The way kids' show characters like Dora the Explorer pause for responses as if they can hear all the five-year-olds shouting at them is mildly unsettling, and probably contributes to the confused notions kids sometimes have about television. The ones that lead to questions like: Can they see me?
Amanda the Adventurer, a "found footage edutainment horror" game that released on Steam this week, exploits that creepiness by having us watch and respond to VHS tapes of a made-up kids show starring a little girl named Amanda, who in the first episode bakes a pie without parental supervision despite the protests of her poor little friend, a Wooly the sheep.
Amanda of course does the Dora thing, where she asks you, the viewer, for advice. Except that when she asks something, such as what to cut apples with, you have to type in the correct answer or she won't continue: K-N-I-F-E.
It's not exactly a subtle way to introduce the show's sinister supernatural essence—I'm thinking this isn't gonna be high horror for connoisseurs of only the nichest of New French Extremity—but I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to $9 horror games. Mild creepiness is what I signed up for and what I'm getting. I haven't played past that first episode, but I'm going to assume things escalate from there, and Amanda the Adventurer currently has very positive Steam user reviews.
When you're not interacting with the show, you're stuck in your dead aunt's attic in a standard escape room setup: surrounded by combination locks and clocks whose times probably need to be set to some special number (murder o'clock, maybe). Like so many games of this variety, it's a little reminiscent of classic horror adventure game The 7th Guest.
Aside from Dora the Explorer, the kids show angle makes me recall web series Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, and maybe more terrifying, the bizarre animated videos people actually target kids with on YouTube, which writer James Bridle examined in 2017. Amanda the Adventurer isn't directly referencing those algorithmic monstrosities, but I bet you could get a lot of mileage out of a horror game that does. Maybe for the sequel.
Amanda the Adventurer was made by MANGLEDmaw Games and published by DreadX, which is well known to us for its fantastic horror anthologies. It's $9 on Steam, though at the moment you can get it for a little over $8 on sale.
While we're at it, another kid-themed horror game worth a look is Poppy Playtime, which takes place in an abandoned toy factory. Chris checked it out in 2021 and said that moments "scared the bejesus out of" him. That's a high-level scare, when it vacates you of your bejesuses.