by Robert Fenner
Get it at Itch.io
Games never get drugs right.
The hallucinatory sequences in titles like Max Payne and Fallout 3: Point Lookout are heavy on the spectacle and the metaphor. And yet, it's hard to blame them too much. Even if one has experienced a dissociative experience first hand, it's such a fleeting and obscure moment that it's difficult to effectively adapt to any medium. Like pornography, it's not easy to define but you know it when you see it.
Hypnogogia [sic] is one of the more realistic trip simulators that I've played, as its hallucinations exist in the periphery. A bubble of reality exists around you, while an ever shifting, melting world of unknowable sights lies just out of grasp, as if you're the last, shrinking island in a foreign world. Or so I've heard.
A simplistic browser-based game, Hypnogogia follows the misadventures of a man who's chosen to take a psilocybin trip at the worst possible time. Visited by a number of angry guests (your boss, a possible blackmailer, etc), our hero has chosen to keep his emotions in check by scarfing down magic mushrooms. Each line of dialogue causes fluctuations in your mood, and you're given a choice of one of four mushrooms to eat to ease the pain. These can cause any number of hallucinations, whether it be slight, vivid, or overpowering--notable that the only consistency is your immediate vicinity; the chair in which you sit, the TV bathing you in static. Each mushroom has its own side effects, and if a side effect takes a mood over its manageable threshold, our hero projectile vomits all over the place and the game is over. Heavy.
Hypnogogia comes with a Mush Guide that details what mushrooms you have on hand at any given moment and what effect they have. The game is unplayable without it, but sometimes the descriptions in the guide can be vague or misleading, and what you think might even things out will end up speed-dialing Ralph, and that's just rude in front of guests.
The biggest problem with Hypnogogia is that there appears to be only one correct answer to each situation. I played around with it a lot, and only made it to its conclusion after much trial and error and memorization. A little extra room for experimentation would've been nice, or at least a checkpoint system between guests. That said, this Law of the West by way of Hunter S Thompson is worth a look before bed tonight.