[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]ormentum: Dark Sorrow (review / strategy guide) is unique as a casual-level adventure game because of its beautiful, dark, and surreal imagery. It explores the idea of redemption, but not just that, how we perceive morality at all. The elements of horror in Tormentum crept under your skin, making you feel unease. I always felt that adventure games were ideal for things like that given the nature of interaction and the strong focus on story. As a fan of metal music and horror films, I doubly appreciate such game titles. But if you’re like me, one isn’t enough. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of nightmarish games that are similar to it! Here they are, in no particular order of preference:
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this horror adventure classic. Here on Cliqist, we easily saw the influences H.R. Giger had on Tormentum: Dark Sorrow’s artwork. So why not start this list off with a game that H.R. Giger himself did work for? Dark Seed features ornate, but menacing art. You play the game as Mike Dawson, an ad executive and writer who has just bought an old mansion. On the first night he stays in the house, he has a nightmare that some alien machine injects an embryo into his brain. Creepy and crazy? You betcha! Giger’s work was stellar for this game, achieving a level of design many titles were envious of at the time. The game is now abandonware, so you can download it for free. My suggestion is to use AmigaForever to emulate it, as the Amiga version is probably the best in terms of graphics and sound quality. The Macintosh version is also fairly decent. The sequel to this game may have been a much less stellar FMV mess (without the benefit of H.R. Giger’s work, I might add) but if you’re a masochist I suppose you can give that a try as well.
The Cat Lady
I remember when this game first came out back in December 2012 and all the buzz it generated. I’ve played it several times since because I loved the catharsis that came with its story. It felt like some gothic horror mind trip from the 90s. The story has tremendous heart and it gets a plus one for managing to present a protagonist that we wouldn’t expect. You play as Susan Ashworth, an extremely depressed woman who, at the start of the game, attempts suicide. In the afterlife, she meets a strange old woman who resonates with menacing power, and this person offers Susan a second chance at life. The catch? In order to keep her new life, Susan has to kill five evil “parasites” — aka, psychopaths. This indie title relies mostly on inventory puzzles, but the story is quite entertaining and the characters rather likeable. The game features full voice-acting, and if you’re familiar with online animation at all, you’ll be delighted (or unnerved, take your pick) to learn that David Firth offered his unique voice-acting talents to this game. Top it all off by the fact that The Cat Lady has an awesome soundtrack from micAmic, and I’m just not sure how you could pass this title up. The game is available on Desura, GOG, and Steam for just $9.99.
The Cat Lady and Downfall were produced by the same man, Remigiusz Michalski. The Cat Lady is sort of the “spiritual successor” of Downfall. Now I suppose I could’ve made this a footnote when discussing The Cat Lady, except I’d be doing all of you a disservice by glossing over it like that. Downfall is very different from The Cat Lady, and not just in terms of graphics and interface, but in tone as well. The Cat Lady is dark, to be sure, but the game has a noticeable element of hope to it. Rather than it being about Susan’s life falling apart, its focus is that of her rediscovering her will to live. Downfall, on the other hand, feels like you’re toppling down a deep dark well with no end in sight. You play the game as Joe, who arrives one stormy night at the Quiet Haven Hotel with his wife Ivy, who seems to be suffering a breakdown of sorts. As the night progresses, Ivy’s conditions worsens, and things get stranger and stranger at the hotel, devolving into some surreal nightmare that seems to blend time and order. The game covers such topics as suicide, body dysmorphia, and murder, and sometimes in disturbing detail, so be warned–this is a very heavy game. The original version is available as freeware on Desura. Remigiusz has been working on a remake of Downfall using high res graphics similar to The Cat Lady, more music from micAmic, and a new interface. The remake was planned for release for Q2 2015, but so far there’s no word on an exact date. The Downfall remake has already been greenlit on Steam.
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream
Tormentum has several moments that can only be described as “effed up,” and if that screwed up, tragic, dementedness appealed to you, then please do sit down and play I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream. The title literally says it all. It’s based on a dark science fiction short story by Harlan Ellison (who provides the voice for the antagonist in the game) about a group of people who are chosen to remain alive for eternity after a supercomputer wipes out humanity from Earth. The supercomputer, known as AM, keeps these five sods alive purely to torture them. In its infinite power, it creates unique scenarios with which to torment the humans, and lucky us, we get to play those scenarios! You switch between the five characters, playing their unique simulated hell, and are forced to make various choices throughout that affects the character’s psyche. Your choices ultimately determine the sort of ending you get. This is the kind of game that makes you want to binge-watch cartoons until you can purge the nihilism from your spirit. Haunting, spooky, and just downright entertaining. You can grab this game off of Steam and GOG for a mere $5.99.
I had the good fortune of stumbling onto this game long after it had been released. While the premise doesn’t seem at all like something you’d associate with Tormentum (some creep who stole a million bucks gets transformed into a cockroach by a magical amulet, and he has to find a way to get changed back before he’s squished) there’s more in common with the two than you might guess. For its time, Bad Mojo’s setting and graphics were rich in detail, sometimes displaying gross and graphic sights. Also, the game is loosely inspired by Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. The acting is cheesy, and there’s definitely an undercurrent of black humor, but I can’t think of anything more surreal and deserving of metal music than a man being turned into a cockroach. There are four different endings you can get, adding a bit to its replay value. You can get this game, titled Bad Mojo: Redux, off of Steam and GOG for just $5.99. If the grotesque art and outlandish premise doesn’t do it for you, then know that this version of the game comes with the awesome soundtrack (including the titular song “Bad Mojo,” which was popular in the goth industrial music scene back in the day!)