An Old GameEdit
By: Urn the Reaper
I have two big hobbies in my life. First, I am a gamer as it is relatively easy to pick up a game, play it and take in the experience. Second, I play airsoft with my friends whenever the chance arises. Obviously the second is a rarer occurence due to money requirements, and a load of other reasons I'm sure are obvious. Still, living in rural Virginia gives me and my pals plenty of space to play and simultaneously explore the backwoods. I guess it's natural when we had the trip to North Carolina (we live very close to the state line) to go play at one of my friend's relative's huge property, we were more than excited. However, this trip would lead me to discover something that would completely disturb me, and change how I felt about games forever.
We had arrived at the property at around 8 A.M. and were ready to play by 9, but decided to set up some play boundaries after realising some of the woods were dangerous. So we set out in groups of two, making 4 groups, and decided each group would create a wall to eventually leave a square shaped field. I ended up in a pair with the friend whos family owned the land (we'll call him Gary), and because we felt like seeing more of the field for better tacical decisions later we volunteered to make the back wall farthest into the woods. So after a good few minutes walking and being stupid with our friends we found a good place to set up our orange plastic line to make the back wall. As we walked we eventually noticed that what we earlier thought was a gravel roud into some building supplies in the woods came back to where we were walking, and continued deeper into the woods. Curious, we decided to follow the road and temporarily abandon the wall making task. It wasn't long before we noticed some houses that seemed to not be too old, but were abandoned. As a person who is strongly interested in ruins like this, I decided to venture into them, but Gary stopped me. " I wouldn't go there, it used to be rental houses but the families were plauged by nightmares and had more accidents than a person should normally. Pets went missing after about a week being here, children got lost in the woods a lot, only to come home later forgetting where they had been, and the adults swore they saw wierd stuff moving in the woods at night. It's suppossedly cursed, so unless you like being a target of hoodoo or something, leave it be. "
Gary likes to joke a lot, but he seemed serious so I thought I'd poke holes in his story to verify any truth. " So if you knew this creepy place was here, why bring us to play? Better yet, why come here at all?" I wasn't trying to be rude, just curious. " Well because I honestly thought they'd been demolished, and even so I didn't plan on playing at night, thats why I insisted on us coming early in the morning." Gary's face didn't show any signs of humor, just a cold expression of mild fear. "Well I like spooky things so I'm going in, you can stay here if you want. Besides if I find anyone dangerous I'll just pretend I'm military or SWAT orsomething, we're decked out in gear so it shouldn't be hard to pull off." As I said this I walked off and Gary tried to follow to stop me, but decided not to and just shouted that I'm a dick for leaving him to work alone. He WAS joking that time atleast.
The houses were very new to my surprise. Late 90's to early 2000's, and some stuff had been left in them. There were four houses in total, in a couldesac sort of arrangement. I went in the farthest one to the right and decided to search thorugh them going left. I found all kinds of things in them ranging from almost untouched by time to almost gone in quality. A lot of things were rather interesting, and I took a few items in a box I found. I did this in every house, but the best find was in the third house.
The house had obviously belonged to a younger couple or group, somewhere around early 20's based on the things I found (old posters, some childhood toysand such). So when I walked into what must have been a living room, I was delighted to see an old entertainment center...with gaming paraphernalia still there. Most of it was late playstation material, with a couple NES cartridges as well as old Pokemon games. I took a couple pokemon games, and left NES cartridges as I had no use for them and decided to check the old playstation games to see what I could spend the next weeks enjoying. I found some great games, the original Crash Bandicoot, MediEvil, a couple Final Fantasy games, The Legend of Dragoon, and a couple my friends took later on that I can't remember. However, the most interesting game I found was actually a PS2 game in a PS1 case with just a picture of the title on the case. It was called DARK, in all caps with a font similiar to Skyrim's title font except gold, and more damaged looking. I had never heard about this game before, but I was younger during the PS2's days so guessed I just hadn't found it during it's prime.
After collecting my loot and sharing with my friends we continued our day normally, playing airsoft and preparing to attempt entering competitions that were starting to appear closer to home. We had a blast, and Gary never really got upset with me for taking things from the houses as theyd been abandoned for a long time, and I gave him and antique phone for decoration, and he loves any kind of antique almost. As we neared the afternoon the sky turned grey, and rain began around 1 P.M. and we were faced with a choice. Go home early, orplay in the rain and possibly ruin some equipment, we voted and ended up leaving early. No one was too upset as everyone had gotten something from the houses and were excited to get the stuff home, especially me.
Once I was home I took care of my daily responsibilities and finally went to my living room and prepared my old PS2 for some gaming marathons to beat all the games I'd picked up earlier. I popped in my memeroy card, and Crash Bandicoot simply because I loved the original. I started to play and it worked alright for the most part, until I tried to save. After some frustrating attempts to get itto detect my memory card I googled the issue. It turns out a PS1 game can't save on a PS2 memory card. " Well this is just wonderful. " I was a little peeved, but seeing as the games were free and all I needed was a PS1 memory card I dind't have the right to be upset, so I ordered a card off of Amazon for a couple dollars, and moped back to the living room feeling a little defeated. I looked through the game cases hoping for a memory card realising I should have done this before ordering one, but whatever. I had completely forgotten about DARK and the fact that it was a PS2 game, so upon reinspecting it I got very excited. " Looks like I'll be playing something new today after all. " I said to myself. I popped in the disc after cleaning it on my shirt, and sat down full of excitement.
DARK appeared on my TV the same as the logo on the case. I noticed in the bottom corner a version number stating BETA .90 to be the version of the disc. " Awesome, a Beta of an old PS2 game that may have never been released! " A lot of things ran through my mind, obviously from the statement I guessed the was possibly never released which would quickly explain me never hearing about it, even though that wasn't the only realistic reason for it. Another thought was that these discs mustbe rather rare as a company would only give these to staff or testers, and that since the version seemed close to 1 it must be almost done and promised to have plenty of content and hopefully a few amusing bugs. I pressed start and the normal selections popped up New Game, Load, Options, and Quit, as well as unique ones like Gallery and Edit Mode. I checked options to make sure controls were ok, and the visuals would do alright. I didn't want gallery spoilers messing up the gameplay so I decided to start up a new game.
WHAT IS YOUR NAME? Appeared on my screen and the type box opened after a second and I input Dylon as my name. WHAT IS YOUR GENDER, DYLON? Ah the Proffesor Oak question, I chose Male and continued on. More text appeared as the intro.
"WELCOME TO DARK. IN THIS WORLD YOU CREATE A TEAM OF WARRIORS TO COMBAT DARKNESS IN ALL OF IT'S FORMS. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO MAKE YOUR GROUP AS DIVERSE AS YOU LIKE, BUT BE WARNED THAT A LACK OF DIVERSITY CAN LEAD TO MAKING THE GAME MORE DIFFICULT. ENJOY."
The screen faded from the black background into a character creation screen. Completely customizable characters was something that was very rare in this age of gaming and I felt I had found a true gem and became very excited. A counter in the top of the screen told me how large my team could be, I could have 6 different characters to make up my team. So I made myself ofcourse, then made a random group of girls and guys to "combat the darkness" whatever that meant. Although I noticed with my main character the option for female was missing, giving purpose to the earlier question I answered. When I was done there was my character the Hero class, a male Tank, female Mage, male Cleric, male Archer, and a female Paladin. It had already set itself up as an RPG with the classes, and since the graphics looked so good for what I figured as an early PS2 game based on copyright dates, this game so far had me brimming with excitement for gameplay.
The first level was pretty simple, it was mostly tutorial like battles with basic enemies in a woodland setting to get me used to the mmechanics. It was a very fun game, although I had a couple gripes with a few combat controls. Even so I felt it surpassed what someone should expect for a pioneer game like this, especially if it's the first one of the series. After beating the level the game showed a score screen giving a ranking, I got a B for the first level. From there the game changed a little, the second level was more story driven with dialogue between my character and an unseen villian as the opening. It was all fairly run of the mill stuff, until the actual level started.
All of my team was standing together in a broken down old storage building in the middle of nowhere, and they seemed a little on edge with twitchy movements. I assumed these were either bugs, or perhaps the game was inteded to be a horror game. Regardless, I pressed on into the building by opening a door to the rest of the building I was in. For clarification, the game was third person with the camera set on my character, but the team couldbe out of my vision range. Carrying on, as I moved through the first hallway I found most doors locked or only leading to small office like rooms. No enemies in the first few rooms, but I did find some items so I assumed this was a prep area to introduce you to your surroundings. As I made it to the end of the hallway some visual glitches began making some textures appear as different colors or materials, and there were a few items that showed up as their basic in game shape rather than the detailed model. The controls still worked fine however so I disregarded these glitches as the remaining issues before the finished game. I opened the door to the next area and immediately saw the levels enemies.
They were all just plain black and white basic concept characters. Like those genderless dolls artists get to show the way the human body looks in different poses. They all acted like normal enemies in combat, minus any dialogue, reaction to being hit besides HP loss, and the death animation was just them falling limp and crashing to the ground. I was sure these had to just be placeholders, I mean the atmosphere was a little creepy, but what game designer would use these as their monsters? The level was fairly creepy because of their lack of sounds and interesting death animation. Periodically through the level the unseen villian kept taunting my character, and their banter was really comedic and lighthearted compared to the combat which made progression a lot easier. After going through the huge building and reaching the third level below ground, the villian finally said it was time to face him and get this over with. I was then allowed through the last door into a hallway containing a regeneration pool for all my characters , and a large door to the boss room similiar to one in a Zelda game, except it was a little more decrepit.
I saved my game after replenishing all my characters strength and prepared for my first boss fight. I was excited and a little scared I might lose, but I soldiered on and was ready for anything. Atleast I thought I was. The room was very large and decorated like a modern bedroom. The scale of my characters made them toy sized compared to this room, and in one corner was a large collection of various art supplies suppossedly explaining the strange enemies. The only people in the room was my team though, and I was a little confused. I ran around for awhile until out of nowhere a giant stringed puppet fell from the sky and was hanging from an unseen top. It looked like some old wooden puppet an artist had found at dump and started repairing and eventually forgot about. It was slumped down with it's limbs and head swinging idly below it's worn body. Because it had longer black hair on its head it's face was hidden. But it was already a little terrifying, as one arm was brand new with a glorious paint job the artist slaved over, while it's other arm was rotting and ready to fall off the doll completely.
For about thirty seconds while I was free to move all the doll did was shake lightly and moan in a pained voice. After it started to creep me out I decided to attack it and see what happened. I jumped and whacked it's head only to end up nearly throwing my controller when it's head snapped up to reveal the horrifying face. It's mouth was missing, but instead of covering it, the artist painted a bloody broken inside of a mouth and stapled in a piece of red material to look like a tongue hanging out. The painted on nose looked like holes on a skull, and the eyes were both missing outlines and the pupils had been scraped off partially so instead of white circles they looked like static almost. It just screamed at my character. Thats all it did at first. I gained control while it's scream changed from normal to in-human and gradually towards more hysterical dying animal sounds. I'm not sure how long I could have been moving because I had dropped the controller when I was startled by he sudden screaming. I picked it up and began attacking the doll. As my team did more damage it began to flail its limbs more and more wildly, and it's limbs could hurt my team. Simple enough, dodge the limbs and attack, reapeat until it dies. Until its health hit 50% and it started fying around superadically, and it was very fast. I finally managed to get it's health to 0% and a cutscene started.
The doll stopped moving entirely out of nowhere and just stared at the camera for a moment before a zoom out motion as it began to scream again as the strings holding it up began to fall from above. The las one was connected to its head, and as it was let loose the doll fell and broke into pieces as it hit the ground. The villian spoke again, cursing me for defeating one of his greatest creations and swaring revenge. After that I was free to loot items in the room. Various parts of the colls body broke into a set of themed weapons, and a few were worth equiping to my characters, the rest were picked up to be sold.
After dealing with such a terrifyingboss I questioned playing the game anymore. I mean on one hand it could just be the games creepy boss, but on the other hand it could get worse with each boss. I weighed my options, at the moment it was getting late and I was already freaked out enough so I decided to give it a shot the next day and see what happens, I saved the game, turned it off, and headed to bed.
I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I turned on my TV in my bedroom for some comfort shows. I turned on one of my favorite comedies, but kept thevolume low so I could try to get to sleep. I tossed and turned for a good hour before I drifted off to sleep, only to wake up two hours later after dreaming about being mauled by the doll from the game. I kept having nightmare that night about the game. In one I was attacked by all the dolls silent minions and eventually overrun by them. With each dream I woke up sweating and feeling that general creeped out feeling after a nightmare. Eventually morning came, and I got up a little later than I normally would to make up for lost hours.
It was 9:30 A.M. by the time I stepped out of the shower, and 9:55 by the time breakfast was over. I stepped through my living room tomy front door to go check the mail in hopes that my memory card may have come, childish maybe but I always hoped for small miracles like that. I wasn't too surprised it hadn't come yet, and decided to sit down in the living room and think of what to do with my second day off. I thought about the game seriously for a few minutes, and decided to give it a second chance. Besides, I had played it while it was dark out and I was alone, even my cat had been absent. Now it was a sunny morning, my neighbors were obviously around outside doing neighbor things, and my cat was playing around with her toys in the living room floor. " It sholdn't be that scary during this hour, and maybe it won't even be scary at all after that point. " I naively reassured myself. I turned the PS2 back on, and sat down again ready to play the game.
I started the game and found myself in headquarters of sorts, and my teammates were in various places doing things pertaining to their character class. I enjoyed this feature, but soon found my way to progressing to the third level of the game. This one opened up with my team in a graveyard. They discussed that darkness had entered the grounds and caused the spirits of the people buried here to become agitated. The spirits agitation contributed to the darkness and now evil creatures roamed the graveyard. I gained control and moved forward to find the first group of enemies. More of the plain artist dolls, only now some had angry, dull eyes without pupils drawn on them but no other facial features. Some now crawled un-naturaly, while others limped,some had movements as if their entire structure was wired wrong making them very twitchy and their limbs bend in the wrong direction. Maybe they were the intended enemy... they were definitely pulling off the creepy factor. As I progressed through the level itgot darker, eventually becoming pitch black. All my characters had an aura of light around them, but the light only went about five feet out, then it was black again. So now enemies jumped out the darkness to startle you very often. Great, more creepiness and no banter with the bad guy for comic relief.
Soon my team was very on edge and they started talking amongst each other complaing of fear and painfrom their wounds. " This is pretty advanced AI dialogue for a PS2 game. I wonder if they just made it all work for whatever class each character had or something? " My thoughts brought up good points, how did programmers work in all this content? I mean there were more classes than I picked to offer more variety to start, plus these levels were HUGE. Then theres items, leveling and stats, characters models and movements, so much in one game I was sure theyd been working on it for years. I had stopped paying attention to the screen as I asked myself questions and thought of the magnitude of the game, until I was attacked by more dolls. I looked back at the screen to see the graphical glitches returning, making the already creepy dolls act even more wierdly. Some just floated without moving, others constantly changed color and were teleported around, some even rubber manned out of the play area and eventually dissapeared. This combined with their silence made them terrifying.
After barely getting through massive hordes of the dolls I found myself inside a rundown version of a funeral home, except the lights worked so darkness wasn't a problem anymore. My team once again chatted about the darkness claiming a darkness catalyst to be somewhere in the funeral home. With this I regained control and a guage was added to my screen indicating how close I was to this catalyst that was suppossedly here. I searched the home and found plent of supplies and items, and eventually made my way to the morgue section of the funeral home. The hallway it's door was located in was very plain and reminded me of an old hospital. The lights flickered randomly and blood trails lead to the only door at the end of the hall. Random body parts of people and the dolls were scattered about the hallway leading me to believe I dind't want to find this catalyst. Before I shut off the game however a character spoke, not in text but audio. "DYLoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooN...." echoed through my speakers. " Why don't you come meet my new friend? I made him just for the occasion of your visit...." . The voice was raspy, and he began to chuckle in a strange way after talking to me. I was frozen, not even modern games had your custom name spoken like that, it's just not possible. Being that it's MY REAL NAME that I use in game didn't help the fear level at all. " I think I'll pass, creep ". I stated before reaching for the power button on my PS2.
I didn't get to turn the system off. As my hand neared the button the in game hallway door burst open. " DON'T YOU TOUCH THAT BUTTON DYLON, OR YOU'LL REGRET IT!" The man screamed out of my television. I froze again, my eyes glued to the screen. As a figure appeared in the doorway, the lights in my house systematically shut off. Appliances turned off as well, everything powered down until my TV and PS2 were the only source of light in the house. My cat hissed at the TV and ran out of the room, I heard it knock something over but was too scared to move. The figure bacame clearer as the camera zoomed. It was a man in a lab coat, holding a surgical saw in one hand and a decapitated doll head in the other. He had blood on a set of blue scrubs under his coat, some dry and some apparantly fresh. His head was tilted down similiar to the giant puppet when I first saw it. A text box of his popped up as his head slowly rose. " Welcome to my home, I have a surprise for you, I made you a new friend! He might play a little rough, but I'm sure you'll get along fine! " As the last words showed up the mans face appeared in all it's horrible glory. His mouth had no skin to hide his jaw muscles, he was wearing glassed over eyes with tiny pupils that constantly darted around in all directions, and his hair was thining and appeared to be greasy or sweaty and was very neglected. Even without a real mouth he seemed to grin at me through the screen and peer into my very soul.
Nothing happened for what felt like minutes of this guy staring into me, until he began laughing hysterically and extremely loud. The camera finally zoomed away from him and showed that he was pointing into the darkness of the room behind him, except his arm had snapped into impossible positions to aim directly behind him. He stopped laughing and a new text box appeared. " Heeeeeres your new friend! ". I immediately felt uncomfortable in anticipation of what was going to happen. I began to hear moaning coming from the darkness, mixed with sobbing from another voice. Slowly a figure appeared. It's shape was bipedal, but very, very inhuman.
As the thing emerged from the darkness I realised it was a grotesque frankenstien like creature. Its head was crafted using a doll head without eayes or a face, and carving out a large portion to put a human mouth. This mouth could only groan, but this creature also caused the sobbing. Its right arm was sewn on at the shoulder, and the arm itself seemed to have belonged to corpse as it was decaying and shriveled. But, instead of a hand a young girls head had been attached and her eyes had been covered with bandages, she was the source of the crying. The creature held its right arm in a backwards L shape to keep the girls head parallel to its own "natural" head. Every limb was sewn on atleast at the joint connecting it to the torso, usually more. The left leg had been to short, so it had been severed just below the knee with a prostetic piece making the remainder of the leg. It even had a second right arm below the one with the girls head, I assume to make up for the missing hand. The creature had an eye in its torso, which as far as I could tell was its only means of having vision.
Even though my character seemed horrified by his reaction to the creature, the rest of my team seemed unphased. " There's the catalyst, we need to destroy it! ". One of them yelled off-screen. The camera panned back to my character and the HUD returned meaning I had control again. My team moved forward to attack the creature, but I stood there, still frozen in fear at this horrific creature before me. As my tank approached the creature it began to beat him mercilessly, ignoring the HP stat, my tank seemed to be scared of death from this thing and cried out to me to help him. I broke from my trance and regained control. I'd always taken games too seriously, and I felt attached to this character, and that by attacking him so vicously this entity was attacking my friend. I charged it, and I used every possible attack I could, and mashed out combos so hard its HP just kept dropping. I ignored the doll head's screams and the girl's pleas for forgiveness and kept slashing away. Its HP dropped below 50% and another cutscene started.
The cutscene was the doctor guy trapping my character in a rope, and unleashing his monstrosity onto my teammates. One. By. One. It beat them senseless, they cried for my helpand with each one the option to try to escape appeared and I had to mash buttons as fast as I could, but it never worked. It showed close up as the creature took the life out of each of my teammates. I had to watch him kill them, then he proceeded to rip apart their bodies, and mix match them into different creatures, just like himself. After he made them all the doctor went to each one and performed some short ritual off-camera that made my character cringe each time, as it was in his line of sight. Then my character was freed, and I was instructed to fight for my life.
I tried to fight them off. I tried very hard. The doctor just sat back and watched me get bounced between them as they beat my character senseless, chanting about what a terrible leader I had been, how I couldn't save any of them, how I abandoned them. It went something like this as they pummelled my character on screen.
" You NEVER helped us! Only helped YOURSELF!"
" You were weak, and watched as we suffered!"
" YOU LET HIM KILL US ALL!"
I was mortified. I should have tried harder to keep them alive, I felt terrible for not being able to save them, I felt I deserved to lose the game now. I stopped trying to regain my composure in the game and let them continue to destroy me. Eventually my character fell and they all jumped at me and ripped my apart. There wasn't a lot of blood, but my character cried in pain, and begged to know why I gave up. I didn't have an answer. But he still wasn't dead either, to the original creature came to his limbless body and picked him up. The doll head just rammed its face into my characters until there was no face left to smash, and the HP hit 0% finally. As my character died I fell to the floor paralyzed. Just before I drifted to sleep I heard the doctor laughing, while the little girl cried.
I woke up in the hospital sometime later. Gary was in the room at the time, and surprised to se me awake. " Holy hell Dude! You woke up! ". He sounded almost like he really didn't believe it. " Yeah, I guess I did. How long have I been out, exactly? " I was a little concerned. " Two and a half months." He was serious, and I wasn't happy. I asked a lot of questions I'm sure you're not interested in, just responsibility stuff. But, he did tell me how I was found. After a few days not going in to work, or talking to anyone, some of my work buddies got worried and called Gary to see if he'd heard from me, which he ofcourse hadn't. So they decide to go to my place to check on me. My door was blocked by something on the inside so they came in through a window seeingas they were now very worried. They noticed my couch had been stacked against my front door, and all my furniture was in weird places, except my entertainment center and game set up. They found me passed out in the living room floor, my TV displaying only a staticy GAME OVER screen, and worst of all instead of my controller in my hand I had one of the artist dolls, that seemed to have parts made from all different kinds of wood. It was clutched in my right hand, it took three of my friends to get it out after they got me to the hospital. They fixed my house back up, and took care of my cat while I was out, and luckily my boss likes me so I kept my job too. But now I was very, very curious about DARK.
I called Gary's relatives in NC and asked about the people that lived in the house I found the game in. " Well thats kind of story I usually don't tell people, but since you're Gary's friend I guess it can't hurt...". I listened to every little detail. It turns out the guy there was really a lucky guy in the 90's, found the love of his life, had a daughter, and got his dream job working on video games. The best part about his job? He never had to leave home, so the house in the middle of nowhere was perfect as he loved nature and seclusion. However, in the late 90's his luck backfired, his daughter got kidnapped from his house by some lunatic former scientist to be used for expirements. They found her all too late, she'd been hacked up and each part attached to all kinds of freaky things. His daughter had loved art and being the dad he was they had collected all sorts of beyond her level stuff, the kicker? Her favorites were the freaking featureless dolls and she had a TON of them. After his daughter died his wife left, and he eventually lost his job. Although he had the rights to the current game the company was working on, and you guessed it, it was DARK.
DARK was almost done when he was fired, but it had room for more features, and he had the programs to work on it. In his depression he did a lot of scary things. First, he pretended the art dolls were his former coworkers and family, and eventually even his pretend world crashed and caused him to go into a rage and smash up a portion of the dolls, rendering them deformed. His neighbors swore he watched their children at night, and accused him of trying to take them. They eventually all moved out once he started walking into the middle of the house arrangement at random hours at night and screaming like a dying hyena, then laughing hysterically on and off before beating on all their doors one after another. Then he was alone, in the woods with nothing to do but work on a game the public would never see. He poured his anger and sadness into it. Eventually it morphed into the disturbing thing I played. But from what the relative told me, the guy claimed for there to have been at least 10 levels to the game, including the tutorial.
After all that, I bought a safe. I put the game in it, locked it, and proceeded to "lose" the combination so I couldn't give it to my friends or pass it along. No one needs to experience that game, and hopefully no one else ever will.