Though I tend to stay away from actually playing them, I have a soft spot in my heart for horror games. Whereas controlling the games myself makes me too anxious to enjoy the experience, watching at the digital side of various Let’s Players allows me the freedom to appreciate these games at my own pace. During one such viewing, I felt like I was doing more than sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for an inevitable screamer—I became enthralled by the game’s atmosphere. The game was ANATOMY, and by the end of the unsettling romp I knew that I had to look up the game’s creator, Kitty Horrorshow. What I found did not leave me disappointed.
Though she was an avid fan of horror games from a young age, Horrorshow tasted her first addicting drop of game development when she began creating on the text-based game system, Twine. From there, her worlds expanded beyond the confines of Twine, pushing her to express her stories on the Unity game engine. That’s the immediate sense you get when you’re playing through one of Horrorshow’s games: there’s a certain air to her games that makes it feel as though the story is being written as you play, rather than having predestined plot beats and endings.
As her name would imply, a majority of her games focus on horror elements, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them horror games, per se. Horror has become a genre that forces its player to sneak around, avoiding baddies, or leaves us to our fate as we struggle to stave off the scare as long as possible, helpless to inevitability. Horrorshow’s games are all about an atmosphere that doesn’t vanish even as the player is given full control to run headfirst into whatever mystery awaits them. There is no punishment for exploring, merely the looming threat of something more sinister ahead. Or the realization that the character—in most cases, you, as the games are from a first person perspective—has been a part of something sinister all along, and there is nothing they can do to escape it. ANATOMY‘s premise is simple: you are exploring a house, finding tapes along the way which speak of various pieces of psychoanalysis, trying to expose which pieces of the home represent the inner desires and demons of its owner. Each cassette lies in wait in the darkness, forcing the player to walk into what we have been conditioned to believe is “danger”. This danger—namely, jumpscares—never comes, but the unsettling feelings never vanish, and only become stronger with each subsequent playthrough.
Kitty Horrorshow’s mastery of psychological tension breathes a new life into the horror genre, and each game I experienced was a pleasure. Though I remain disappointed that 000000FF0000 appears unplayable on my computer for some reason, Rain, House, Eternity sits right at the top of everything I love about her games: allowing the player to venture through the history of a ritual and what it means to be a sacrifice, all while giving the player control over their future. Drop by her itch.io page and take a look for yourself! Many of her games are name your own price, but I would highly encourage you to drop a couple bucks her way. Also make sure to check out her Patreon page or her Twitter to support any future fresh glimpses into the elegantly unsettling workings of her mind.