In many ways, Dark Dreams: RHN is a flamboyantly terrifying fever dream, an inception-like slough through the underbelly of the psyche smattered with viscera and pulsating tiles.
As a fan of the macabre, the obvious echoes of Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński’s work are not lost on me, a forgotten realm of pseudo-organic papercraft serving as the home to ghostly imprints and hideous dusty visages. Arkhouse demonstrates a sublime grasp of the otherworldly decay that serves as a key element in the genre’s timeless visuals, complimented by the piece’s insightful audio direction. A cryptic codex of visions past, Dark Dreams is a layered piece of work with a vast ambiguity and a haunting presence, a theme that seems to extend deep within the halls of the artist’s overall body of work.
After spending enough tuition to start a business, and securing an alternative path into some Gaming Development Cacophony tickets, you finally step into the sacred halls of your digital forebears. Gaming saints and villains alike have tread the gaudy carpet of the San Francisco, make sure you wear wool socks and rub them against the fibers- you too can attain mystical powers of business development and one-hit-wonders.
But hey, what gives? You went to the largest most influential gaming event of the world and all you have to show is some deflated expectations embodied by yet one more used-up hall pass. Where’s the success? The inspiration? The connections? The network? The publishing contracts?
Open a game, take note of the engine, immediately settle into document an uncannily familiar experience. It’s a routine that, if one isn’t careful, becomes too easy to find yourself in as when critiquing the medium, but every now and then something comes along that challenges your expectations and refuses to be derivative, largely defying classification.
I like RPGs, I really do, but they weren’t exactly a genre I personally grew up with. While their aesthetics and narratives greatly appealed to me, the controls and mechanics felt largely impenetrable when access to consoles was no longer an issue. Chrono Trigger was arguably my first run in with SQUARESOFT style action RPGs, and came across as a vivid revelation, refreshing due in no small part to its hybridized turn based system and elegant overworld navigation.
At the turn of century, humanity began to panic as the future loomed.
Oncoming and unavoidable, the year 2000 was poised to be a time of great change, but much to our chagrin, it was a twist of fate that we had built our lives around such fragile technological marvels that would ultimately prove to be our own downfall. In our relentless pursuit of efficiency, systems built to house information containing dates would only register two numbers: the last two digits of the calendar year. As 2000 rolled in, a sudden fear began to arise that computers for governments or banks would be unable to distinguish between 2000 and 1900, causing irrevocable damage to our infrastructure and usher in an apocalyptic calamity.
These prophetic notions were predominantly held by the fringe of scientific research and society, exacerbated through outlets rapidly cycling through fear-mongering and misinformation. As society questioned the ability of corporations to address the issue in time, the Y2K fervor was the perfect encapsulation of a decade built upon pop culture that pushed hard into a fantastical vision for the future, with contemporary industrial design becoming the turn-of-the-century realization of what sci-fi had promised us in decades prior. Truly, the Y2K Bug is something of our society’s first watershed “cyberpunk” moment, with the misguided and shortsighted actions of the government and faceless corporate entities serving to endanger humanity, alongside an ever-growing online meta-verse, and the push towards a forward thinking “futuristic” visual zeitgeist.
In the swirling darkness of the moonlit night, past the forbidden trees that whistle in the wind, in a forgotten valley is somewhere far beyond your imagination. It has a name shrouded in whispers, leaving a chill on the lips of those who would dare speak it.
Foreboding as this place may be, it is not malevolent.. but nonetheless it worryingly beckons you, weary traveler. Far away on the distant horizon, you will arrive at your destination and find an answer to a question you never wanted to know.
And for the rest of your life, Kestlebrook will haunt you.
It’s rare that a game evokes the same underlying vibes of a title like Eversion, but it’s fair to say that Tesselode’s love letter to Championship Edition DX manages to walk the same fine line of unsettling atmospherics and unrelenting pacing.