This week’s theme is supposed to be ghosts but since I already talked about the only game with ghosts I could think of, so I’ll review a game so hard that it makes the player a ghost of themselves.
Whatever. We’re rolling with it.
Back in 2010, the year you’ll be posting about on Facebook with a picture of a USB drive and the caption of “dur, thunk kidz theze dayz kow what dis is?” as you slowly realize with growing horror that yes, you really are as boring and banal as your kids think you are, I discovered internet critic/comedian Yahtzee Croshaw, and to my endless shock, he was both actually funny and actually a critic.
Watching Croshaw’s Zero Punctuation not only helped make my horror scary, my game design interesting, and added cocaine to the cyanide of my byzantine and ballistic
wraith humor, but also made me the loathed and feared critic you all love in YA horror that I am today. And now this very British habadasher of hate has come out with a game called The Consuming Shadow. Since imitation is the sincerest form of laziness, I’ve decided to write this in the style of Croshaw’s Zero Punctuation.
In The Consuming Shadow, you play as a bureaucrat in the British Department of Occult Something-or-Other who wore his gimp suit to work one day and decided to leave it on when no called him out on it. Now he’s losing one of his 127 vacation days and since this is a obvious sign of the End of All Things, he sets out on a traveling road show to put a stop to the eldritch gods invading our reality.
In a year that saw Bloodborne and SOMA and soon a new Fatal Frame descend from the heavens and fill our lives with a joyful misery, The Consuming Shadow can hold it’s head high as also being a horror game.
Sorry, what I meant to write was “The Consuming Shadow is a horror game that’s as close to being a sequel to Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem as we’ll ever get.”
The Consuming Shadow is a procedurally-generated rougelike, meaning that each play-through is different, but what stays the same is the frustrating and scary combat where the speed of my profanity easily approached the sound barrier. The sanity loss mechanics feels like jamming a pencil in your ear, and the quadrupled-fucked random events play hell with whatever carefully laid out plans the innocent player thinks up.
While other games stare longingly at Eternal Darkness and the Cthulhu Mythos and nervously put in a sanity meter like a pubescent boy trying to work up the courage to ask out the hot girl, The Consuming Shadow strides forth like a Victorian gentleman, eyes-closed and already thinking of England. Every action has a cost, and even if you make an okay choice from the legion of shitty ones, the price is still high and creates a suffocating sense of dread that’s just plain delightful.
And when you mercifully die, you’ll scream, you’ll rage, you’ll start a land war in Asia to prove to yourself that you aren’t a worthless human being. Then you’ll start new game and do it all again.
You see, the brilliance of this game is very Dark Souls-y. It makes frustration fun. You get so close, and then fail, so by God, you’re going to show that bloody game who the damn boss is or die trying, and maybe you will… 327 deaths later.
While there’s more I could talk about—like how the game crashes the way a Victorian lady faints when slightly menaced, or how there’s too many walls of text before dungeons, or maxing research percentage is utterly useless if you actually want to win–but The Consuming Shadow is a brilliant game in a year filled with brilliant horror games. Buy it now.