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Friday Freebies Club

\SPEK.TAKL\’s Spectacular Late Night Horror — Friday Freebies Club

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\SPEK.TAKL.\

When I was an adolescent, I was fascinated by late night television. A public television station in Australia, SBS, would show all sorts of unusual content—foreign films with flashes of nudity, jokes about frozen testicles and a surprising level of gore, short films about an old lady seducing the handyman or a couple incorporating sitting on a bird into foreplay, and music videos with odd psychedelic visuals. In the pre-internet world, it felt like looking into another universe, a disturbing glimpse into the grown-up world I did not quite understand yet. \SPEK.TAKL.\ uses public domain footage to recreate that feeling of peeking into the forbidden. If you’d like to play it yourself before reading on, the game can be picked up here on developer Somewhat’s itch.io page. The content includes nudity, laboratory experiments, and some offensive terms in the public domain footage, but the television displaying the films can be avoided if something unappealing comes up.  

\SPEK.TAKL\ opens with the protagonist awakening in a darkened apartment. The quiet hum of the television draws the player into the living room. A documentary on sexual deviancy is playing, a black and white moral-panic film condemning the scantily-clad ladies it lovingly splays across the screen. Unable to sleep, the protagonist sets about organising the apartment, which is cluttered with boxes to unpack and half-painted walls. As they go about their tidying, a VHS tape is dropped through the mail slot. The video contains footage of someone going through the house, with them entering a strange room behind a bolted-down bookcase. Finding a way to enter the room is the goal of the game, but the horrors within make for a terrifying prize.

Gameplay is fairly simple in \SPEK.TAKL\, with the player exploring the house to find items to use with other objects. The to-do list in the kitchen gives some guidance—the protagonist wants to straighten the paintings, and doing so will cause one to drop a key, allowing the player to enter a locked room. Periodically, another VHS tape will be dropped through the mail slot, which when viewed depicts disturbing fleshy creatures thrashing in various parts of the house. Upon visiting the pictured room the player will find masses of blood, but also a new item. Player guidance is done well, giving direction without being obtrusive.

The real star of the show is the presentation. The low-polygon style has a colourful blur around the edges of objects, reminiscent of an old VHS tape. Footage shown on the television has been carefully curated, with jumping and repetition adding to the vaguely menacing content of the shows. Along with the sexual deviancy film, moral panic propaganda, laboratory experiments, a documentary on insects, and a safety advertisement for not drinking poison appear. This imagery links back to the visuals of the secret room itself, entered through a wall-length vulva and full of pulsating flesh. A great disgust appears to be associated with the sexual elements, with the game ending as the player stabs a phallic object over and over. The game hints that the main character recently went off an antipsychotic medication—notes about brain zaps, no appetite, waking up at odd hours—but it is pleasingly subtle, leaving it open to interpretation whether or not the game’s events are actually occurring.

A few small bugs were encountered during my time with \SPEK.TAKL\. The first is a common one with Unity games, where if a controller is plugged in to the computer, the viewpoint will spin and face the ceiling. Unplugging the controller will fix this issue. The other had the game get stuck on the pause screen, necessitating a reset. Restarting the game was a bummer, but since it is a short experience, not a lot of progress was lost.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with \SPEK.TAKL\. The title creates a genuinely creepy atmosphere, where I was jumping at the sound of my own footsteps. Discord user Dismount That Dinosaur also found the game interesting. Response has been lightly edited for clarity.

“It’s not bad. There is a lot of classic survival horror elements and it reminds me of both Resident Evil and Silent Hill 4. The things I favoured most is its lack of handholding, the slow atmosphere and the tackling of mature subjects. The game needs a sequel with better graphics, more gameplay obstacles, enemy variety, and a more relatable protagonist. The game is a good first try and it feels like a ’90s era horror game for the most part.”

Next week, we will be taking a look at the prototype of Tether, a first-person adventure taking place in a dilapidated space station. The game can be downloaded from the Itch.io page here. For discussions, check out the Discord server or you can email me here.

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Friday Freebies Club

This Is Your Life Now’s Five Minute Adventure Through Life — Friday Freebies Club

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This Is Your Life Now gameplay screenshot 1

Something is so refreshing about playing a game that only lasts five minutes—particularly when most video game titles are guaranteed to steal hours upon hours of time which we simply do not have. The game has no complex mechanics to understand, the concept has to be solid, and simplicity is key. This week’s Friday Freebie, This Is Your Life Now, stands out for this reason, as the game tackles an interesting topic in a simple way.

This Is Your Life Now sets the player off on a journey through life starting from childhood through to old age and, inevitably, death. As the player walks along the side-scrolling screen, life milestones appear along the way which can be accepted or ignored. From the beginning, the developer makes clear that everything in life comes at a cost. For example, the first choice available is to have siblings. If they accept, they lose their toys; if they live life without a sibling, they are burdened with nightmares.

This Is Your Life Now gameplay screenshot 2

I think one of the reasons I found This Is Your Life Now so charming was the fact that the game challenged my own perspective on life. I am an incredibly positive person who believes that something good will always come out of the bad in life. This Is Your Life Now instead showcases the philosophy that everything comes with a price. Life is more complicated than either of these theories. Regardless, this theory makes for a great, simple game concept.

Multiple playthroughs are tempting due to the short nature of the experience. Disappointingly, they all feel similar. More pathways along the way would have been welcomed to create a more unique experience each playthrough. Some changes to the character design or music based on decisions made would have greatly enhanced the atmosphere of the game. Despite lacking these things, the concept behind This Is Your Life Now makes it both fun and solid for the five minutes it takes to complete.

Discord user Dismount that Dinosaur had plenty to say after their time with the game. Response has been lightly edited for clarity.

The concept of the game is really good, making choices with consequences. Albeit, those consequences are scripted each and every time. My biggest problem with this game is that it seems like you only get negative consequences for your actions. When you press space to pick an option you get shown both an upside and downside but when you receive the consequence its always negative. Having said that, it is still pretty cool to see you lose something when you gain something else, but that is not entirely accurate to somebody’s life.  The game likes to be black and white with its outcomes with no grey area, which is a big issue for me.

I was really expecting the old age segment to have sadder music and be more psychologically taunting, having no options left to choose and only losing all the options you had left. Perhaps the walk speed could have gotten slower too. That being said, for a free five minute game the concept is great, but the execution could have been more rewarding and morally grey.

This Is Your Life Now gameplay screenshot 4

Next week, OnlySP writer and editing wizard Damien Lawardorn will be taking a look at Veiled, a horror puzzle game where players must solve the secret to a dark ritual. The game can be downloaded here. Come join the discussion on the OnlySP Discord server, or email us here.

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