I consider myself an amateur exotic game critic. Every day, I search the depths of the internet for independent games of most any genre and critique them on my blog. I usually enjoy playing games that few other people have critiqued before, as my opinion can either send the game to glory (if the game deserves it of course) or damn it to obscurity. I’m not known to be generous with my critiques, either.
A few months ago I became very depressed, and being a cynical jerk didn’t help that any. For some reason, during this time of severe depression, critiquing indie horror games helped alleviate some of the depression. I played through games that were very unoriginal, such as slendytubbies, and some very nicely made, if not poorly animated, games such as imscared.
The last game I played made me drop the horror genre for life.
I was going across my usual sources when I came across the game. It didn’t have any reviews, nor any official title. Just the name of the program, avoider.exe, was present. It was late at night, I was tired, and I wanted to get one last game in before dragging myself to bed. I downloaded the game, and started it up.
The title screen was unusual for the normal ‘avoider’ genre, but common for horror. A dark blue pixelated lake rested across a green surrounding, with a full moon in the upper center portion of the screen, with a reflection of the moon in the lake. Below the lake, the game presented two options. One was ‘Play game’; the other was ‘Upgrades’. I chuckled to myself at the thought of an avoider game having upgrades. I selected ‘Play game’, and the game began.
The graphics were none too impressive; in fact, they were so pixelated that the game could be considered Atari generation. The objective was ‘run away’, and you controlled a character moving back and forth on a two dimensional plane. The ‘enemy’ was a darker blob, and was easily avoided. After about two minutes, however, the monster shot across the screen and the screen went blank. In crimson letters, the screen displayed ‘You were caught’. One click later, the main menu came back to view.
The background was altered this time. Not even a second after coming back to the main menu, the moon at the top of the screen had two eye sockets flash open. They sat there, blinking at me, as I stared at the new feature. The cursor was no longer the standard pointer, either. It was a small orange circle.
This intrigued me. Wanting to see more, I pressed the ‘play game’ again, wanting to see what happened next. A popup on the main menu informed me I have to upgrade before continuing.
The upgrade menu was just a listing of three available upgrades, each one with a checkbox next to it. I saw one that said “speed ++” and selected it, hoping it would make me go faster. After selecting the upgrade, however, the mouse cursor changed. It developed digits, much like a baby’s hand. I was thrilled, as I had not seen a mechanic like this in a game for a long while.
The next round of the game functioned identical as the first. My character did not move faster, however. The ‘monster’ did. Again, after a few minutes, the monster shot across the screen and grabbed my character. The screen became blank, and words again came up in crimson. This time, it wrote ‘Still not fast enough’.
The main menu had again changed. The moon had a very unnatural smile, starting near the edge of the moon near one eye and hugging the edge to reach the other. It reminded me of a white jack-o-lantern, with black orifices instead of lit ones. The reflection in the lake was gone.
The next upgrade on the list was ‘timer ++’. I figured it didn’t really matter what order I picked the upgrades in, so I was selecting them as they were presented from top to bottom. The hand again evolved into an adult-looking hand. I continued on to the next round.
The only difference in play this time around is that the sudden attack came much sooner, within a few seconds of starting play. The words that came with the next screen sent a small chill down my spine.
“Are you even trying, Jeremy?” it said. I silently dismissed it as a game built with me in mind, as if the creator of the game made it for me to play. It wouldn’t be very scary had my name not been Jeremy, so I tallied this as a ‘con’ for the game.
The change to the main menu was more than a little ominous this time around. The moon had turned into a blood moon, and the still blue waters of the tranquil lake had morphed into a turbulent bright red whirlpool. The third upgrade was ‘collision ++’. The cursor morphed into a grotesque, elongated hand, with each digit clearly visible and forming a semicircle.
Marking this as a ‘pro’, I played the game again. It was difficult to differentiate the difference this time, as I didn’t play for long. I think the ‘monster’ was able to clip through the walls, but again after a few seconds of gameplay, it shot across the screen and caught me.
“Last chance”, the screen said.
The main menu came back up. This time, there was no lake. There was only the blood moon, staring dead on at me, smiling, directly in the middle of my screen. Slowly, the moon tilted on its right side.
By reflex, I went to the upgrade screen again. This time there was only one upgrade available.
“Ability to devour souls ++”, it read. I started audibly laughing at this one, selected it, and watched the hand again transform into something more grotesque. It grew long, thin nails at the end of each digit. I selected ‘Play game’, and prepared to start what would hopefully be the last round.
There was nothing different from the last round, I was quickly caught, and the game over screen came up one final time.
“YOU ARE MINE”
It faded on to the main menu, the moon dead in the center of the screen, the cursor invisible, and no options to choose from. The face in the center started to spin. Slowly at first, but it then started to get faster and brighter. It soon became too bright to look at. I smelt a burning smell coming from my screen. I jolted to turn the screen off, but I stopped half-way, mesmerized by the spinning moon. I blacked out.
The next day, I broke from the trance as daylight shone into my eyes. My screen was black, with a burn in the center to where to moon was. I felt strangely empty. Not depressed anymore, just completely empty.
Over the next few days I purchased a new monitor and made my review on this game, with a warning not to play it all the way through, or even at all. The game itself was removed from the listing by the moderators after a complaint by yours truly. I didn’t get any satisfaction from it being removed, however.
In fact, I haven’t had any feelings since. No sadness, no happiness. Just a hole where my depression used to be.
Written by Benovere