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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.

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Adam Smith

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