The Padre, a game about a gobby priest who likes to slay monsters and preach the word of God, thrown into a Resident Evil style survival horror setting should be an instant win for me. Sadly, I feel it just misses the mark of being truly great or even good at all.
You step into the shoes of the titular Padre, who’s gone in search of a missing cardinal. His journey takes him to a creepy mansion where the muck hits the fan. The place is infested with zombies, ghosts, demons and all sorts, and without the Padre’s trusty armoury of demon slaying weapons, you have to survive the horror.
As you explore, you gather a horde of items ranging from weapons, torches and other seemingly random objects which generally reveal themselves as puzzle pieces as time goes on… if you’re lucky. I found the item usage to be irritating and unclear, as you can click ‘use’ in the menu to find it does nothing, only to then notice that it’s now in the top right corner of your screen. What’s also confusing is that reading notes means they also appear in the same place as regular items. It wasn’t until I had an item in the top corner and walked up to a bed that I was finally able to use the item. None of this was explained very well and didn’t feel intuitive.
One thing that a good survival horror manages to do is to grip players and keep them hooked, keep them searching until the puzzle is complete or the monster is slain. It can often encourage replaying the game, especially for speed runners who love survival horror games. A lot of the time with The Padre was spent with frustration instead.
I’d like to think I’m relatively intelligent, but a lot of the puzzles were unbearable. I spent an hour running around the same corridors trying to get past a monster that was blocking my path. I tried dodging it, shooting it, trying to bait it to one side of the room so I could move around it. Nothing worked. In the end I was force to seek help from the developers, but the solution they gave me was frankly nonsensical. It’s one of those things that you would have tried either by accident or because you were bored and trying literally everything. That’s not a good puzzle.
The combat is also clunky as hell. Attacking monsters with my crowbar was basically a crap shoot whether or not the swing would catch the hitbox of the monster and do some damage. Sometimes it completely misses, despite my crowbar going straight through the monster’s face. Monsters also seem to think they’re in Street Fighter, stun locking me as they hit me over and over again. In the end, I just didn’t bother. If I saw a monster, I ran, and not because I was scared. Monsters would be easy to kill if the combat wasn’t so bad, but I didn’t bother.
It’s incredibly frustrating as The Padre has so much potential. The humour from the over the top bad acting may or may not be by design, but it hits that 90’s Resident Evil nail right on the head. Brilliant. I walked past a wall portrait of a person and by clicking on the picture, and I laughed as the Padre commented “A portrait of a rather cheeky lady” in his bad English accent. It’s tongue in cheek and I quite like his quips as he cuts about the mansion, exorcising demons and doing his thing. It just feels offset by the fact that everything else is a little, well, meh.
I don’t even mind the Minecraft feel of the visuals, despite hating Minecraft. It’s fits well when combined with the static camera angles born from the likes of Resident Evil, though I’m sure some will find this a little jarring considering its survival horror theme. Jarring the setting even further are the easter eggs they’ve thrown in, like Gordon, your trusty crowbar that’s a clear reference to Half-Life, and a Dark Souls board game which when you use in menu, kills you and flashes in big red letters ‘You Died’ on the screen.
One of the main points in the trailer is the fact that you can go over to the ‘dark side’ and become a bit demonic yourself. This did help with fighting monsters as your durability and damage are increased, but it wears off after a while and you’re left with an annoying side effect. Every now and then, Padre will hear some voices and stop in his tracks, regardless of what you’re doing and even if a monster is chasing you. This quickly became quite laborious and I was soon wishing I’d never drank the magic juice that turned me.
At least the death mechanic is interesting. Upon dying, a vial will fill up a little with Angel Tears before transporting you off to a room with four doors. While in the room, you are a ghost and can choose one of the four doors to go through, each representing a different checkpoint. Once the vial is full however, all your save progress will be deleted and you will have to start again. There are ways to drain the vial, mostly involving praying to God at crosses and playing tunes on pianos, but they can each only be used once, so you still need to be careful.