The Night That Speaks is not your typical game jam entry, especially when we’re talking about the GameBoy Jam. Quick–think of every single horror adventure you ever played on Nintendo’s GameBoy as a wee lad or lass. Not coming up with many names? Yeah, that system wasn’t really known for the jump-scares and spooky hallways, championing more colorful, safe outings like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Super Mario Land. Stuff one can eat up on a cross-country drive in the family’s station wagon that wouldn’t give a kid nightmares later at the hotel, unless you just couldn’t get over that Kumo enemy design.
Anyways, The Night That Speaks is a small, creepy walking simulator which has you, a nameless teenage soul witnessed only by your extended milky white hand, exploring catacombs beneath a graveyard. Why? That’s a good question, with no clear answer. Something to do with a dead girl perhaps. Also, there’s a freaky ghost-skeleton-monster chasing after you as you gather clues via collectible notes, with your only defense being crude hand gestures. It’s scary and goofy and a little hard to deduce, but from the visual and audio departments, this is one fine piece of work. Certainly, I’ve never seen anything like it before, not in this perspective.
I’ve not played, nor will I probably ever, things like Slender: The Eight Pages or Outlast, but I’ve watched others tackle them. Y’know, that way I can close my Internet browser if events become too traumatic to bear. I’m not good at scary games, and I guess I need to pony up soon as I did make a promise at the start of this year that I’d get through Silent Hill 3 this October. Sigh. Either way, those games follow a similar trajectory, with the player wandering around a bit, collecting notes or scraps of paper, and with each piece discovered, there’s a greater chance of the monster showing up. I’m not into this, as the idea of being hunted by a hunter you can’t see is beyond paralyzing. Basically, this means that the moment I get the feeling that something is following me or right around the corner, all I want to do is shut my eyes and quit to desktop.
That said, Adam Ryu‘s The Night That Speaks is worth checking out, just to watch how the lighting and shadows work as you move forward through the graveyard and deeper into the labyrinth of catacombs. It’s amazingly detailed and immersive for such a retro style. I’m no tech guy, so I don’t actually know if this sort of game could’ve existed on the original GameBoy hardware, but if it could–man, what a different world that would’ve been. Pressing the “Z” key in allows you to “exert your will,” which is a nice way of saying giving someone the middle finger. If you time this right, you can keep the scary ghost-skeleton-monster at bay for a bit, but I mostly flipped the bird at lanterns or tables or anything that got in my way. I played for about twenty minutes, dying a handful of times–so I don’t know if there’s a conclusion or way to win.
Let’s end with some non-solicited advice from a genuine scaredy-cat: don’t wander into ominous catacombs in the dead of night, armed with only a gesture manner meant to degrade, intimidate, and threaten. At least bring a flashlight. Maybe the really heavy kind that doubles as a blunt object. Or, I don’t know, stay home and watch old episodes of Frasier when the darkness becomes too much. You’re welcome, and stay safe.