I feel sick. It’s my third time in this room, and I still can’t stomach the way it stretches in and out, walls pulsating, music thumping. The drink in my hand is going stale; despite my body’s best efforts to refuse, I down the rest of the swill and push through the crowd of gyrating rats. I think I’m gonna puke. I overhear one passerby shouting to a friend, “A game? A downloadable game?”
“Yes!” I interject, “It’s Sewer Rave from Autumn Rain (@slitherpunk), with a bitchin’ soundtrack from Lady Saytenn (@LADYSAYTENN). It’s a killer combo, the two really support the other’s work so well and—“
I don’t think they can hear me over the music. Or they’re just ignoring me. I decide to mosey on, I got things to see and rodents to meet at this sewer-wide party. Stepping through the threshold of the exit, I find myself amongst another throng of attendees encircling two large rats punching eat other. Promptly turning to go back the way I came, the oscillating tube of hell I had left was replaced with a small theatre.
A crowd sits, eagerly enjoying a film projecting on the wall. Upstairs, I find a projectionist keeping a careful eye on the proceedings. They notice me after a moment, and I approach. “This is my favourite part,” they say, pointing. I look at the film, and watch a scene of a human talking on a phone. There’s no audio track, and I can’t quite read the lips to catch what’s going on. Regardless, the audience and projectionist sit in the eerie, dead silence of the theatre, transfixed on the film. I quietly take my leave.
There’s a sense of pace generated from these randomly picked rooms. Most are twisty halls thumping with music or distorted versions of those spaces, and together the two create the ebb and flow of the chaos of a party, making the maze of sewers feel alive in of themselves. This distinct sense of place, disjointed yet cohesive, carries a lot of parallels to Bernband, an experimental project from Sokpop‘s Tom van den Boogaart. While it quietly has you exploring several pockets of a sci-fi city, something of a living diorama you could walk around, the sound design deeply evokes so much life from such abstracted graphics. There’s a dream-like quality to it, a fuzziness that can’t be pinned down.
Comparatively, Sewer Rave is like a fever dream. Its assortment of rooms make up an ultimately ethereal space; its geometry can never be pinned down as each room’s placement shifts infinitely. As the walls shift around you, you begin stumbling across a cast of characters, such as a Snake lurking the sewer that trades fruits for cheese. Occasionally, a challenge will present itself in the shape of a chasm sprinkled with floating platforms, piles of cheese and fruit on the other side. You see, the sewer runs a cheese-and-fruit based economy, as one would assume.
These absurdist moments maintain a happy-go-lucky atmosphere around the party, but darker elements lurk just beneath the surface of the whole façade. Every once in a while, you’ll wander into a room far more sinister than the rest of the place: music fades from earshot as you fall from the ceiling to a long walkway, surrounded by deer of various sizes and shapes. One by one, they all silently turn to face you. As you rush to the exit, unnerved, they all watch your every move, quietly looming overhead. Or perhaps you’ll find the room with the large, vibrating face that covers the sky. Maybe even the knife fight?
Whatever you do in Sewer Rave, it’s guaranteed to be interesting, one way or the other. Secrets are layered deep throughout the strata, beckoning you to explore ever deeper, losing yourself more to the rave and the thrum of the music. The rats chattering as you walk by are drenched in a detached irony, but there’s immense talent and care that has gone into the construction of this place. Whenever you want to visit, the party’ll be here. It certainly doesn’t seem to be winding down any time soon.
Sewer Rave is currently available on itch.io.
Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.