Tied Up: A Return to RPG Maker Horror

A few years ago, in 2012, a few indie horror titles made in RPG Maker were released. They garnered a lot of positive reviews. The YouTube “Let’s Play” scene had a field day with them. You couldn’t scroll through the gaming side of YouTube without seeing people like LaurenzSide and Markiplier playing these RPG Maker horror games. It felt like there were a few standouts for a long time. But eventually, the rest just fell to the wayside. 

Besides Mad Father and Witch’s House, a few others could garner lots of interest, Ib, Ao Oni, and Crooked Man. But it feels like it’s been a few years since we have had a standout. In the RPG Maker genre of horror games anyways. Yes, the fantastic OMORI was released only two years ago and dealt with some solid social anxiety issues. Which was spot on for the year 2020.

In 2022 though, we haven’t had one of these standouts until now. Tide Up sets itself up with a very brief plot ” A dark and gloomy adventure. Accompany the girl in a dreamlike world of wonder. Collect the Pearls scattered around the world and help the girl escape”. 

With a loose plot, it starts very much in media rez. The girl is running through the dark lamppost to lamppost until you see another girl asleep on a park bench. Our antagonist then wakes up in a different part of the park chasing a shadowy figure around until you come across a straight-up factory out of Silent Hill.

So far, I’ve made friends with a disembodied talking brain come across what the brain has told me: prisoners who have lost the will to live, Jailers who are terrifying in their own right. The brain immediately tells you where you are. I dangerous, but the prisoners are not the scary ones, but the Jailers will eat you on sight.

Something from Tied Up I was not expecting was its throwback point and click puzzles resembling the original Silent Hill cursor puzzles mixed with Resident Evil‘s generator/ battery puzzles strewn through the series.

I immediately started to feel this sense of foreboding, finding corpses with items lodged in them, a strange Knight Solaire-looking body. And the staple of any of these RPG Maker horror game traps throughout the environment. These vary from slightly injuring you to just straight-up instant death. Thankfully the checkpoint system in Tied Up is quite forgiving. Also, when you die, there is an option to load from an autosave or manual save to make it less of a chance to have a save file just wholly screw you over. 

The audio does leave me a little wanting with a slow, quiet score, peppered with stingers when you pick something up. But other than that, it feels empty in that regard. However, the mystery and terrifying premise of being alone and unaware of what is happening around you in this fog-ridden world will keep me coming back.

Tied Up is also set up navigationally a little different from the other games in its genres, most of them sporting a little wider areas and little help when it comes to seeing items in the environment. Here items throughout the environment are massive bright stars, leaving you with little to no chance of missing them.

This, with the addition of putting a downward arrow over anything that you can interact with. As your character looks at them, which makes rooms that look dangerous easier to navigate, for example; entering a room filled with corpses and just general viscera, there are no items present but take a step into the room, these arrows appear over cabinets and carcasses, searching those corpses and cabinets gives you items like lockpicks which are required to make progress. In short, search everything just to be safe.

It has been a long time since an RPG Maker game clicked with me like Misao or even your more notable titles like Corpse Party. The latter is, unfortunately, more and more sexualized with each release. So it’s nice to have a new game in that genre.

I’m looking forward to putting more time into Tied Up and its bizarre world and finding out more about the Girl and the Silent Hill esque world she ended up in.

You can find out more about Tied Up on Gustav’s website and buy Tied Up on Steam. Be sure to check more DreadXP stuff like podcasts, reviews, and its sweet merch.