Welcome to Heilwald Hospital, where it is impossible to die.
“The Heilwald Loophole” was released Friday, Feb. 4 on Steam by German developer and publisher Jan Malitschek. This is Malitschek’s second released game on Steam.
The puzzle horror game is set in a German hospital that has recently been taken over by the power-hungry Dr. Randolph. Since this shift in leadership, the facility has slowly fallen into a state of disarray. You play as an unknown patient who wakes up in a darkened storage room on top of a pile of debris and grime. Above you is a hole in the ceiling and your only option is to venture into the various wards of Heilwald Klinikum.
Generally in horror games, or any game, you do everything you can not to die. However, in "The Heilwald Loophole," it is not only impossible to die for good, but you need to die.
Don't be fooled, you still have to make it out of each ward alive at some point. But each time you are attacked, a new path opens. Your previous decisions in each level will determine the outcome after each attack. For this to work, you must find the loophole in each ward first.
This different approach to dying and respawning makes "The Heilwald Loophole" stand out from other puzzle horror games. While you generally do want to avoid being killed by each enemy, purposefully falling into their hands after completing or not completing specific tasks will benefit you in the long run.
Each respawn will bring a new enemy, path or item to find. Just be wary of your surroundings in each ward. While playing, make sure to note highlighted words in the speech text while speaking to different characters.
The game graphics are similar to early PlayStation One games. Some of Malitschek's other horror games, available for free on the gaming site itch.io, also have this retro look. The blocky characters and setting add to the disturbing world.
Characters speak in a collection of mumbles and grunts. The speech texts translate what they are saying, but these incoherent sound bites stray far from the cute incoherent peeps you would find in games like “Animal Crossing.” Listening to each character talk adds to players’ panic. Are you interacting with a true ally or someone who will turn into your enemy? You won’t know unless you keep going.
The game's music score is comparable to the uneasy sound of ambiance. Listening to the low-strung music while sneaking your way around, only for it to quickly shift into an alarming high-strung sound when an enemy is near, will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Even the enemies have their own sound effects, whether it's the mechanical sounds of Nurse Anne lurking around the Electroshock Ward or the creaking of Nurse Heideltraut hunting you in the Sick Ward.
Personally, I do not recommend playing this game at night unless you want to turn the unsettling feel up to 100. “The Heilwald Loophole” is a disturbing and nerve-wracking experience. However, if you enjoy frightening games or just love a good puzzle, purchase "The Heilwald Loophole” on Steam today.