Incomprehensible Scares: The 4th Wall

By Nathan Grayson on August 15th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

But wait, that's only two walls! What a rip-off.

If you ask me, we’re in a new golden age for horror games. Between heavy hitters like Dead Space and less costly efforts like Lone Survivor, Amnesia, Slender, and Asylum, we’ve got enough things going bump in the night that I’m surprised they haven’t stepped on each others’ toes and ended up in some cringe-worthy slapstick shenanigans yet. But that’s sort of the problem, as well: it’s just the same thematic beats, time and time again. Haunted houses, dark rooms, spooky forests, the undead, etc. But as human beings, we fear the unknown. We fear difference. Weird shit. So then, who better to design a truly bizarre take on horror than the folks who brought us the equally-bizarre-but-for-entirely-different reasons Vidiot Game? And thus, The 4th Wall was born. This game is basically brilliant. After the break, I will tell you why.

The 4th Wall is, in short, completely abstract. It takes place in some sort of computer grid television fuzz dimension, and as you walk around, things just sort of… happen. I don’t want to spoil too much, but ethereal lights dance about – sometimes spiriting you away to unsettling new locales – and oddly threatening electronic sounds litter the sonic landscape. 4th Wall’s excellent, too, at introducing you to some gut-wrenching new sight (say, an infinite expanse of blackness where eyeballs appear and just kind of blink at you) and then – just as you begin to get comfortable – pulling the rug right out from under your feet again. And sure, it has a few “OOOOGHAABOOOGHA” leap-out-of-your-chair moments, but it largely opts to focus on the extremely unsettling alien-ness of its world.

The whole thing runs on this strange, almost dream-like logic. Occasionally, that caused me to lose track of what to do next, but by and large, it only drove home 4th Wall’s otherworldly nature. For instance, at one point, my movement slowed and it was like my character was fighting against his/her/its own limbs to trudge ever forward. There was definitely a certain sleep-paralysis-like feeling to it. But, taken in conjunction with the sights all around me, it just kind of made sense.

To be honest, this one’s incredibly tough to explain. Fortunately, there are three ways you can experience it, and two of them are completely free. First up, there’s an old version that was made for 7DFPS, and – while not quite as polished or lengthy – it won’t cost you a cent. Then there’s the new version, which will run you a measly $1, or – if you’re still on the fence because your frugality knows no limits – there’s also a free demo of that version.

So then, get to it. Also, without spoiling it, I must inform you that there’s a truly wild “twist” ending. You won’t see it coming, but believe me: you’ll know it when you see it. I’d recommend going in free of foreknowledge, but if you need more enticing, here’s a trailer.

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38 Comments »

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  1. jikavak says:

    Vidiot game was amazing.No reason not to get this mofo.

  2. Kinsha says:

    Oh yeah this is sooooo scary. Just like Slender and Amnesia were sooooo scary. As a human being, personally, I fear taking a giant dump that feels like a child birth.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      It must have been difficult for you to type that comment then.

      • CrookedLittleVein says:

        Shut it down *Gentlemen, I think we’re done here. The Internet is complete. Last one out turm off the lights.

        * Dramatic Capitalisation!

        • mncxdas88 says:

          Hey! Friends! Look at the shell of the iPhone4S I bought! Beautiful?

          Ha ha! Is not it beautiful! I used $ 12.49 on the network to buy it! Need to buy where you can see: http://linksae.com/4q
          There are many other types of housing! But my favorite is this!

      • Shakes999 says:

        Oh holy lol. Fatality.

  3. GZStorm says:

    Thanks for writing about this. I’m preemptively linking to my Indievania page in the event my website crashes: http://indievania.com/games/4th-wall . Also, a small percentage of people have reported that their AV flags this game as a virus, this is a false positive. Unfortunately I can’t do much about it because of how the game is made. Updating your virus definitions to the latest might fix it, otherwise you will need to ignore the warning.

    • noclip says:

      You should go with the virus thing. Release an “uninstaller” that removes the game, and then an hour later…

    • frightlever says:

      MSE was fine with it. Chrome “suggested” it was a virus but gave me the option to keep or discard the download.

      If you can measure the quality of being unsettled in value terms, I got my money’s worth very quickly.

  4. Shroom says:

    So I’ve just played this. Not entirely sure if it is over yet. And that is amazing. Scared out of my fucking wits to be sitting at my computer doing anything at all, but have a desperate need to know if it is now over. Both fuck and thank you GZStorm.

    • Donjo says:

      Edit: Ok, spoiler I replied to was removed. I sacrificed myself for the greater good. You may thank me with cans of cheap lager.

    • Premium User Badge

      Driveshaft says:

      Well done Nikolaos. You’re about as subtle as a rough slap and tickle.

      -EDIT-

      He removed his spoiler. Got to say though, I’ve just finished the game and I still don’t know what the ‘twist’ is anyway.

    • Premium User Badge

      LTK says:

      Yeah, I tentatively searched for a clue (spoiler link) in here to see if there was nothing else hiding out. In fact, I was expecting something in there to greet me with even more unsettling things, but nothing was there.

  5. eruvalar says:

    That was quite disturbing. I really loved the disorientation that set in pretty fast. Great little game.

  6. Initialised says:

    Wow that was a great piece of abstract psychosis inducing art. Glad my colon wasn’t full.

  7. caligarimd says:

    That… That was definitely the Gray Man from LSD Dream Emulator.

    • azuritereaction says:

      The reason the Gray Man was in there is because this entire game was based off of a set of my phobias: I’m the guy in the credits in regards to special thanks (Dezmond Castner).

      On my YouTube channel I have a bit of a reputation for being un-wavered by almost every traditionally scary game ever made, so GZ Storm set out to purposefully make a game that would scare the hell out of me, and if you watch the videos of me playing the original (search The 4th Wall AzuriteReaction on youtube) you’ll see he succeeded.

  8. Baines says:

    Playing the XBLIG demo up until its limit (you can reach the “Buy the game” room before the 8 minute time limit is up), I saw nothing that would make me think of it as a “horror” game.

    Rather, it was just something weird for the sake of being weird.

  9. Chiller says:

    The demo won’t run at all on my Windows 7 (32bit). I can change the settings, but the game crashes immediately upon startup. Anyone else experienced this and managed to fix it?

    • GZStorm says:

      What are your computer specs? It may be possible for whatever reason your hardware may not be compatible with the game. Send me an e-mail at jesse@gzstorm.com with your specs and I’ll see if I can figure out what the issue is.

  10. ceenima says:

    I stuck at the “big earthworm dripping blood “part. NEED WALKTHROUGH!

    • Hedenius says:

      Cryptic hint: Follow the light then follow the noise.
      Then wonder why the hell you played this game.

      I think I completed it. Not sure though.
      If I did, I sure did not get the point, if there even is one.

      • frightlever says:

        I watched a Youtube playthrough video to see if I’d finished it. Still not sure. I got to the “4th Wall event” but it was definitely different to the Youtube video. Perhaps there are multiple endings, but I doubt I’d go through it again. One of the triggers near the end is a little annoying.

        I definitely found it unsettling but there was nothing to make me jump. Doom 3 may have burned out that part of my brain.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Driveshaft says:

    Okay. Some of you might not want to read any huffy posts from ‘that guy’, but I’ve started a’typing anyway and there’s no stopping me now.

    As an example of dream-like gameplay, this is an interesting game, no doubt. Good even. However…

    Scary? I didn’t think so – and I’m a complete wimp. It wasn’t even particularly “OOOOGHAABOOOGHA” jump-out-atchya scary either. Perhaps I’ve just built up a tolerance for scares in games.

    As for the twist, well, I’m still not sure if I actually experienced it.

    ‘You won’t see it coming, but believe me: you’ll know it when you see it.’

    I certainly didn’t experience what I’d call a twist, but perhaps my definition is different. Perhaps someone could tweet me (@philgibson) as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone on here.

    It was only a dollar, so I’m not hurt over it. I’m still not sure exactly what I paid for though. It seemed more like a concept demo than a game.

    My blind trust in RPSs wisdom has shown its self to be misguided. That’s not entirely your fault though, Mr Grayson. I got excited over a game just because someone told me to. That was silly of me.

    Lesson learned.

    • frightlever says:

      Journalists are paid to be enthusiastic about games. If you want a real world take on games, go read the comments at Kotaku. Yeah, journalism not looking so bad now, is it?

      • Premium User Badge

        Driveshaft says:

        Actually, games journalists are paid to analyse and criticise games. You know – like film critics… but for games.

        Now stop trying to me a smart arse. It doesn’t suit you at all.

        :P

        • Premium User Badge

          LTK says:

          I’m not sure how you managed to convolute the terms ‘critic’ and ‘journalist’ so much to equate to different things across different media. There are movie critics, and movie journalists, just as there are game critics, and game journalists.

          • Premium User Badge

            Driveshaft says:

            Surely the RPS writers transcend both these descriptions, and quite neatly fall into the category of critics when reviewing (however briefly) a game. Besides, a journalist also has to provide a balanced argu…

            Nevermind. Forget it. Now I recall why I stopped commenting on articles (even on this lovely site) for so long.

            You’re clearly a smart enough guy. Do you want to try and tell me how this turned from a discussion on a game into a debate on semantics in less than 3 posts?

  12. GunnerMcCaffrey says:

    I quite like what I played of this. I’m also quite useless at it without being able to invert the mouse, and quite sure it’d be worth more than a dollar if I could do that.

  13. TyrOvC says:

    Well worth breaking through the wall and buying it.

  14. thebigJ_A says:

    So… Chrome told me the demo .exe “looks malicious”. I ignored it, but then when I ran the installer, my AVG antivirus jumped up with a giant red “Threat Detected!” warning, saying there’s a trojan. Even ignoring it, it says Resident Shield won’t let me access it.

    So…. that’s too bad. :/

    • TychoCelchuuu says:

      See above, where the developer himself soothes your fears (which seems somewhat counterproductive for a horror game but whatever). If you can’t get AVG to stop being dumb by updating definitions or whatever then you really ought to swap to the superior MSE anyways.

  15. JackShandy says:

    I do not recommend playing this game when you have a fever.

  16. Just Endless says:

    I do not know why I played that. I assume it is over now that ‘click’ happened, to avoid spoilers? Not real impressed, the hands were a little hokey.

  17. quijote3000 says:

    OK, i clearly understood the “twist”. Seems pretty obvious. For all the people that didn’t get, did you get a —————-MILD SPOILER——————

    Youwin “trophy” at the end?

    • Nikolaos says:

      Not that I know of.

      Looking at youtube playthroughs though it seems I got a different ending to everyone else :/

  18. MultiVaC says:

    Anyone not getting any sound at all in this? It doesn’t seem to be working for me.