It’s common knowledge that Amnesia is a scary game, but in the name of Jurnelisom I took it upon myself to play it and find out just how scary. Now, I can confirm what everyone knows but the wimpish amongst us has never gone to find out: it’s Scary. It’s so scary that I’m going to convey its level of scaryness with font formatting: SCARY. I kid you not. It is the scariest game, possibly just the scariest thing. The Exorcist? Nah. Penumbra? Nah. Thief 3, Fear, this man? Nah. And normally when I play anything breaching on scary – never mind soul-destroyingly terrifying – I shut down. I start sweating, swearing, feeling a bit ill; but Amnesia was something I had to experience. So I had a plan.
I’m walking down a pitch black corridor; the walls are sobbing, screaming; a rock fall is blocking my progress. “Err…I’m at a rockfall, where are you guys?” “I’m there too.” “I’m just past that, you need – AGH FUCK – to go back a bit”. Following the safety in numbers and I-wont-back-down-first ethoses I cajoled Paul and Chris to come and play it with me over Skype and see what happened. Turns out we are all big pathetic teenage girls who unashemedly scream at pretend monsters. And while playing like this simmers down the immediate scariness a tiny bit, that’s all it is – a tiny bit – by no means does it dissolve the scary, fuck no.
Have you ever heard a grown man scream out of genuine terror? It doesn’t happen in films – guys are always a little bit macho no matter what the situation: “if there’s a thing around here I’ll kick its ass!” – they don’t scream or yelp or shout swear words until something new comes out – this is not a reality. This is a reality:
“I opened the door and there was a monster. Shit, fuck off”
“Alright, opening….. AGH FUCK it’s right there”
“I’m stuck in the room with it, whatdoido?”
“You went in with it? What? I slammed that door and now I’m blocking it up with barrels”
“Well that’s what I should of done. Now I’m stuck, I cant see anything but it’s in here with me”
“I’m carrying on. agghhh! Shit. It’s banging on the door. FUCK JUST…FUCK It’s breaking it down. Ruuuuuun aggggghhhhhhhh”
Ahem. So, that’s what really happens. Even though we’re all chatting, discussing the game, laughing at each other for being quite so pathetic, Amnesia remains terrifying because, even though you’re semi-aware of your actual surroundings, it drags you in to its world quite so effectively. The castle you’re steadily worming your way through is so thick with atmosphere and every single room has something fundamentally wrong with it: the walls might be sobbing, the ceilings might be dripping blood, there might be screaming, or carcasses, or dissected animals, or it might just be horrible in the other ten thousand ways Amnesia finds to be horrible. And then there are the chase sequences.
Something screams, or lurches at you, or breaks through a door, and it wants you. It wants to rip out your insides and it’s screaming the most malevolent scream that has ever been screamed. Then you’re pelting your way through corridors, slamming doors behind you – just running. Running because all you can do is run. It’s all you can think of doing. Visceral is a word that gets used a lot in games writing but here it’s completely in earnest. You run because your flight response kicks in 100% and as a roaring monstrosity chases you, you swear down Skype and try to get away.
“I got chased by a thing when I picked the thing up from the shelves”
“Oh. These things? Err..I guess I’ll leave them here then. I don’t need to fix the lift. I can just stay here until this all blows over. YOU CANT MAKE ME DO IT”
Sometimes, knowing what’s coming up makes it worse. Your incentive to progress is nullified when you know there are screaming terrors and pitch dark rooms involved; dark rooms that just made a grown man squeal like a child. But without the Skype Amnesia Group there is no way that either Me or Paul would have gotten to the halfway mark that we now have. Chris is a bit braver, it seems, bounding on ahead like the brave/stupid scout with a knowing chuckle every time we get messed up by something he did half an hour ago.
And just to hammer home that even though we do this it’s still fucking horrible. After our first session ended I had to go to the bathroom – a bathroom that is hiding a secret, motion sensor activated Air Freshner. I walked past it: “pooff…” “AGH THE FUCK AGH”.
Amnesia then: it’s as scary as everyone over the last year has said, but if you can do it as a group you just might make it. As the Beatles once sang: “I get by with a little help from my pathetic, shrieking friends.”