Below you will find the 25 best horror games ever released on PC. To ensure the list was as accurate as possible, the compiler was locked in a dark cellar with a copy of every game in existence and a computer capable of running them all. Two weeks later, the following article was found written on the walls in blood (the postscript was recorded on an audiolog). The writer was nowhere to be seen.
Adam has left his post, fleeing into the hills above Manchester to wail and leap around, emitting guttural noises which sound like pain but are actually carnal joy. And all because the Pathologic re-make has reached its Kickstarter target. People who have visited Ice-Pick Lodge’s original dark Russian adventure tend not to come back from its plague-infested town the same as when they entered, and now anyone who missed the original in 2005 – or anyone who found its off-kilter brokenness more enervating than engaging – will have a second chance to experience its grand weirdness.
I’ve been waiting for a Pathologic remake for years. My reaction to the announcement of a Kickstarter campaign to fund a remake was odd. I worried, I fretted. My concern was that a re-engineered version of the game would remove rough edges, sandpaper the strange angles and anomalies, and somehow expose the whole experience as more sterile, and less esoteric and unusual than the broken machinery of the original release. Now that the Kickstarter is live, here are details of a conversation with Ice-Pick Lodge about the project and the original game. Time to cast the major concerns aside, and to embrace the horror and the beauty.
The megabooths have been disassembled, the lanyards have been discarded and the crowds have dissipated – Gamescom has run its course for another year. RPS sent its two best Smiths to Cologne last week. Their brief was to see the games, talk to the creators and meet as many terrifying mechanical puppets as possible. They succeeded on all fronts and returned with tales of Elite: Dangerous, Pathologic, Warhammer and Dead Island, among many other delights and disappointments. Here are their thoughts on the show as a whole, along with a few highlights.
This isn’t the informationiest of news stories, I’ll concede, but see, when it’s Pathologic, it gets a pass. It’s Pathologic news. As Alec reported back in November of last year, Ice-Pick Lodge are planning to remake the 2006 lunatic masterpiece. We’ve just heard today that this will be kicking off in August, beginning with a mysterious, yet-to-be-released ARG, building up to the inevitable Kickstarter campaign in September. And, well, that means it’s time to start being interested in that right about now. And shitting heck, look, that top image – that’s… new Pathologic! Click on it for a full-sized version.
This makes almost too much sense. Yet I almost don’t want it to happen. Mysterious, infamous survival game Pathologic’s power stems more from its legend (a game of existential brutality that reached for the very stars) than its reality (broken, arduous, appallingly translated); to bring it onto a more conventional plane of reality by remaking it, and in turn by having lots of people play it, could upset its mythology.
This is incredibly unfair to the other games in Indie Royale’s Halloween Bundle but the reason everyone should buy it is because Pathologic is in there. Ice-pick Lodge’s disease-ridden horror story takes place in one of the most bizarre and fascinating environments ever crafted, and the game is either brilliantly and intentionally brutal or beguilingly broken. Probably both. For what is just shy of £3.00 (at the time of writing), you’ll receive Pathologic, side-scrolling changeable adventure Home, characterful puzzler MacGuffin’s Curse, retro ARPG Evil Quest, and Telltale’s strongest Sam and Max series – The Devil’s Playhouse. But you only needed to know about Pathologic, right? There’s a video below, because bundles have videos now.
Ice-Pick Lodge tend to pop up when you least expect them, with the game you least expect them to make. They’ve been sensibly resistant to attempting another Pathologic, instead darting off to create new specimens of the weird, the wonderful and the intimidatingly odd. The enormous success they so richly deserve has eluded them, which means a move to Kickstarter is probably sensible. True to form, the project they’re proposing, a game called Knock-Knock, is bat-shit weird – but at the same time, I think it’s the most mainstream-friendly they’ve yet been. Not in a bad way, though.
Knock-Knock is the Evil Dead meets hide & seek, as a malevolent-faced hermit tries to evade monstrous ‘Guests’ to his cabin in the woods. It immediately puts me somewhat in mind of Slender, but with rather more DIRECT ACTION and an art style that evokes 80s children’s cartoons from that alternate evil dimension on the other side of the mirror we’re never supposed to mention. Read the rest of this entry »
And now, in a feature I like to call Forbidden Discourse: The Oily Fruit of the Broken Heart, we present an interview with Ice-Pick Lodge CEO Nikolay Dybowskiy and all-purpose Ice Pick developer Aleksey “the LxR” Luchin. Ice-Pick are of course the Russian studio responsible for the award-winning Pathologic and The Void, two fascinating PC games.
I could give this chat an introduction about how the attitude that comes across in it gives me hope, but screw it. Instead I’ll just say that this interview proves just how much these guys are Doing It Right. Read the rest of this entry »
[Following on from the first two parts, this is the grand finale of Quinns’ evisceration of the game Walker described as “Oblivion with Cancer”. As a compliment. Lots of spoilers, but you should read it anyway.]
Part III: The Soul
There are two themes that run through Pathologic like a couple of sharks lurking in a swimming pool. By themes I mean something that’s vital to the vision of the game yet is detached from the structure of the game proper- something like Half-Life 2’s Orwellian influence, or Beyond Good and Evil’s cartoon imagery. In the case of Half-Life 2, there’s nothing about City 17’s hi-tech tyranny that directly affects your running and gunning. Likewise in Beyond Good and Evil the fact that your hovercraft is repaired by walruses doesn’t make a difference when you’ve got a puzzle in front of you.
In the case of Pathologic, the two themes are meat and theater. And at least to my mind, they’re what propel the game from being interesting and brave to being beautiful. It’s an ugly, ugly beauty though. Read the rest of this entry »
As kindly linked by one of Pathologic’s developers in our comments thread, here’s the latest trailer for Tension, Ice-Pick‘s intriguing next game. Er – it may be a bit NSFW, depending on whether you sit near to anyone who objects to soft-focus polygon boobies.
The hook is battle via painting, rather than gunplay, using a gesture system apparently similar to Black & White – though it seems rather more expanded and based on a system of visible, physicsy results in Tension’s dreamlike world, rather than simple spell-casting. It’s a fascinating, and at times beautiful, trailer, even if it doesn’t tell us all that much about what we’ll be doing. There’s perhaps as much to scoff at as there is to coo at, but given Quinns’ epic wordgasm about Pathologic, it’s safe to say this is a game we’ll all be following with some interest.
I was going to say something like ‘artful eroticism’, until it got to the tree-humping and giant wood phallus bit at the end. Still, it seems more dignified than the Witcher’s boobie content, eh? Second trailer beneath the cut. Read the rest of this entry »
In a single word, Pathologic is dark. And not “we’re going to make our sequel a darker, more adult experience” dark. Not ‘teen angst’ dark. Pathologic is an endlessly bleak game with an atmosphere that smothers all hope. It’s ‘pensioner breaking a leg in his bedsit and no one finding out until the smell starts to get unbearable’ dark. Read the rest of this entry »