Happy second worst month of the year! Are your friends asking you to “hang out” with them or “leave the house” for over five minutes this February? Now you can tell them you’re busy with these near-5-minute long experiences, as it’s your duty to the state to play a certain quota of horror games each month and you actually live in a dystopian nightmare! Wowzers!
All the Way Down, 2015
It’s Under the Bed’s first featured game of 2015! Celebrate! *party cannons* Okay, celebration over. Here’s the winning entry of the most recent monthly Adventure Game Studio game jam by the five-person team Sanctuary Interactive, a point and click game based loosely and Britishly on “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” by H.P. Lovecraft.
The presentation of All the Way Down is professional grade by indie standards. They have real falling snow when it’s supposed to be snowing and sounds that pan depending on where your character is walking. Snow crunching from left to right! The future is now, everybody. I also can’t express enough how wonderful it is to have the entire script voiced by people who actually own microphones. Usually in this circuit of adventure games (a notable exception being The White Chamber) the dialogue sounds as though it was transcribed through an innovative yet ineffective contraption involving a pen, a tablecloth, and a melon. Most of the cast sounds younger than the jaded adult characters they’re meant to play but it’s still a pleasant experience to have any potential fear replaced by the contentment of listening to old grizzled men with varying levels of UK accents.
However, all the effort being pooled into its packaging left few developer resources for “All The Way Down’s” actual gameplay.
Most of the puzzle elements (e.g. pointing, clicking) are pushed towards the end of the narrative, and once the story starts to pick up it’s over. This is often an issue in game jam products, especially those of which the authors intended to fix or expand upon later, though this is an extreme example to the point where “I need to escape the inescapable mine tunnels wherein dwell unimaginable hell beasts!” is immediately followed by “I successfully escaped without incident!” The scenes are dark and the tiny objects needed to piece everything in your inventory together nigh invisible. I have expressed my opinion in a haiku:
All The Way Down team:
Really I’m not angry I’m
I still hold the developers in fairly high esteem, though, and given sufficient time I imagine they can push out a product of both superior presentation and design. Right now the team is working on a project called Latency as well as their own individual projects, so let’s twiddle our thumbs anxiously until then.
EDIT SEPTEMBER 20TH, 2015: GreyInvidia released a new version of Townlore with more content and new graphics titled Townlore 2.0.
For whatever reason, we all have deep-seated fears leftover from our childhood gaming days which make nostalgic lo-res creepypasta games so effective. Or they’re just way easier to make, but that doesn’t sound as good on the back of a box.
This little number is loosely inspired by Animal Crossing — which is always great horror story fodder, mostly because it does the work for you — where you can talk to animals and slowly bring about their slow pixely deaths.
You are Pandora, and if there’s one thing we know about Pandora, it’s that she opens a box, and if there are two things we know about Pandora, the second one is that she likes to break rules. There are no boxes in this game, save for the very well designed architecture, but there is an unquestioned town rule that nobody goes into the forest (only there’s no cute gawky love interest with a sword this time).
In horror game speak, that means you must brute force your way into the woods immediately, am i rite?!
As per the genre, “Townlore” relies on variables outside the game, primarily the system clock. For the record, this is not a circuit-bending .exe which lurks surreptitiously in the Task Manager and warrants the use of a virtual machine and tremendous earplugs, which is refreshing in its own right, though it’s very unlikely you will play this game and allow time to pass as normal before continuing progress, simply because there’s no clear indication of what time(s) to play and there is not enough substance; with manipulation of the clock the play time averages around 10 minutes.
During that time “Townlore” has its share of stylistic feats: while the houses and their residents are depicted with minimal artistic interest, the forest is done beautifully, with falling petals that fall outside the letterbox on the screen and a haunting BGM which offers a nice contrast to the rest of the soundtrack, which comprises the same near-toneless chiptune sequence in varying stages of glitch and decay. Rather than opting for a traditional Hot Topic horror palette (red, black, and Slenderman), “Townlore” relies largely on greys, whites, and pinks to tell a story of love, loss, and walking back and forth. One of its coolest features however remains the method of “starting” a game. The new file option leads to a dead-end scene implied to take place after the events of the story, and the game actually ships with a save file that places you in a spot you can control your character.
“Townlore” is meant to be experienced after reading the story written to set the mood. The narrator is a policeman put on a grisly suicide case. Being a few fries short of a Happy Meal, he investigates the victim’s PC and decides that the single executable file on there, some boring game called “Townlore,” might be a fun activity to bring home to his son. Kids eat up haunted RPG Maker games like they do Tostino’s pizza rolls, so this boy plays the game in excess until he is eventually driven to his own prescription-medicine-induced death. Also there’s someone trapped in the game or something, it’s never really elaborated on.
So what’s this “Townlore” about that it would cause people who played it to off themselves so graphically? Well, Pandora lives in a town with cute and cheery little animal people, whom you can chat with while plotting your entry into the guarded forest. It’s only when things go to hell that you get to see the townspeople’s true colors, and those colors are all a horrifying pink. Is it suicide worthy? What is suicide, really? Aren’t we all suicidal in this big crazy universe? Go ahead and give it a try, but before you do, tell some of your friends about this blog in case it works so I don’t lose my readerbase. Wonk! Though if you’re looking to up the ante in terms of storyline and computer screwery, you might like “Oneshot”.
Navi takes a bet from some of her fairy friends (they’re not really friends — it’s just that their moms are friends and moms always like to do those “ladies’ night out” things with the girls so they always wound up together at some backwater pizza place (haha, NOT CUTE AFTER SEVENTH GRADE MOM.) — and investigates Dr.
Wile Wiley Meanwhile Wily’s castle, where he is building endless copies of the evil robo-mercenary Turtle Man. That’s how I understood it, anyway, but then again I’m not a poet.
Actually Guert’s “Rebirth: Sacrifice –Faith — Rebellion” is an abstract story about defying a system of greed, corruption, and soullessness from the comfort of your own home. There are no definite instructions, only the premise that actions are “first motivated by personal interest of the player” and vary on each level through use of the arrow keys. Success or failure is dependent on how you respond to the dynamic feedback the game provides after your input. That sounds like a randomly generated and meaningless sentence designed to impress a comp-sci professor, but you get what I mean. You may enjoy “Rebirth” if you liked games like Dopaminium which intentionally sidestep traditional forms of reasoning. Though it should be noted that “personal interest of the player” does not include money, sorry.
“Rebirth” might take around ten minutes depending on how you manage it and is a delightful industrial nightmare. Download it today and get ready to kick the crap out of some capitalism!