October Terror Story #06 Imscared

by Robert Fenner

imscared

Imscared
Get it on Steam

Haunted technology makes for an effective postmodern horror story. If old houses and creepy dolls can bear host to malevolent spirits, why not computers and software? It's a theme that has haunted my dreams since childhood, albeit in an abstract fashion. Computers and televisions that must be turned off but refuse to do so, posing a disquieting annoyance.

Imscared channels this 21st century primal fear. The setup is simple; Imscared is a found object whose lo-fi, heavily pixelated aesthetic belies its horrific nature. As you attempt to play this esoteric first person adventure game, you soon find yourself pursued by a grinning white face. As you attempt to escape, the game crashes to a fake Blue Screen of Death...and a folder is created on your desktop, with .txt files providing further insight into just what you've stumbled upon.

This fourth wall breakage is what makes Imscared, and it's the kind of thing that can only work on a personal computer. Youtube links to "tutorial" videos open without prompting, as a man with a monotone Italian accent explains how to "win" at Imscared's obscure "goals".

In a striking moment, I found myself trapped in a garden with no way out, when a new .txt file appeared with a map and a Youtube link both denoting how to reach a secret passage. When I followed the steps shown in both examples, I did not come to the exit seen in the video, but instead a wall, upon which hung a picture reading "You fell for it".

Lo-fi, lo-priced, strange, and exciting, Imscared is the premiere found object horror game.

October Terror Story #05 Yurei Station

by Robert Fenner

yurei.jpg

Yūrei Station
Get it at Itch.io

A cross collaboration between Atelier Sento and students of Nantes' La Joliverie high school, Yūrei Station is a brief, linear experience in which a young girl takes a somber and lonely train ride through the endless countryside.

Following the tragic loss of a loved one, bizarre text messages began to show up on the girl's phone--first as illegible, glitchy characters, and eventually as the itinerary for a nonexistent 4:44am train; the very one she happens to ride.

As you click around the empty traincar to examine the scenery or stare out the window, more text messages begin to arrive. Messages that give the impression that this empty train may not be so empty after all. Just where are you going, and who's going with you?

Yūrei Station is a short and sweet experience; its hand-drawn, watercolour art courtesy of the students of La Joliverie is simple in design yet incredibly striking and effective. The bite-sized length and grim tone bring to mind the excellent limited animation series Yamishibai, and there's even a twinge of Terayama Shuji's pessimistic take on nostalgia, which manages to gel organically with the modern gadgetry that drives the narrative. The Terayama feel is likely no coincidence; Atelier Sento are the team behind the upcoming The Coral Cave, a point and click adventure that directly cites the playwright as a key influence.

You can spare some time to play through Yūrei Station before bed tonight.

October Terror Story #04 You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter

by Robert Fenner

youmustbe18.jpg

You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter
Get it at Itch.io

Remember the early days of the net? I do. My household was a very early adopter of internet access, first signing up to America On-Line in 1993 or 1994. Even though the world wide web was much smaller in those days, its novelty and newness felt limitless.

Aged 9 and painfully weeby, one of the first things I did when left alone with the computer was to search for pictures from anime and manga to print and put on my wall. It started with characters I knew and loved; Lum, A-Ko, Ranma, etc., but I also clicked on series and characters I hadn't heard of. The selection of manga and anime was limited and expensive in those days so I was eager to see pictures of what I couldn't get my hands on, whether it be the as-of-yet unlocalized Dragonball Z, or the obscure shoujo anime Hime-chan no Ribbon.

And then I came across the works of Toshiki Yui. His pinup style images of busty women in latex was far removed from what I was used to, and clearly not a still from a film, or panel from a manga. They were meant to be taken as is for titillation's sake, and I knew I wasn't meant to be looking at them. I secretly printed them out and hid them under my bed.

Still curious, I kept clicking around and eventually found images from Toshio Maeda's La Blue Girl. And then Hajime Soriyama. And then I didn't know what to think! But eventually I realized I could just do a Webcrawler search for "sex".

I got caught waiting for an image to load. It was humiliating, not to mention terrifying.

You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter recreates this experience to the letter. Your parents have left you home alone, so it's time to fire up the 56k and log on to AOL to have an impromptu lesson in sex education.

Rendered entirely in ASCII characters, You Must Be 18 sees you clicking through as many images as you please, or choosing to nervously look behind you to ensure you're alone. The excellent sound design does wonders for the experience; you hear to the constant buzz of the hard drive while listening for bumps and scuffles that may be happening behind you. Pop-up ads, literal pop scares, may open without warning in your face, playing sexual sounds that send you scrabbling to close them before somebody else hears what you're doing.

You can quit at any time, or you can delve further, seeking the ultimate depths of carnal knowledge, not unlike a Lovecraft protagonist. But how deep is too deep? Can you handle this, or will your mind be forever scarred?

You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter is stressful, comical, and very true to life for anyone who was once a curious adolescent in the 1990s.

October Terror Story #03 Katamari Damacy

by Alva Chua

katamari

Katamari Damacy
PlayStation 2, 2004

Cosmic horror tends to be about the scale of indifference the universe presents to humanity. The dreadful yawning void of existence that renders human consciousness irrelevant.

So how does this make the candy-coloured Katamari Damacy literally one of the most terrifying games in existence?

What if that void was conscious, what if it knew and understood about sentience, but it was still indifferent? What if it wore fabulous tights?

The King of All Cosmos in Katamari Damacy tasks you, one of his many princes, with the task of gathering up matter in the universe in big balls. For childish reasons justified by idiotic whims. He doesn’t care much about his son, and he certainly doesn’t care much about you, insignificant human. At best we are a mild annoyance to him.

The game paints the Earth and its inhabitants like crude wooden toys, cheerfully bereft of actual anything beyond a cartoon existence. The Prince rolls up all the objects on the planet eventually--even continents get accumulated into a huge ball of stuff. You are an inevitable agent of Entropy, making stars while being nagged by a disinterested parent. Everything operates the same, no matter how much you zoom in or zoom out on the universe and ultimately it’s all part of the same dung-ball.

If that doesn’t fill you with existential dread, I’m not sure what could.

Index

October 3rd - Katamari Damacy
October 2nd - BASEMENT
October 1st - Lights Out, Please

October Terror Story #02 BASEMENT

by Robert Fenner

basement.jpg

Basement
Get it at Itch.io

 

Caelyn Sandel's BASEMENT is a short graphical adventure set in--you guessed it--a spooky old basement. There's a heavy door at the top of the stairs that you'd like to get on the other side of, but unfortunately it happens to be locked and you're without a key, so you've no recourse other than to explore these dank environs to see what you can do to get out of this mess.

This description makes BASEMENT sound like a relatively straight-laced take on a common childhood fear, but it soon becomes apparent that there's entirely something else happening within this subterranean world. You see, you're not just trying to get back upstairs into a welcoming home--PARADISE is rumored to lie beyond that heavy locked door. What exactly that entails remains unclear, but you're not alone in the basement. A whole host of bizarre characters have made their home in the corners of the cellar; some malevolent, some friendly, others indifferent, but none of them human.

My only real gripe with the title is that you occasionally find yourself pursued by stalker that ends you upon contact. You get Hunt the Wumpus-esque text clues to hint at how near or far it is from you, but if there's any way to divine an escape route aside from trial and error, I haven't found one. However, BASEMENT can be finished in 20 minutes, so once you figure out the steps you need to take to ensure your egress, lost progress becomes a minor inconvenience. I was compelled enough to see it through to the end, but saying much more would do it a disservice. See BASEMENT for yourself via the Itch link above.

Index

October 3rd - Katamari Damacy
October 2nd - BASEMENT
October 1st - Lights Out, Please