If games paying tribute to the low poly graphics of the PS1 era are going to be this good, then long may the renaissance continue. The Tartarus Key is a lot like classic Resident Evil without any of the combat or the undead enemies, told from the first-person perspective. You've woken up in a booby-trapped mansion, and a series of delightfully obtuse puzzles and SAW-esque traps stand between you and escape.
Vertical Reach's first game on a PlayStation console is designed entirely around those elaborate brain teasers of old, from unlocking doors by turning on the correct hobs on a stove to working out codes through star constellations. They're the sort of ridiculous solutions you'd never encounter in real life, yet they work comically well in a video game. Embrace the silliness and your experience will be all the better for it.
One or two puzzles feel slightly too convoluted, though. Some can be brute forced with a bit of continuous trial and error, but a few were so baffling we had to reach for a guide.
Tying the conundrums together is a story exploring why you're in the mansion and who put you there, with more characters introduced as you help free them. There's no voice acting, but good writing delivered over walkie-talkies helps you get a feel for each personality. There's some quality delivery here that helps to set each face apart — everyone has handled their time trapped in the mansion a little differently.
Five to six hours of playtime will be enough to reach one of the game's three endings, in which time you'll explore a number of eccentric rooms that wonderfully capture the visuals of the PS1 generation. We'd argue some of the environments look slightly better than what Sony's first home system was capable of, but the character models are absolutely bang on. With conversations presented just like Metal Gear Solid, it's a wonderful trip down memory lane.
In fact, that's exactly what The Tartarus Key is. If you have a soft spot for unconventional puzzles ala Resident Evil and Silent Hill, then look no further than this charming PS4 effort.