Zero Lives Left – I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Game: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Released: 1995
Available On: PC [Emulator] (Review), Originally for Mac and PC DOS
Genre: Psychological Horror

I’m going to continue the horror video game reviews with a game that all of you must play. You don’t even have to look hard to find it, you just have to dig around a few emulator sites and you’ll be able to get it set up on your computer. It’s not available on a place like GOG unfortunately and a quick 5 second google shows no places that you can purchase it. You need to get your hands on this game now. Ultimately it’s best that you experience a game like this for yourself, there are multiple ways to go about it and there are plenty of moments where my mouth just dropped at what was happening.

The game is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and it came out in 1995. I believe it is now the oldest game I’ve done a review for, just preceding Symphony of the Night. This game has an atmosphere and mood that rivals most other games that come out today. Fuck it, it doesn’t just rival the atmosphere of current games it routinely surpasses the atmosphere of current games. I Have No Mouth is based on a short story written by Harlan Ellison. I’m hoping that reading this review causes Nathan to write a review on the short story for Reader’s Indigestion, but only time shall tell. Ellison himself had a huge hand in the adaptation of his story to the game and it holds onto the spirit of the story well. Ellison even voices AM, the omnipotent robot torturing our five ‘protagonists’ for eternity. It’s part horror, part science fiction and 100% disturbing.

It plays like a point and click adventure; it’s extremely old school in which you are given a multitude of items and they only work in tandem with other items or in this certain spot at this certain time. When I found a recommendation for the game they described the game as incredibly hard with its puzzles– I can assure you right now that this is not the case. It’s very standard and if you take a few moments and think you’ll be able to piece together things quick enough. The challenge actually comes from the choices you have to make as your character. So the story is simple enough: AM, the computer overlord, has trapped 5 humans in the post apocalyptic world with the sole intention of torturing them forever psychologically. He takes them all and puts them one by one in their own personal hell where they have to make the correct decisions to come out on top. Well, as on top as they can– no matter what they’re suffering through this and you have to put them through their suffering.

The horror in this game comes from the situation you’re put in as your character. Like always I’ll preach the importance of getting into your character’s mindset because it’ll make it even more terrifying. There’s this one moment where you play the lone female character and you’ve made your way through an electronic pyramid system all while being told that she’s scared of the colour yellow. You’ve made it this far, you can taste the sense of success against AM, you’re just riding the elevator up to the top of the pyramid. While inside the elevator you can click the numbers on the control panel to learn about different memories from this woman’s life. You press one button and it’s here talking about not getting laid at a party… you press another and it’s about, well, why she’s scared of the colour yellow. The reason was shocking, I didn’t expect some sort revelation like that in a video game. Even worse thereafter the pile of yellow clothes in the corner of the elevator form into a human and she’s forced to face her worst memory again. It’s now up to you, the player, to try and figure out the best way out of there. If you succeed she conquers her fear, if you fail– well, I’m too scared to find out what happens if you fail.

Another character is reliving his memories of being a doctor who worked alongside Josef Mengele in the internment camps during the Holocaust. You’re faced very quickly with this character being put before a young child placed on an operating table. Your doctor beside you is telling you to remove the patient’s eyes, or something equally as terrible, and it all falls onto you what you need to do. Unfortunately, I made the wrong choice here, but that’s most of the magic of the game. This game is about playing a story, it won’t have the most impressive gameplay in the world, in fact due to its form and limitations of being 17 years old the game feels old as balls. But if you play a game, a psychological horror point and click adventure game and expect the exact same level of gameplay and excitement through explosions that you would expect from CoD than you are a fricking idiot. And a douchebag. And you probably wear shorts in the winter. This game isn’t about explosions, it’s about discoveries and situations, and anyone who loves a good story in general should check out this game ASAP. Like I said it’s out there on emulation and it’s not that hard to find if you want to look for it.

In the end I’m giving this game a glowing recommendation but I’m giving it a score that would reflect its playability. As a visual novel the game gets a 10/10, as a game it won’t score as high. That however does not make it a bad game, it just makes it a game that should be experienced differently. It’s fun (as fun as moral dilemas can be), but solving the puzzles can become a bit tedious over time. Luckily with the five characters you can space out your play through of the game accordingly. Take your time with this game and enjoy it. Read the short story before, after or as you play it. My whole goal with this review was to not review this game as much as pimp this game out. It was a great find and I’m glad I’ve played it, I’m sure there’s at least one person who will read this that will enjoy this psychologically terrifying game as much as I did.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: 7/10

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