the Mouth of Madness:
(Or why Thief: the Dark Project scares the living s#@t out of me)
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
What's up this week in loonygames? Ask our editor.
ell here we are at week 20 of loonygames...we're still going strong, and there's lots more great stuff coming. (Bet you didn't think we'd last this long, huh?) Be sure to check out Behind the Curtain, our newest addition to the Developer's Corner. Matt "Thraka" Gilbert is an excellent writer, and his new column is going to expose all those nasty misconceptions about the gaming industry (without turning into a sleezefest, mind you). Besides...he's the first regular writer here at loonygames to be a console game developer (he worked on the Genesis title Scooby Doo...how cool is that?).
Here's some fun loonygames trivia for you all: two other contributors to the site have worked on console games, one worked on the console ports of a popular id game, and the other worked on some sports titles from Electronic Arts. Can you guess who? I'll post the answer next week, and give a no-prize to the guy who gets it right first (any old-school Marvel readers out there?).
Anyway, this week i've been playing lots of new games, as seems to be the trend lately...I spent about an hour playing Starsiege: Tribes the other day, and was happily impressed...i'm looking forward to checking it out when I get my own copy. Mostly though, i've been playing Thief: the Dark Project, the latest title to come out of the legendary Looking Glass Studios.
Thief is an excellent game (at least...so far, it is...I haven't been able to get very far, more on this in a minute) and gets some major points for being extremely different from every other first person game out there. Its engine may not be as pretty as some of the others out there, but it gets the job done, and that's all that really matters in the end.
I do have one major problem with Thief, though...it scares the living s#@t out of me. Why, you ask? Well, it turns out that there's zombies in the game. Nobody bothered to tell me this. Why didn't anyone tell me there were zombies in here, for God's sake! I would have been able to prepare myself for this!
What's my big problem with zombies? Well, nothing, really. I'm a huge fan of zombie movies. I own all three of George Romero's classics, and have seen more zombie films than most would ever admit to (ever seen Zombie Lake? Oof.). Heck, I even own Dawn of the Dead.com! I'm a big fan of both Resident Evil games, and I think they successfully capture the creepiness, and occaisional shock horror of the best zombie films.
So you'd think I'd love Thief's use of zombies, right? Wrong. Oh, man are you wrong.
See, the thing is, that like I said, Resident Evil captures that creepiness of zombie movies. It's like watching a movie. Occaisionally you get scared, but that's usually just when something jumps out at you, or you get revolted by a zombie munching on a fresh kill.
Thief is different. I can't play this game very long.
See, Thief isn't a zombie game. It's a game where you have to creep around, hiding in the darkness, and paying close attention to the sounds around you. The idea is to sneak into a place, grab what you need to, and high tail it out of there. It's a great concept, and the game works really well.
But when i'm paying this close attention to the sounds around me (and I say me, since it's a first person game) and I suddenly hear the eerie moans of a zombie rising from its grave...well, I get a little scared. It's not the same as watching a zombie flick...there you expect there to be zombies around the corner all the time. In Thief...well, the zombies aren't just a suprise...they seem real.
In Resident Evil, I feel like i'm helping to make a great zombie flick. In Thief, I feel like I'm trying to survive a zombie flick. What totally sucks about Thief, is that these aren't the zombies I've gotten used to from all those great movies. Those zombies could be killed with a shotgun blast to the head. Well, unfortunately in Thief, shotguns haven't been invented yet. Oh, bugger.
So instead, the boys at Looking Glass were kind enough to include some water arrows that you can turn into holy water by sprinkling it over the arrows. A couple of those babies (or one at close range) explodes the sons a' bitches all over the place. One problem though...you don't have much holy water, and once you use some of it, you've got 30 seconds before that holy water becomes plain old water again.
So if i'm in a room, surrounded by zombies, i've got to quickly douse my arrows, and go on a shooting frenzy, hoping to kill as many of the bastards as possible before my water runs out, I run out of arrows, or even worse, the zombies close in on me.
This is a bit much for me at times. I haven't been this scared since I played the Lurking Horror for the first time with the lights out. And that game had no graphics!
Now there are a number of other things that scare the hell out of me...the zombies moan perfectly, and it's truly a haunting thing. Since the sound in Thief is wonderfully positional, you can hear exactly where the things are coming from, except sometimes...you'll be in an area where it's tough to figure out where they're coming from...until it's too late. I swear...every time one of those suckers comes up behind me, I jump through the ceiling.
I started thinking about it, and a lot of this has to do with the first person perspective that Thief uses. Not only does this mean that you can't see the things behind you, but it really draws you into the game in a way that no other way can. In Resident Evil, the only way to scare you like that, is through their (often quite brilliant) camera manipulation. That way, something can jump onscreen without your seeing it coming. In Thief, when that happens, it's not the game's fault you didn't see the thing coming...it's your own. So I find myself acting like the dumbest guys in a horror flick...scared witless, looking around every corner, making sure to look all around me continually...but it doesn't help. One of those suckers always manages to sneak up on me.
I told regular loonygames contributor Josh Vasquez about the game, and he pretty much made me promise never to show him this game. Josh has a bigger zombie problem than I do...he can't even play Resident Evil!
Now i'd like to make sure that everyone out there understands here...I genuinely love this game. One of my favorite movies is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because it completely horrifies me. I think that any game that can effect me the way Thief: the Dark Project does is nothing short of brilliant, and if you can stand it, I strongly suggest you check it out.
I'd like to congratulate Looking Glass on truly scaring me s#@tless. Do me a favor, guys...next time you decide to make a game with zombies...warn me. I'll be the first person in line to buy it, but at least I'll know what I'm getting myself involved in.
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief of loonygames.
Credits: From the Mouth of Madness logo illustrated by and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 1998 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, you naughty boy, you.