How would like to play a game that ruins your day in real life?
Who asked if it’s an MMO? 2 points to you. Who said it must a cookie clicker? You, at the back, 10 points to you! Unfortunately, you’re both wrong. I was talking about Anatomy [official site]. The latest by Kitty Horrorshow comes in from the large spaces of some of her previous games to focus on a claustrophobic house. If you want to know why I’m terrified that I’ll have to spend the day home alone, jump past the break.
If you’re curious about her past works, Pip wrote about Chyrza, which was definitely more of a horror-tinged walking simulator, and Kostantinos wowed at Dust City. Instead, Anatomy goes all in for the scary bits, turning comfortable everyday spaces into weird, strange, unsettling beings. Look, it’s really good, and it’s only $2.99 (the purchase will net you Windows, Mac and Linux versions), so I heartily recommend it, but if you want to know more, you’ll have to bear with some light spoilers.
There are no jumpscares, it’s all in the atmosphere, the audio narration, and some neat tricks the game plays on you, like a proper psychological horror. It starts off with a VHS being played, and your screen will constantly be disturbed by the static of an old tape. At first it doesn’t look very different from many other lo-fi horror games like Fingerbones or The Static Speaks My Name: grab audio cassettes; listen to a woman explain why a house is really like a human body; how each room represents a different organ (hence the title); then when it stops playing, a new door will open, so you can find the next one.
Except it’s dark, really dark, and I found myself navigating rooms by crawling next to walls because the centre was like a black hole and I was afraid I may not find my way back. There are no lights or lamps to turn on – if you look in the mirror it actually turns out that you are a globe of light, which I appreciated as it’s actually what is happening behind the scenes to let you see things. Slowly but surely, the voice gets into your head. Things look different to your eyes, even if you know they haven’t changed. That is, until they do change: eventually the VHS that frames the game deteriorates through use. In fact, the game seemingly ends after about 10 minutes, but restarting it will repeat scenes in an eerie it-was-like-that-but-not-quite-like-that way. The differences involve small details at first. Then, glitches appear, the static gets worse, the audio from the cassette becomes more disturbed. As if you were scraping the surface of reality to reveal a truth that could not be erased, but simply recorded over.
And that’s when I stopped, because I want to sleep tonight. But you don’t, right?