Running for my life down a dim and cluttered hotel hallway, I burst out laughing. This is the experience of The Upturned, a comedy horror game that many missed when it launched on Steam (opens in new tab) back in March.
Upturned got attention – it has over 300 Steam user reviews, most of them positive, and a few YouTubers have played it – but it might have received more applause in the mid-2010s, when offbeat games like Jazzpunk were more novel. (Releasing a month after Elden Ring might not have helped.)
However, it is not too late to correct this underestimation, and us is ghoul season is coming up soon, so it’s not a bad time for a scary game.
The Upturned begins with an unsettling name input experience (I don’t want to spoil it), after which you’re in familiar horror game territory: alone in a spooky forest armed with only a flashlight. This won’t last. Your first sign that this won’t be the tenor of your entire adventure comes when you find the unreasonably tall hotel where the rest of the game takes place. The hotel’s revolving door spins fiendishly fast, but your nondescript, shadowy little protagonist sneaks in anyway and sprawls out on the glass Bugs Bunny before being deposited in the lobby.
This combination of cringe-worthy comedy – rendered in a limited color palette that makes it look a bit like 3D Movie Maker – keeps the short adventure fun and funny. Your companion, narrator and general pain in the game is a strange creature named Ik, the bellhop and manager of the hotel. With Cheshire Cat meets Igor from Persona vibes, it directs you to the elevator, where your goal is to get to your room on the 1434th floor. Each floor you stop at along the way is a puzzle where you have to find a fuse to get the elevator moving again.
Overturned chokes wreak havoc on you from start to finish: Floors featuring power plants, cowboy saloons, and underwater megastructures are full of things that want to eat you, and the only way to buy the time you need to escape is to squeeze the clutter into their—but you might be interrupted in the middle of a fight by Ik calling you for permission to listen to some phat tracks. The spooky places are scary in a Dr Who way, with strange mannequins and unsettling cracks in the wall adding to the eeriness before all hell breaks loose.
You can find The Upturned on Steam (opens in new tab) or itch.io (opens in new tab) for $10. It’s been patched several times since its release, with bug fixes and a few additions, and its creator recently said they’ve started working on a new project. If you give The Upturned a chance, give the Shrimp some pets for me. And watch out for Lawrence, he’s a little eccentric.