Propagation: Paradise Hotel Review — terror-filled fun in VR
Propagation: Paradise Hotel is a thrilling, terror-filled VR game with a classic horror storyline and satisfying mechanics.
Propagation: Paradise Hotel is a new game from Wanadev, the maker of the Viking rhythm game Ragnarock. It's based on a popular and free PC VR demo called Propagation that launched in 2020.
The fighting mechanics and heavy, oppressive atmosphere are similar, but Propagation: Paradise Hotel has a storyline and goes much further than the original to make this an intriguing addition to any VR horror library.
I played the Quest version, but it's also available on Steam for PC VR at the same $20 price. The PC version has sharper graphics, but if your computer isn't VR-ready or if you have Quest store credits, I found the Quest version to have good quality.
Propagation: Paradise Hotel Review in a nutshell
Propagation: Paradise Hotel is an immersive and atmospheric horror game where I awake to a nightmarish reality. I'm trapped in a hotel overrun with horrific creatures. To make matters worse, I've been separated from my sister, Ashley.
It's one of the scariest games I've played, but it doesn't use cheap tricks. It feels like I've been dropped into a classic horror movie and must use my wits and resourcefulness to survive while pushing onward through zombies and challenging obstacles to save my sibling.
Primarily tested on: Quest Pro
You'll like Propagation: Paradise Hotel if you …
- enjoy dark and scary games with occasional jump scares,
- like immersive horror games that don't break the mood, and
- want a storyline that's engaging but doesn't require notes.
You won't like Propagation: Paradise Hotel if you …
- don't like games with blood and gore,
- want to blast zombies with high-powered weapons, or
- are looking for an arcade-like game.
Scared and alone
From the very beginning, the story is designed to make me feel vulnerable and alone. There's a burly armed security guard and a delicate-fingered cook with no weapons. Guess who I am?
That's right, I'm living this nightmare as Emily Diaz, a young woman who's desperate to find her twin sister, who is somewhere in the hotel.
My sturdy friend asks me to lead the way, saying he's got my back. What about my front? I can only shove zombies away and hope the gun guy's aim is good.
I soon lose my companion, increasing my terror, but at least I find a gun and a flashlight early on. My ammunition seems to be generous at the start, but my flashlight soon grows dim and flickers. I rummage around in blood-spattered rooms for batteries as the undead wheeze and gurgle, threatening to rise.
There are plenty of moments of dread related to the flashlight and dark rooms. Jump scares, loud thumps, and groans put me on edge, but somehow I'm still startled whenever a creature lunges in to attack.
Exploration equals survival
A map, inventory, and objectives are just a button press away, but exploration is a requirement. As much as I want to avoid unnecessary risks, I need to replenish my supplies to survive and find clues that help me navigate.
The hotel is a carnal house filled with bodies. Boarded-up doors and piles of furniture attest to days of battles. Blood spatter and smears make it clear that few, if any, survived.
Every door I open creaks ominously, rats scurry and squeak, and flies buzz around the decomposing bodies. I weave through the carnage, trying to move silently. I fear that running and shooting might wake the dead.
When rotting corpses arise in Propagation, they aren't eager to fall again. It takes several bullets to put them down to an uneasy rest, even when I score headshots. I find myself backing away as I aim and fire repeatedly.
Great game design
Zooming out from the storyline for a moment, I must say the game is very well-made with detailed graphics and excellent moody lighting. Gameplay finds the perfect balance of tasks, incentives, puzzles, and rewards while keeping me fully immersed in the world.
I played Propagation: Paradise Hotel on my Quest Pro, and it was the first game that made me attach the included light blockers. Its dark and dense environment would be interrupted by glimpses of my actual room. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the moment. The Quest 2 already has a full facial interface, so you're ready to go.
The controls are easy to understand and work well. There are multiple difficulty levels, and medium seems just about right to get me killed several times, yet it never gets frustrating when trying to make progress.
The puzzles are mostly simple but make sense within the context of the story, something that's too rare. Solving the puzzles is complicated by requiring something I had to search for, short notes and diagrams to provide clues. I always kept a wary eye for creatures sneaking up on me.
Review conclusion: Do you really need another zombie game?
Fighting for my life in Propagation: Paradise Hotel feels a bit like Resident Evil VR games since the creatures are so hard to kill. The story is more direct and focused, however.
I make an effort to keep my gun loaded, eject partial clips and reload from my waist bag. I pick up the half-empty clip because I need every bullet I can get.
The aging hotel and cinematic lighting remind me of Wraith: The Oblivion - Afterlife, but Propagation: Paradise Hotel features much more action. It also kept me hooked with challenges that were hard but clear enough to inspire another round.
The game takes between 3 and 6 hours to complete, ramping up the difficulty as you near the end. It isn't as long as The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners - Chapter 2: Retribution, but I think it's much more compelling. Rather than the mission-like structure that makes some games feel like I'm doing work, Propagation: Paradise Hotel just flows, and the tasks feel natural.
Arizona Sunshine is as immersive, but is an oddly bright zombie shooter with a very different feel. A classic horror game needs a dark environment with creepy vibes to put me in the right mindset for scary fun.
Even if you own Resident Evil, Walking Dead, Arizona Sunshine, and other zombie games, there's still room for Propagation: Paradise Hotel in your library, and I highly recommend it.