Based on appearances, A Short Tale of Solitude takes its cues from survival-horror’s darkest, dreariest, earliest days – before fancy whosamwhatsits like player-controlled camera angles and color were invented. And yet, while A Short Tale’s appearance gives off a strong early-Resident-Evil vibe, the story seems to be headed into far less charted territory. Set inside an abandoned French orphanage during World War I, the game focuses on warring factions of deranged children and cites Lord of the Flies as one of its main influences. Kids, right? With all their wars and other crazy nonsense. When will they ever learn, the silly tykes?
A Short Tale’s venturing outside of old-school horror’s suffocatingly confined box in the way it approaches structure and progress as well. In short, our choices will have “long-lasting impacts on the rest of the game,” and we’ll encounter many “random” characters and situations. The basic meat of the game, though, works like this:
“This title tackles an era and themes not often seen in the video game medium. Set in northern France during World War I, players are thrust into the role of Sebasten, a 10-year old boy living in an abandoned orphanage. Inspired in part by literary works such as Lord of the Flies, the orphanage’s power structure has given way from adults to warring groups of children. Sebasten, lonely and distraught, must find his place amongst the adolescent society as the story takes an otherworldly turn.”
Other key features include character customization and “children giggling.” Ah, the wonders of the human brain: the latter probably ranks as one of the least-threatening phrases on Earth, but add black-and-white and some claustrophobic camera angles, and it’s a one-way ticket to white-hot terror.
A Short Tale of Solitude’s set to whisper sweet, spooky nothings into our most easily unsettled of brainplaces in January. In the meantime, it’s taken to Steam Greenlight, so – if you dig it – you know what to do. And if not, well, probably don’t open any doors that seem to be producing ceaseless childlike screams for at least the next few days. Just a helpful tip.