The Whimpering World: Catachresis

Catachresis is a free horror game and you should play it as soon as you have access to a quiet, lonely room. You’ll know within five or ten minutes whether you want to stick with the story, and the whole thing takes less than an hour to complete. Terrible things are happening but, instead of jumping in your face and going ‘BOO’, the horrors reside in words and the gaps between them. It’s a side-scrolling adventure rather than a purely textual game, but most of the action takes place off-screen. This allows designer Cameron Kunzelman to suggest terrors both local and cosmic, and to toy with expectations. The writing reminds me of excellent British indie film Skeletons and the work of Charles Stross, a blend of humour, horror, paranormal investigation and bumptious bureaucracy.

Here’s a trailer, which makes a pleasant mockery of 99% of the videos appearing in my twitter timeline since Outlast came out yesterday.

Cameron described the game to me as “equal parts David Lynch and Ghostbusters, but it doesn’t clearly reside in either camp”. It’s a clever piece of work, frequently amusing and yet creepy at the same time. Mid-way through, I realised that voice acting would kill it completely. Text on a screen is a sort of tone in and of itself, and when people are saying things that should be shrieked and garbled, yet saying them using only written lines, the words and the characters become unnatural. I don’t imagine emotion or panic in their words. They are poised, prepared and knowing. That fits.

Play Catachresis here – paying attention to the save/load instructions at the beginning – and perhaps try some of Cameron’s other games while you’re in the neighbourhood.


  1. giantspacenewt says:

    Top Tip: Mash left and right for crazy tentacle-leg dancing action! It’s enough to justify the game by itself, I feel.

    • whoCares says:

      Last week I got paid 1136 Euro working from my home computer playing video games. This is what you do: go to a university, make your degree and specialise in something that reqires online-research.

  2. lhzr says:

    aye, skeletons was excellent and this seems good too (at least the first few minutes that I’ve played so far), thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Eightball says:

    Charles Stross like the first two books and the short stories, or Charles Stross like the third one in the Laundry series?

    • Niko says:

      Speaking of, I’m trying to imagine a space strategy based on Neptune’s Brood setting. It’d probably turn out to be too boring because there’s no sane reason to build a battleship and to wage war in general.

    • Convolvulus says:

      How does the series change? I’ve only read the first two Laundry books and their accompanying short stories. I’m not a huge fan but was planning to give the next one a go.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yes, I’m not a big fan of the Laundry. It reads a little too like listening to my old sysadmin talking about his holidays rather than setting up my network connection.

    • StillUsefull says:

      Reminded me more of “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley. Liked this much more than the Laundry Files.

  4. JBossch says:

    Just played this. Not sure what happened. Did I lose?

    • Tagiri says:

      I’m not actually sure whether it’s possible to lose. Or win, really.

      I’m curious if the decisions near the end make a difference but not curious enough to endure all that slow walking while nothing happens again.

      • JBossch says:

        Exactly. Anybody know if there are multiple endings? But yeah, I probably won’t play through it all again.

      • DrollRemark says:

        I tried it once, and exactly the same thing happened again.

        I guess that was the entire game then? Can’t say I was ever approaching anything like scared. I feel like I must have missed something.

        • Tagiri says:

          ***trying not to be too spoilery but just in case**

          I actually really liked the eerie otherworldliness of the whole thing, and I really liked the idea of the “riddles” in the section after the change (in the portal). I also really liked the bleakness of the ending paired with the closeness implied by the hand-holding in that last moment. I just wondered whether having ‘participated’ in the riddles actually did anything. Also on the website there’s a screencap of Jeff with the llama character (or whatever it was) from the first riddle room, which seems impossible based on my playthrough.

        • Bioptic says:

          I feel like I missed something too – there aren’t multiple endings to my knowledge, so I’m puzzled as to why the game needed a save/load feature. Honestly just felt like a waste of time, which was irritating given the gushing of the article.

  5. njolnin says:

    I love Charles Stross (reading his newest book right now), but whatever the similarities to the Laundry series may be, I lost interest in this very quickly.

  6. shrk says:

    I left the third riddle room with the shrimp and now I can’t move… just stuck outside the door. Any hints on what’s up with that?

    • vivlo says:

      im stuck the same way at the llama door. I thought it was part of the gameplay ?…

    • stahlwerk says:

      It bugged out for me, too, after talking down the Computer demon the door did not appear and when I left through the regular door it spawned me on the other end of the large hallway with lights off and I could not move.. That was on Win8 & IE10, using Firefox it worked.

  7. MikeyMoo says:

    couldnt complete it. Rarely been that bored.

  8. S Jay says:

    Hm… I guess I am not intellectually gifted enough to get the point of the game. Pretty lame IMO.

  9. Sarkhan Lol says:

    Lazy apocalyptic surrealism that should have stuck to one or the other of its guns.

  10. Shazbut says:

    Loved the video

  11. E_FD says:

    This counts as a game? All you do is keep walking right and watch cutscenes.

    • Kubrick Stare Nun says:

      It still isn’t as painfully linear as Remember Me.

  12. Blinky343 says:

    I liked it a lot, I dunno if I’d really consider it a straight up “scary” game though. I was confused about the save/load thing as well. Made me want to play more games in the setting with these characters (hopefully with more to do)

  13. Miles Teg says:

    The save button served as kind of “worry indicator” for me – being super loud made it sound like the alien motion tracker at times.

  14. terry says:

    As much as I enjoyed the game, as a graphics artist with nothing better to do I wish for the love of Jebus God Incarnate some of these people would contact me.

    I can understand programmer art but this game deserves so much more than the presentation allows.

  15. HereticSoul says:

    Whoever wrote the dialogue really had something going for them, so credit for that. The otherworldly feel and “what’s left unseen/unsaid” aspect was neat. But that was the only thing keeping it from just being tedious.
    Sadly, this is probably the most interesting game on Cameron’s site, other than “Slavoj Zizek Makes A Twine Game”.

  16. AADA7A says:

    SPOILERS: As I entered the room I was quite sure of myself that I was being smart for saving before choosing artifact, thinking the theme of things having happened before (eternal return) and whatnot would yield some interesting results in combination with the save/reload mechanism, alas, I was disappointed. :( I used the load feature to make several choices in the room with the alpaca, but it didn’t change anything, except for the feeling I as a player went into the ending with.

    Really good dialogue and scary atmosphere though. Just as I read a piece on bad horror tropes over at the “in the games of madness” blog, this game comes up and shows me that the ritualistic things still can be intriguing. For me it’s Silent Hill (series) and Chzo Mythos, otherwise I’m not very fond of that specific trope, but this game made it believable and intriguing by making it seem as if it was well-thought out and the world made some sort of sense, even if I didn’t understand it all that much.