I miss The Sci-Fi Channel, which was actually really kooky and cool in the early nineties. The station introduced me to Harlan Ellison when I was no more than ten or eleven years old. (Ellison was hired as the channel’s version of Andy Rooney. You can watch the segments here.)
Another significant part of the nineties: video game magazines. It seems all of them covered I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, a game based on Ellison’s short story of the same name. I remember looking at the pictures with envy because I had no way to play the game. I owned it once in the early aughts, but I don’t think I could get it to work with my computer.
I was going to buy the game on GOG.com (which really needs support far more than Steam), but $9.99 seemed a little high. Thankfully, it appeared on Steam at $4.99. How’s this for an awesome Saturday morning: crackers, cheese, summer sausage, Dr. Pepper, and I Must Scream? Answer: pure heaven. Well, “heaven” is the wrong word for it, considering the subject matter.
If you haven’t read the story, it’s pretty much required reading before you play the game. Ellison himself assumes the role of AM, the future supercomputer which exterminates all of humanity, save a handful of humans it immortalizes for the purpose of torturing forever. The game deviates widely from the original story, but not so much you don’t get what you wanted: a wickedly refreshing horror game.
I wasn’t far in when I innocently flipped a “motivator switch” just to find its sinister purpose: the torturing of six caged animals. The player character reacts appropriately with shock, but you’ve pretty much got to do it in order to progress. It’s grim choices like these that makes the game as uncomfortable as it is fun. Like a lot of games of this type, I Must Scream requires some hit-and-miss puzzle-solving, but so far when I stumble across a solution that initially seemed impossible I slap my forehead and say, “Of course!” It may seem silly removing the sheets from two bunks, but here’s a hint: they make a fine rope.
So it’s a lot like Alone in the Dark, but it looks much better. The artwork and the music are fantastic. The voice work isn’t the best I’ve ever heard (Ellison hams it up), but for some odd reason it simply works. Here’s one of those games I wish I had played much sooner, but better late than ever.