Tank controls are the mark of a real horror game. Prototype Mansion is a game that was, according to its own fiction, found in a bin by some guy called Frank. It’s a zombie game in the style of the old Resident Evils – blocky character models, stilted voice acting and boxes of ammo lying in hard-to-spot crannies. The CD case has no front cover and it costs $1.99. You are essentially buying something awful from the clearance basket in Woolworths.
The lead character is Detective Lady Detective, and there’s mention of a doctor called Dr. Fella. That should tell you how little this short escapade cares about characterisation. But that’s okay, there are keys to find and zombies to shoot. The best moments come when you stroll round investigating everything in the room, prompting descriptive text in a familiar typewriter font. I had just survived being bitten by a zombie, so I ran up to a plant lying in the corner of the room, knowing that this must be a healing herb.
“You ate a potted plant,” said the game.
Other puzzles see you sending a can of tuna up to a hungry child via a pulley, or taking a roll of film to a dark room, where the game informs you: “You developed someone else’s film, weirdo.” There’s also a bar nearby, behind which stands a harmless zombie bartender.
It’s a silly, throwaway piece of genre humour. But I enjoyed returning to the tank controls of my youth. One flaw is that checkpoints are sparse (you find a typewriter early on but it seems to be only a fun reference). I quit when I died for a third time, sending me all the way back to the lobby of the mansion. The many years have eroded my patience for repeating the same thing over and over. Sorry, trash game. I’m sure others will power through. It’s on Itch.
[Edit: the developer has been in touch to say “we’ve updated checkpoints!” I haven’t returned to it, but they promise it “branches off into doing its own craziness” later in the game.]