Picture this-you’re watching an intense slasher movie with a killer that wields a massive chainsaw. The killer is making a beeline for a seemingly helpless teenager, barreling down hallways as his victim screams out in terror. The killer gains on the teen, lifts, and revs his chainsaw, rounds a corner, and…suddenly, the teen is gone. But a random rubber ducky sits suspiciously in the middle of the hallway before slowly rolling away, later revealed to be the teen in disguise. This is the premise of FNTASTIC’s Propnight: teenagers transforming into mundane, inanimate objects to avoid being sliced and diced by murderers.
Propnight is another addition to the asymmetrical multiplayer horror space–a genre currently in its limelight with hits like Dead By Daylight and Friday The 13th: The Game, and highly anticipated titles like Saber Interactive’s Evil Dead: The Game. As the genre becomes more saturated, developers have acknowledged that it’s becoming a more difficult space to break into. Rather than take the venerated IP route, or fully pivot into the survival-horror route, Propnight took the road less taken–a lighthearted, somewhat comical route with its prop gimmick. And it works – being chased down by a killer as a trash can is surprisingly fun!
The gameplay paradigm can most closely be likened to Behaviour Interactive’s Dead By Daylight: Four players control four different teenagers on a survivor team, while one player controls one of (currently six) killers. The objective of the survivors is to repair 5 different Prop Machines to escape, while the killer’s objective is to knock each survivor down and carry them to a “Hypnochair” (think electric chair, except less scary). Where Propnight most significantly diverges is the survivors’ ability to transform into props–rocks, scarecrows, suits of armor, backpacks, you name it.
Matches take place on a randomly selected map that can range from a camp to a castle. This means that in one instance, you could be rolling around as a hotdog and in the next, a giant sword. The range of potential props to transform into is impressive: almost every single item on the map can be used as a disguise. This works in Propnight’s favor in alleviating one of the most commonly critiqued aspects of asymmetrical horror: redundancy. The maps vary significantly enough that it feels like a unique experience for each match.
Transforming into a prop has a variety of uses. If you’re playing as a survivor that was chased into a garage, you can quickly transform into a toolbox to try and blend in with your surroundings. If you’re up against The Granny, a killer with projectile weapons, you can transform into a smaller target like a soda can to avoid being hit. Or in a desperate situation with nowhere to turn, you can transform into a large item like a bale of hay to try and bonk the killer over the head to stun them. The system is as surprisingly complex as it is hilarious to watch: Propnight is the only asymmetrical horror game where a killer can get hit over the head by a player transformed into a refrigerator while you hide as a garbage bag in the corner and watch.
While playing as a survivor is where Propnight truly shines, its diverse range of killers makes the other side fun to play as well. One killer, The Imposter (clearly a spoof on Slenderman) allows you to disguise yourself as a prop or one of the survivors to stealthily ambush your prey. High-mobility killers like Igor and The Banshee cater to folks who prefer rush-down gameplay to control map objectives. While there are currently only six killers, players shouldn’t have any trouble pinpointing one that suits their murderous needs.
In addition to the prop mechanic, Propnight feels fresh from the batch of other asymmetrical horror games on the market right now because it doesn’t take itself very seriously. Where Dead By Daylight features its survivors screaming in agony as they dangle from bloody meat hooks, Propnight’s survivors will deliver melodramatic, Scooby-Doo-esque “I’m being chased!” quips – the game even allows a random fart mechanic for instances when you’re bored waiting to be rescued or trying to taunt the killer.
Propnight’s tone can easily be polarizing for those seeking a more “hardcore” survival-horror experience, but it’s a breath of relief in a genre that has otherwise felt intense and potentially alienating for folks who want a more casual experience. Not to mention that this doesn’t mean Propnight isn’t capable of being a competitive game–it had a competitive matchmaking system until a recent update (presumably being buffered out to be reimplemented in the future). Propnight fills a void that has been neglected thus far in asymmetrical horror and highlights the important fact that horror doesn’t always have to check the box of being absolutely terrifying to still fit the genre. Sometimes you just want to transform into a giant stuffed rabbit while being chased by knockoff Slenderman–Propnight is there to let you do it!