At first the new apartment was great: a nice open-plan living room and kitchen, a clean bathroom, and a pleasant little bedroom. Best of all, the rent was cheap. But then the numbers appeared on the wall – numbers that wouldn’t come off no matter what they were scrubbed with. It seems that this apartment has a history. Two previous tenants committed suicide and a third vanished without a trace. Now your nights are plagued by strange occurrences, and the fabric of reality itself appears to be wearing thin. You must solve the mystery before you suffer the same fate as your predecessors.
Made in one month for Indie Game Maker 2014, rest.less games have created a tale in the tradition of Lovecraftian horror. Presentation is done using a top-down view reminiscent of older RPGs, though with a fair level of detail. The game is entirely set in the single small apartment, which entirely fits on-screen at the start. Over the course of the game, this setting undergoes several transformations, many of them horrific. There are also some that expand the environment to span several screens. With much of the action taking place at night, limited lighting plays a key role in the atmosphere. Only basic outlines of walls and furniture are visible in the dark. Within the darkened areas, items and creatures appear and disappear. The change in atmosphere between day and night is also reflected in the music. A gentle daytime piano piece gives way to a discordant tune as the horrors come out to play. The game also makes good use of sound effects.
Psychological horror is the order of the day, with the squeamish or very young well advised to keep away. Simple keyboard controls allow you to move around and interact with the environment. A relaxed opening has you performing mundane tasks, such as fetching a meal and checking online message boards. Once you go to bed, however, things take a turn for the worse, with subsequent events getting more bizarre each night. Whilst you will pick up items, they are used automatically with no inventory kept. Puzzles are fairly simple, the focus being on exploration of the changing environment, and a well-crafted story that is slowly revealed over several game days. There is a section where you need to move fairly quickly to avoid a disturbing pursuer. At another point, you have limited ability to influence a crowd of demonic beings. It is possible to die in a couple of places, but the game automatically reminds you to save at the start of each night sequence, so little progress should be lost if this occurs.
Wait can be downloaded from the developers’ website.
The nameless female protagonist in Project BC’s Ars Harmonia has come to the town of Farpoint to hunt down a demon. The only lead she has is the name Fira, so now she has to roam the city to find out who Fira is and how she is connected to the demon in order to rid the city of it. In the meantime, the killings continue...
Ars Harmonia is a beautiful game. The world is presented in a realistic style with an eye for detail, using subdued colors. Some of the characters, however, are drawn in a more cartoony style. The game contains descriptions of brutal violence and scary scenes, but you never see any of the gory things described. Players experience the game from the viewpoint of both the demon (whom you can't control) and the protagonist, depending where in the story you are. Most of the scenes are displayed in a detached, bird's-eye view, although the protagonist is never shown. When people talk, big close-ups of their faces appear. The close-ups are always the same, but they accurately display the characters' overall dispositions. There is some voice acting, but only at the beginning and end of the game. There are subtitles throughout, however, displayed in the lower part of the screen. There you will also read the things people think and the descriptions of objects. The gameplay is accompanied by beautiful, soothing music in different styles and melodies, depending on the situation. It’s clear that the score was written specifically for the game.
Some of the environments are bigger than the screen. You can move the camera with the WASD or arrow keys and use the mouse to interact. The cursor doesn't change when you move over a hotspot, but pixel hunting is not necessary. This game does not use an inventory; instead you have to search for clues by talking to people and examining objects that you find whilst searching for the demon. The puzzles, which mainly consist of finding out what to do next, are not hard at all, but they’re logical and very well integrated into the story. The story itself features some interesting ideas. The clues you uncover not only lead you to the demon but also help you understand why the demon acts like it does. This raises the as-yet-unanswered question of what motivates the demon hunter to do her job. The developers are promising more Ars Harmonia games in the future, however, so perhaps this question will be answered later.
Ars Harmonia has been entered in the 2014 Indie Game Maker Contest, and can be downloaded from the contest's website.
The Deepest Sleep
Your experiment in lucid dreaming has gone horribly wrong. The pursuit of the shadow people who dwell within nightmares has finally driven you to the deepest realms of sleep. From this lowest of levels, you hope to find a path back up to the waking world. You are not alone in these depths, as hideous monsters wait to feed on those unwary souls who venture this far. With the certainties of reality but a distant memory behind you, will you ever make your way back?
Scriptwelder brings their ever-deepening horror Sleep trilogy to an unnerving conclusion. The same pixelated first-person graphics of the previous episodes are on display here. The roughness of these, overlaid with an effect akin to static, adds to the discomforting feel of the setting. After a brief opening scene, you find yourself in a darkened room with a torch lying on the floor. For the majority of the game, the beam of this torch, centred around the cursor, allows you to see only part of your surroundings clearly. You will pass a temple of rough stone blocks, sewer tunnels and a decrepit Victorian house, as well as some more disturbing locales. Sound is mostly limited to ambient effects, with a sighing wind and the player’s own footsteps providing an eerie atmosphere. Flipping some switches and levers can also provide directional cues from the sound of machinery operating.
This is an extremely disturbing game, and not for the faint-hearted. Whilst it can be played on its own, it is recommended that you first play the previous parts, accessible from the start menu. Using the mouse to control exploration, sweeping the torch around to view all darkened areas is vital. You will gather a small inventory and use it in a fairly straightforward manner. Several puzzles revolve around operating machinery, with the player often left to deduce how it works. There are a couple of sections where you operate against the clock, though the time allowed is fairly generous. There are also some sections where you need to move slowly instead, with monsters attracted to movement nearby. It is possible to die in these encounters, but you can instantly restart from the point before you entered the hazardous area. It is also important to remember that this is a dream world, with the normal rules of reality not always applying.
The Deepest Sleep can be played online at Armor Games.Continued on the next page...