Immortality has one of the scariest mechanisms in games

Immortality has one of the scariest mechanisms in games

Little spoiler warning: This feature discusses some specific clips and some key mechanics from the game.


Immortality, the latest game from FMV-obsessed developer Sam Barlow and his team at Half Mermaid, hopelessly forced me. As a movie buff and a “Master of Film Studies” (which I rarely brag about), I was drawn to the fact that the game is about finding footage from three European-style art films shot between the 1960s. The nineties. Acting style, film grain and cinematography meticulously emulate the films of the likes of Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini and Dario Argento and show a fascinating understanding of Arthus cinema from all ages. It’s a cliched dream for a movie buff, and if you can’t handle sexual images and analogies, beware that the game and this feature may make you uncomfortable.

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While I have yet to unravel the game’s central mystery of what happened to Marisa Marcel, the fictional actress who played the lead role in all three featured films, I did spend enough time in the game to be both intrigued and upset. One of its main mechanisms.

In Immortality, you are watching old videos via a Moviola device. With analog sticks on the gamepad, you can rewind and fast-forward from three never-released movies, behind-the-scenes interviews, unofficial tapings shown, and talk show interviews with some of the stars. The idea is to search for characters, animals, and even objects in the scene, then select them to be moved to another clip showing the same person or thing you selected. With this, you nonlinearly assemble the three films – and most importantly – the events that occur between them.

But it was the extra layer of interaction that scared the shit out of me as I played the game of immortality — eyes bloodshot, tired but drenched — in the early hours of Monday morning. See, while you’re watching certain scenes, you’ll hear an ominous buzzing sound (which won’t be wrong with a David Lynch movie) and your console will vibrate. When this happens, you can rewind – ideally in slow motion – to the part where the turbulence occurred, and you’ll see a strange look superimposed on the image, as if it were another scene, taken from the same angle but slightly different. , trying to make his way over the original footage.

Initially unaware how to focus so clearly on this dummy image, I spent the first few encounters with this rewind back and forth trying to discern what was going on, and my inability to do so is part of what made it so frightening. . During one scene where a man strips down for a nude board, he raises his arms uncomfortably, but when reviewing the clip backwards, you see a person in the superimposed image raise his arms into a cross-like position. It continued like this for a while through several clips. I could make weird shapes, intense looks at the camera, and even some words that would sometimes get an extra layer of Linxian weirdness by playing it backwards, but I can’t fully orient myself.

Horror is often most effective when you’re wondering what you’re seeing. A hereditary movie, for example, is a horror movie all the time — as much about explosions of violence as it is about a horrific atmosphere that makes your blood run cold — but some of the most effective parts are the characters in the shadows that never catch your eye, or that naked guy who looks silently from Entrance darkness. Eternity evokes this, while in another way echoing the original “videotape horror”, the Japanese classic ringo, The insidious tape seems to take on a life of its own while fools investigate its footage. There’s just something about the buzz of the old movie tape and video that makes it a great format for both mystery and horror game; Turbulences in the image, the ability to fiddle with image and speech by essentially rotating the tape backwards, and grainy archiving quality give it something special that you don’t quite get with cleaner recent shots.

In one of the most awkward and effective examples of this, the character of Marisa in a movie is lost from behind; There’s no tame way to go about this, and it would hurt the game if we tried – the movies in Immortality are honestly old-school European in their sensitivity to sex, and here we watch a couple juggle the genre. From the physical fervor that would make an Italian film director do a chef’s approval kiss at the end of the scene when everyone is finished and dusty (red and confused). If this scene really makes you feel a little anxious about someone walking by and getting a subtle glimpse into the context of your viewing of this couple while watching it, brace yourself, because now you need to rewind and fast-forward over it in slow motion to try and capture the strange photo overlaying itself over the scene. .

But the initial awkwardness of obsessively rewinding back and forth on a sex scene quickly gives way to disguised horror, as you see Marisa being replaced by an older woman, staring dead eyes at the camera and saying things that are clearly out of script from the original scene. It’s a disturbing twist on its most vulnerable moment – a sex scene – and recalls the infamous ‘Woman in the Bathtub’ from The Shining, in which poor Jack Nicholson is seduced by something seemingly attractive only to be shocked by something even more horrifying. . If anything, it’s the subtlety of these ghost images into immortality, the distorted reverse dialogue, and the fact that you are in control It makes it more effective.

I still haven’t figured out exactly what the hell is going on in Immortality, but through a drain method of analog stick manipulation I was finally able to make the dummy “stick” shots, which turns an entire particular scene into a weird parallel scene that seems crucial to plot progression (I guess the developers Intentionally they didn’t say exactly how to do it so players could spend a lot of time messing around watching and sneaking out.)

Eventually, some of the creep dissipated for me as I got used to these weird characters found in passages that play backwards like those demonic words that seem to linger in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven. But those early hours of researching these passages and trying to identify these apparitions (while solving a disturbing story in and of itself, I might add) is one of the most haunting in my recent memory.

Even if the greatest ghosts in the game are behind me now, I have to keep digging through its archive of alternate history movie footage, not only to find out what happened to Marisa but to see how the plots of her three crazy movies and one silly horny movie unfold. It’s a game with an incredible atmosphere, tinged not only with horror and mystery but also with the warmth of film footage from an era and style of cinema that – if not completely lost – certainly doesn’t receive as much light as before.

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