have been working on in their spare time to put their work out into the world. I enjoyed the bad in this game because it was a reminder that on the other end there were people who were working on this.
Perhaps that’s not the clearest way to review something, talking about how you much you enjoyed the human element of it. But I’m hear to give my impressions on games and I like to think I offer something a little more outside the box. The Padre isn’t a great game, but it’s not bad either. It’s a thoroughly human game that oozes charm from every pore, even if the experience that oozes said charm is a slow, clunky adventure game. I think it’s a great reminder of the people who make the art we consume. I believe that’s something you just can’t see in many games these days and for that, I thoroughly appreciate The Padre.
Last Updated: April 23, 2019