October is prime-time for the horror genre, but let’s be real; as great as the classics are, you can only play Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil so many times before you start itching for something new. Luckily, indie horror is a booming genre, so much so that the variety out there is daunting. But pick up your flashlight, turn on your radio, and you eventually find yourself a monster. This week, I bumped into the freshly released demo for Purple, a psychological horror title under development by itch.io user Fox.
Like any good horror, the game starts with thunder and darkness. Outside of a hospital we meet the protagonist Randall, a vulnerably disheveled man who just wants to go home. Controlling his walk back to his apartment is as easy as using the arrow keys and selecting yes/no answers to simple prompts with the space bar – controls are threadbare, but they get the job done. By then it’s easy to assume Purple’s success as a game will ride on its story, and I personally never find anything wrong with that sort of approach when it comes to horror.
Randall comments on nearly every object you encounter, no matter how insignificant. Most of the time the flavor text is mundane, but there are little flourishes like letting out a chuckle upon inspecting his toilet that makes checking everything kind of fun. It’s the sort of detail that a lot of similar RPG Maker titles skip over, and it allows for deeper immersion into the limited world players are provided.
Most importantly, as your main way of interacting with the world, you uncover important things about Randall through these little searches; inspecting his bathroom mirror unveils that he’s currently medicated, though the what and why of it is left a mystery. Even in the purposefully banal surroundings of Randall’s apartment, Purple builds upon its story with deft subtlety and the sort of pacing that is reasonable for an indie horror. Go into it knowing that it’s listed on itch.io as a horror/puzzle game, but also is an RPG Maker title and as such, the game uses its platform’s limitations to the best of it’s ability. The character portraits are stylized in a way that gives Purple an original charm – I’ve certainly never seen characters that look like Randall, but that’s a good thing.
Atmospherically, Purple knows its genre. Right from the get go, Randall’s apartment building is a mess of empty units and trash-strewn hallways that hints towards an abandoned creepiness. It’s a little bit more obvious than general dishevelment, though. Door 3B is boarded up, and even further down the hall from Randall’s place lies a crime scene, where brave players can peak through a chopped-up door a-la Jack Torrence in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Your own nosiness earns you the first encounter with another character, Mya, who is Randall’s new neighbor. At first glance of her apartment, we get a clearer picture of the main character’s bedraggled state and habits. Through all of this, Purple’s world-building is paced nicely, and when it starts to turn towards true horror it becomes clear that all of that exploration is worth it.
There’s an ambiance to Purple that successfully piqued my interest at every turn. I wanted to learn more about who I was, what happened to me, what was going on in the apartment, and with nearly every bit of progression I felt pleasantly teased by new information. Maybe it’s because I’m a little rumpled in my own regard and can relate to Randall, but even if that weren’t the case, the game’s author shows a lot of potential as a storyteller. I’m always happy when I encounter games that use the medium – and their platform’s limitations – to the best of their ability. Just be advised that Purple is still under development, but it is no doubt a product of what I believe is talent. For those like me who are excited to explore Randall’s besweatered world, Purple’s demo can be downloaded here.
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