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Death By A Dozen Flailing Stabs: Silhouette

Murder Most Haphazard

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A personal highlight of Rezzed for me was when I trapped The Guardian’s Keith Stuart in a corner and repeatedly stabbed him with a sharpened blade. He tried helplessly to run between each swipe, staggering dazedly away, but I relentlessly pursued, moving faster, unfaltering, utterly determined to fulfil the demands of my dark passenger. “That’s for working for a lily-livered pinko scum leftwing weasel rag!” I exclaimed, as I plunged the knife into his spine. “That’s for helping that traitor Snowden to destroy democracy!” I snarled as I connected with what I think was his neck, but honestly it was getting hard to tell by that point. So much blood. “That’s for the indulgent Shoreditch coffee shop!” I reasoned as I struck harder still. “That’s for being so awful to cuddly Uncle Rupert!” I bellowed as I carved a scarlet tunnel through to his liver. “That’s for all those spelling mistakes!” I screeched as the last of his gravy ran to the floor. “And that,” I intoned with satisfaction as I turned on my heel and walked away, “is for continuing to give bloody Tim Dowling the opening column in the Saturday magazine.” Yeah, I know Keith’s just the paper’s games guy, but I had to start somewhere, right?

Later, I played a couple of rounds of two-player murderer’n’victim chase game Silhouette.
Manikin Games’ shared-keyboard cat and mouse affair was created for a gamejam, and to some degree it shows – this is yer quintessential single idea game and as such I don’t know how much mileage it would have as something played regularly, rather than with brief merriment at a games show, for instance. That said, the key to it, and the aspect that makes me sit and utter “Oh I say, jolly well done, what?” is one simple twist to that one single idea.

The setup is that each player – one a killer, the other his or her intended victim – takes turns to try and find or evade each other as appropriate, progression through a vast mansion with a limited field of vision. A mix of intuition, desperation and observation is required to determine where the other player is. As you’re sat next to each other, you can clearly see what your opponent does in their turn, but what you can’t see is where they are in relation to you – unless they happen to wind up somewhere very close, in which case you’ll see the sudden glimmer of a white or black cloak and everything suddenly escalates.

Here’s the twist – the ‘turns’ become shorter as the players get closer to each other. Each participant only has a matter of seconds to try and get themselves towards or away from the other initially, but this time period steadily reduces until they’ve got mere moments to react. If all goes to dramatic plan, by the later stages of a round – which takes just a couple of minutes in its entirety – each player will be within sight range of each other, and the horror really kicks off. The victim tries to flee from the advancing, knife-wielding spectre on their tail, but they can’t. They just don’t have long enough, and the killer moves slightly faster than they. The gap is forcibly closed, and desperation mounts. There is an exit if they can find it, and first the key to it, but as the seconds tick away so too do their chances of survival. It’s horrifying. Playing as the killer, it’s sickeningly gratifying – in the shoes of a Jason or Ghostface, not entirely in a hurry, knowing that sooner or later you will be upon your helpless prey.

This sense of dark inevitability is somewhat undone by the eventual encounter, wherein it turns out that this murderer is about as adept with a knife as I am at darts. Hapless flailing, in other words, missing as often as hitting even though the victim’s back is right there. It is comedy murder, and a game which pings wildly between terror and hilarity, strategy and chance, discomfort and farce.

It’s a small thing, but sometimes that is what a game needs to be. The dev’s now released the Rezzed build free to all comers, either to download or play in a browser, and there’s also a level editor with which to create yet more fiendish or confusing mansions.

And here is my fatal encounter with Keith, recorded for posterity by one Cara Ellison. Turns out Cara has rather shaky hands, but YouTube had a magic button which seemed to sort that out.

Sorry about the sound, I’ve yet to invest in a decent mic for my camera and unfortunately this public event was full of people. Ugh. All you’re missing is Keith wailing in terror and me making shit Scream jokes, though.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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