We knew that the adventure genre was practically dead, but someone at Russian development studio MiSTland/Saturn+ took that a little too literally when they came up with the concept behind horror investigation title Midnight Nowhere.
"Gruesome murders" we can idly consume over our Crunchy Nut Cornflakes with barely a flicker. "Twisted morals"? Pah. Meet the gang. "Sexual perversion"? Have they ever seen Mugwum's hard drive? "Corpses - lots of corpses"? It's okay; we have the Six Feet Under box set. "Sick satire". Check.
Dead and loving it...
But our favourite crispy Kellogg's morning snack sat still and soggy at the casual mention of "a dash of necrophilia" in the second paragraph of the press release. Oh ho ho. Just wait until The Daily Mail gets its hands on this one. We certainly are preparing ourselves for "the most disturbing game of the year", as well as the inevitable "Ban this sick filth" knee-jerk shock reports as word gets out. That's fine - that's what UK publisher Oxygen wants.
So here's the premise: "You wake up in a mortuary, zipped into a body bag. Corpses lie scattered all around you. You remember nothing... But the nightmare has just begun. "Midnight Nowhere" will immerse you in an atmospheric world of horror and suspense, in which even death offers no release." So even if we kill ourselves we'll still be forced to review this game? Now that's marketing.
If Tobe Hooper was thirty years younger and grew up with videogames, he'd have probably dreamt up a stomach-churning concept such as this. Think Resident Evil shafting the still-warm corpse of Silent Hill and you're probably somewhere near to the sinister direction of Midnight Nowhere.
So, enough of us ranting about the questionable ethics behind the concept, let's pick the, um, bones. From what we can glean from the press blurb, it's an old school point and clicker where it's all about picking up items and clues on the way to solving the mystery of, presumably, why you've woken up among the dead in the morgue of an empty, decaying hospital, "littered with corpses and the debris of disaster".
So much for the city
Worryingly, and some might say predictably, the city is deserted, "stalked by a supernatural serial killer" and cordoned off by the army. Very 28 Days Later/Resident Evil - "the deserted city, spattered with gore" - but soon, apparently, it develops into "something much more twisted" with "shades of Clive Barker, Reanimator, Twilight Zone". Ooh.
Promisingly, Oxygen reckons the controllable character is "wise-cracking in the style of Ash from the Evil Dead films". Groovy. But is he? Apparently the oddball lead remarks "nice tits!" upon seeing one particular body bagged young lady that he seems worrying attracted to. We can only speculate how far this particular scene goes, but we're sure you're following our train of thought here.
Other "distasteful" characters populate the city, as you'd perhaps expect, but all are essential to discover both "the nature of the evil that overshadows the city", and, of course, his own identity - which presumably he's oblivious to, despite his odd fondness for dead women. Maybe there's a very good reason someone wanted him dead.
Set over 2 CDs and featuring 150 rather attractive looking pre-rendered locations "packed with fiendish puzzles" that apparently are logical, (though we fear for our brains when the review code turns up), but will ominously take an estimated 48 hours to play. Shit, the press release even warns us the "many of the puzzles are extremely difficult, and the game could take much longer". Call the cops! They're trying to rape our feeble brains with lateral thought buggery! I feel decidedly uncomfortable. Time to lie down. Actually, better not. They might think I'm dead.
But help is at hand - already realizing the complexity could put people off, walkthroughs will be made available by the release date of March 19th on PC - with a refreshingly low system spec minimum of a Pentium II 400 and 64MB RAM, for those of you still creaking along.
Helpfully, Northants-based publisher Oxygen has included a Q&A for us to digest, so we'll hand over to the firm's Kevin Hassall to provide some more detail on this intriguing sounding game.
Oxygen: What's it like to play?
Kevin Hassall: It's hard! The gameplay's the usual combination of exploration, examination and experimentation. You scrutinize each area of the gameworld in order to find clues, tools, and so on that allow you to solve puzzles, progress to new areas and work out the plot. The puzzles are set to be tricky. The developers reckon it takes ten hours to play through - but they know the game, so it'll actually take much, much longer. But, one of the nice things is that the puzzles, however hard they are, do actually make sense. The game doesn't throw absurd puzzles at you, and the solutions may be a swine to work out but they are logical.
Oxygen: Will the player need a walkthrough?
Kevin Hassall: It isn't impossible without a walkthrough, but we know that people might appreciate some hints. So, there'll be hints and walkthroughs made available through our site, and to websites and to magazines.
Oxygen: Tell us about the graphics.
Kevin Hassall: The game uses pre-rendered backdrops with 3D effects overlaid - for example, the characters are modeled and animated in 3D, and there are particle effects for steam, smoke and such.
Oxygen: Is the gameplay Midnight's strong point? [Alarm bells! -Ed]
Kevin Hassall: Actually, the setting and the feel of the game are the strong points. There's a really warped feeling to the game, with some quite twisted imagery and dialogue. Since we announced the game's release and started showing it off around New Year we've had a really bizarre amount of interest in it from strange quarters - everything from horror websites wanting to host galleries to a fetish club wanting to use imagery for its fliers. There aren't many games which you can honestly say feature necrophilia in their plots. [Indeed -Ed].
Oxygen: So are you going to have trouble with the BBFC?
Kevin Hassall: Yes.
Nowhere left to sink
We're certainly looking forward to having a "good look" at this one, for doubtlessly bizarre reasons we don't wish a psychologist to probe too deeply into. Will retailers be brave enough to stock it for fear of the repercussions? All this and more will be unraveled in due course. Until then check out the bizarre screenshot about breast enlargement... this clearly hasn't been hatched from a normal stable mind, and frankly, that's why we're interested. Let's just hope the translation efforts are up to scratch...