Let’s talk about a bit about horror games. Video games are in general a nice change of pace after books and films, as they offer a sense of freedom to the player. Every action that takes place in the game is the result of players’ actions and made choices. Even Super Mario Bros. gives a lot of options to the player; do you avoid the Goomba or do you stomp it, how will you advance, do you stop collecting coins etc. When was the last time you could choose the characters’ actions in the middle of a movie or in a book? Granted, select your own adventure books have that but that’s another point to discuss. However, horror games usually make the player to choose something forceful to make the characters survive. Mostly this is to kill or escape from various hideous beings and monsters, but very few horror game make the player be one of the horrors and act against their own instincts, even if the player wouldn’t be aware of this. A friend of mine compared Resident Evil to Silent Hill once saying that Silent Hill is the better of the two in horror as “the player is forced to journey towards where he really doesn’t.” I agree with him with this sentiment, but I personally I don’t like horror games’ designs in general. Eight out of ten the survival aspect is made to hamper everything that the player can do. Sure, you’re “surviving” but where’s the horror? In the story?
A horror game should incorporate the horror element better into the gameplay. Forbidden Siren actually does this pretty well, using episodic gameplay and indirect advancement in the plot. Siren is one of those games I’d like to get into my shelf, but I wouldn’t play it in the dark for a long time. All the mentioned horror games follow the same basic horror game design of darkness + hampered gameplay + story is the horror. The freedom is very small in these games, as the player most likely always comes better ways to tackle the obstacles, but can’t do so because the game designers either didn’t think of that, or want the player to experience the game in their way. Developers, let the player choose what they want to do and go with it. You’re not here to make art. If you’re going to make a game in survival horror genre, be sure to create at least twenty different solutions to one puzzle. It would actually be a nice change of pace to have a sandbox style of horror game, where the player can choose any action they want. For example, a Shibido is tracing you and you’re running away from it on the streets. In every horror game, you’d have to find a safe location, but what if you could take that piece of pipe, smash the window in and continue from there? The Shibido would smell you for sure, but it would have to think for a second or two are you inside where the window was smashed or are you outside. This would also call upon other Shibido, but the same applies. It’s funny to think this way that Contra gives more freedom to the player how to play the game than vast majority of horror games. The freedom of choice is surprisingly small in 3D games it seems.
Let’s discuss a small game I came across recently, that doesn’t really simulate freedom of choice, but practically forces the player to do some dark things without him noticing it. The game I’m talking about is Irisu Syndrome, a game that doesn’t only mess with the player, but with the folder it resides in.
Now I’m going to go into a lot of spoiler territory, so before that be sure to test whether or not your system runs the game. It’s a simple physics based puzzle with a twist. I have to say that Irisu Syndrome is great little gem. While it’s not the best puzzle out there by far, the presentation and everything that comes with it is simply superb. It’s a freeware game so there’s very little reason NOT to play it, except if you can’t work around with Applocale. You should get one of your techfriends work on this nevertheless, if you’re into something different.
The game’s completely free and translated as well, so go grab it. Go on, play some rounds, I’ll be waiting here. Just try not to read the whole post in the blog if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Games that mess with the player aren’t that rare. There was this RPG that would send e-mails to the player and some times phone calls. There are numerous games that do something like that, and Irisu Syndrome is one of those. Spoiler text time folks; after you’ve installed Irisu Syndrome, it creates a .PNG file in the directory it resides in. Every time you lose a game, the image gets altered a bit, sometimes messing the characters or returning them to normal. Not only that, but bunch of text files appear in the same folder, messaging something to the player. When you manage to rack enough points with six tries in a row, you’ll get something… disturbing.
Irisu Syndrome’s puzzle is said to represent the main heroine’s psyche as it falls down bit by bit. In the end, the player might get the realization that he was the one gnawing her, destroying her sanity bit by bit. After that, the realization what the game has made the player do sinks in.
To those who have played Irisu Syndrome and completed it, you know that I’m broadening the truth a little bit, but not too much. In the end, Irisu Syndrome is a mean game to the player. It starts as an innocent piece of software, becomes really dark at one point and then surprises you.
It’s really hard to discuss about Irisu Syndrome without giving away what it is about. Did I mention that it has a METSU mode you can access via severed cat’s head?
Now don’t think that Irisu Syndrome is one of “those video games” that are only about violence and blood, because it’s more about the good things in life in a cleaver mask. It don’t like to tell people “to experience a game,” but in this case I recommend you to sit through everything in this game, and experience it.
Also, this post has a not-so-well hidden message.
Also, I noticed how messed and incoherent this post was. Blame KoFXIII and Irisu Syndrome for that.