Michael Lutz made My Father’s Long, Long Legs, which just so happens to be one of my favourite Twine games, and his latest release is right up in the top ten as well. The Uncle Who Works At Nintendo is a horror game that plays on schoolground jealousies, feelings of inadequacy and experimental Nintendo hardware. There are multiple endings, some of which aren’t quite as alarming as others, and the whole story takes place in the few hours leading up to midnight during a sleepover. Best played with headphones on, although sound is atmospheric rather than intended to startle in screamer fashion.
Whew. Lutz’ writing reminds me of Thomas Ligotti’s short stories – there’s a sense of meandering urban legends. Instead of beginning with an escaped prisoner and an undetected home invasion, Lutz and Ligotti pull back the curtain to show the terrible machinery that operates behind suburbia, but there’s no closure. No message written in blood on the mirror and no severed body parts tumbling around in the dryer. Things are distorted and uncomfortable rather than violently deranged. In Lutz, as the Uncle and Father of the titles suggests, there’s a strong element of wrongdoing within family units and behind closed doors. The fear is very close to home.
I’ll say little more, except to note that I’m not entirely sure what the monster in this game is. Whatever the intended specifics, Lutz has written one of the least didactic and delicate takes on gamer culture that I’ve seen in a while. And managed to do so within a creepy horror game.
There are obvious readings but there are clues that complicate matters and multiple playthroughs, with new endings unlocked, only seem to muddy the waters further. Assumptions are contradicted and there are strange shoots that seem to wither before reaching any natural conclusion.
Unlock every ending – and there are hints as to how to do so, found by selecting unknown endings on the final screen – and you’ll be able to read the author’s notes. When you do that, you might realise that some shoots were flowering behind your back and that there’s far more to contemplate than childhood anxieties and the terrifying wonder of a glitching game. Lutz also wrote a response to some of the feedback he’d received and you can read that here…but only when you’re done.
If you take the plunge, I’d be interested to hear which ending you reached on your first playthrough. I was in the linen closet, holding my breath.