Skip to main content

This indie about the horrors of social media is a perfect Halloween game

Shorter indie games have become a recent favorite of mine, and with Halloween on the horizon, I’d been on the lookout for some different horror games that I hadn’t played yet beyond the classic titles that make the rounds every year. I stumbled across #influenced, a “slow-burn horror story in kinetic novel format,” in September — and I was immediately sold. I always find myself enjoying games that incorporate social media in some way, whether that’s through making it an interactive play element or using the game’s story to dig a little into our own relationship to social media. And the added bonus of horror elements definitely doesn’t hurt!

The game offers a mix of both of these things through the lens of upcoming influencer Dolly Pearson’s story as she tries to make it big on Instapix, the in-game social media site. Little does she know that things are about to take a very unexpected turn in her influencer journey — making her question just what she would do to make it big.

Related Videos

With about 30 minutes of gameplay total, #influenced offers a linear experience that slowly reels you in with bright character and game design while infusing an overwhelming sense of unease the further into the story you go — making it a perfect spooky title for pre-Halloween play.

Everything starts out normal, until it isn’t

Starting out with a follower count of 5,000, Dolly soon manages to befriend Vanessa John, a well-known Instapix user who has over 800,000 followers. Things go relatively normal for a bit: Dolly and Vanessa become friends, chat about their online profiles, and eventually Dolly asks Vanessa for some help.

This is where the mysterious figure known as Mr. A. comes into play. Mr. A. is Vanessa’s agent, who she swears by, and she puts Dolly and him in contact. He goes on to provide Dolly with different tasks to complete that he assures her will help her to gain followers.

Now, the first task he gives her is to just give herself a haircut. That’s nothing too wild — people share their new haircuts online all the time. And Dolly does see a jump in followers afterwards, so there’s nothing suspicious there, right?


A young woman in a pink sweater and tank top and jeans holds her phone. Her hand is bandaged and missing a finger. Blood can be seen on her sleeve. She looks tired. Messages fill the center screen between her and a Mr. A.

If the suspenseful music playing during each interaction Dolly has with Mr. A. isn’t enough to go by, Dolly’s own questioning of his methods each time they speak is an indicator all on its own.

But what I really enjoyed as I played through #influenced was the fact that while Dolly questioned things she was asked to do, she still did them. This reminded me of a lot of characters we see in horror movies that do something that you 100% know they shouldn’t do. Each task only got worse, and you really see that wearing Dolly down as the game goes on. Initially, Mr. A. only asks her to chop her hair off, but from there, things quickly escalate into self-inflicted body mutilation territory.

A kinetic novel that aims to unsettle

While gameplay in #influenced is pretty simple (a kinetic novel follows a linear story and doesn’t provide players with any choices to make), that simple gameplay doesn’t feel like it takes away from the game in any way. Oftentimes in visual novels, it can be easy to get caught up on the decision-making process to ensure that you get your preferred ending. But with #influenced presenting only one ending, I found that it was even easier to get caught up in the story and the unraveling of urban horror as it happened.

The inability to make choices might not be preferable in every visual novel, but it really works in favor of #influenced’s particular story — especially since it is on the shorter side

And on the note of short playtime, that’s another element of the game that works extremely well. The game’s story and horror unfolds slowly, but is well-paced and unfolds primarily through Dolly’s DM’s with Vanessa and Mr. A. The slow rolling out of horror you see through Dolly’s social media use keeps you on edge,; especially when you remember that she’s interacting with Mr. A., a literal faceless profile.

Two young women, one with short brown hair and wearing a pink dress and the other with long blond hair wearing slacks and a button up shirt, are smiling as they stand together. A social media post with their selfie takes up the right side of the image.

I thoroughly enjoyed the slow spiral of following Dolly through progressively questionable and scary moments that came to a very satisfying peak at the end of the game. This is an engaging, short game that’s perfect for players who are looking for a small dose of horror that doesn’t involve a massive time commitment or the need to be on the lookout for jump scares around every corner.

I’d recommend checking it out if you’ve been on the hunt for a new horror game that’s off the beaten path this Halloween, or if you’re a fan of visual novels. It’s a great indie gem that packs a unique story into a horrifying package.

The #influenced game is available on for free or “name your own price.”

Editors' Recommendations

The Devil in Me is the most interactive Dark Pictures game yet
Kate gasps in The Devil in Me.

Each new entry in Supermassive Games' and Bandai Namco’s The Dark Pictures Anthology is incrementally better than the last. Last year’s House of Ashes was the most enjoyable entry I’ve played thus far, as the game had noticeably improved lore and cast of characters. While it would have sufficed to tell another good story in The Devil in Me, Supermassive added one extra twist that makes the upcoming Dark Pictures entry much more engaging than the ones before.

Having played two hours of The Devil in Me, the standout feature is that characters can now move objects around in the environment and pick up tools. In previous games, this was mostly limited to just picking up collectibles and opening up doors. Moving around objects and picking up tools seem like inconsequential features since they’re pretty standard in most horror games, but their inclusion in this game feels like a big step forward for the series, adding a new dimension of horror.
New cast, new tricks
The Devil in Me follows five characters who are part of a documentary film company called Lonnit Entertainment. The crew is shooting the season finale of their documentary series that focuses on the serial killer H.H. Holmes. Coincidentally, the crew gets invited to a modern-day replica of the killer’s “Murder Castle” hotel.

Read more
Trying to find the right scares for you? Here’s a guide to horror game subgenres
The xenomorph finds its prey in Alien Isolation

When it comes to video game genres, it can feel like reading a different language. Every major genre has multiple fractures and splinters coming off of it, such as RPGs being broken down into JRPGs, WRPGs, CRPGs, ARPGs, and more. Horror is no exception, though the way it's been carved up like a jack-o'-lantern is especially notable. It isn't unique that horror games use subgenres to describe mechanics, however, those classifications can pull double duty. They communicate how the games will attempt to scare you.

The major horror subgenres in games are typically broken down into four categories: survival horror, stealth horror, action horror, and perhaps the most highly regarded (and likely misunderstood), psychological horror. You could break these down into even more granular sub-subgenres, but these encompass the vast majority of what the genre has to offer. Not sure what type of horror is for you? Let's break down each subgenre and dissect how they instill fear in players.
Survival horror

Read more
The Devil in Me might be the scariest Dark Pictures game yet
The Devil in Me cover

While I love Supermassive Games’ standalone horror projects such as 2015’s Until Dawn and this year’s The Quarry, I am less enthused by the studio’s The Dark Pictures Anthology series. Man of Medan and Little Hope were boring as they lacked interesting characters and offered unsatisfying lore behind their antagonists; however, the third installment, House of Ashes, had a likable cast and some genuinely fascinating lore. With Supermassive finally finding its footing with The Dark Pictures Anthology, I was looking forward to what the next anthology entry and season one finale, The Dark Pictures Anthology: The Devil in Me, offered.

I got a hands-off preview for The Devil in Me, presented by Bandai Namco and Supermassive’s game director, Tom Heaton, as the latter explained the inspirations for this upcoming title and how it looked to improve on the formula. Each of the characters in the main cast has a more distinct role to play within the overall dynamic of the group, making them memorable. Also, its murder house setting and new interactive gameplay mechanics, including puzzles and traversal, might make it the most engaging Dark Pictures game to date.

Read more