Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: The Final Pin
A novice to the police force is called to investigate a crime scene. What he finds is a mangled body, and underneath, drawn in blood, the symbol of a raven. Thus begins a years and even decades-long obsession with uncovering the killer’s identity. Even as his family falls apart, even as he begins to wonder why he has put so much energy into this, he cannot let the case go. This is, The Final Pin.
Pacing in a horror game is critical. You want to give the audience just enough to keep them interested and on edge but keep them from getting bored. Maintaining that sweet spot of absorbing the atmosphere, but not letting the tension out. But how long is it feasible to continue this, for lack of a better term, edging?
The Final Pin, being a non-paranormal police procedural, keeps the tension going for about an hour and a half. In a lot of ways, this is an extremely slow-paced game compared to what you usually find on itch. But the unusual nature of this game, the slow drip of mystery and direness, somehow makes this game something fascinating.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
Most of the gameplay in The Final Pin is linear exploration through pre-set story sequences. Wake up in the house, drive to work, interact with specific items, and on to the next scene. There are some sequences of driving, one of diving, but for the most part, you are generally either investigating a crime scene, looking for keys, or other simple problem-solving puzzles.
What I like most about The Final Pin, other than the pacing, is the story. The story is interesting because the developer goes to great lengths to show what psychological toll the case is taking on the protagonist, which for a non-paranormal game, is unique. The family falls apart, the friends he has are none too nice, and these aspects come to be central to solving the case. This all combines to create a very compelling and cinematic horror story.
For all my praise for the pacing, there are some aspects of The Final Pin that could have been streamlined a bit. At the first crime sequence, you are instructed to enter the police line, which involves a second of loading screen, then leave to get a camera, with another loading screen, and re-enter to take a photo, with a third loading screen. Stuff like that happens every so often, but for the most part, these are inconsequential.
How To Fix It:
For a game centered in reality such as this, it is important to remember that you can be immersive without having to show the player every aspect of what the real-world equivalent person would do. No sense in having your character use the restroom, of course. For The Final Pin, it would be worth reassessing what is good for building tension and what is superfluous. Getting a camera from a car? Not so important. Unscrewing a coffin at the bottom of the seafloor? Pretty unnerving.
The Final Pin is a unique horror game. The cop is not afraid for his life, fleeing the killer, at any point in the story. And yet, a certain type of insanity and obsession takes hold and ruins his life because of it. Which, in a way, could be seen as even worse than had the killer targeted him since his life becomes stripped of all meaning and joy. In a lot of ways, your crappy job superseding your entire life is some genuine real-world horror.
You can play The Final Pin on itch.io by clicking here.