IFComp 2014: The Urge

I am playing through and writing my thoughts on IFComp entries this month. You can find all the entries online here: http://www.ifcomp.org/ballot


The Urge

By PaperBlurt

Choice-based / Twine

Play online: http://www.ifcomp.org/1144/content/The_Urge_by_PaperBlurt.html

Torture, torture little star | You must wonder where you are | Hoping that you’ll soon will die | As I melt your face with lye
When your pee mix with your sweat | And the floor with blood is wet | Then you’ll feel a real true fright | Torture, torture all long night

When the silver blade once rise | You will live without your eyes | Then you fade away from sight | I’m now your God and I will smite


Most people that know me know that I love horror of all kinds. I have no qualms about playing a game about torture or playing as a serial killer.

I’ve played some of PaperBlurt’s other games in the past (and they are credited as co-creators on “Zest”, the first game I reviewed). They also strike me as a bit odd, and not quite fulfilling their promise, but usually something interesting is happening narratively. With horror that’s usually my baseline requirement: is there’s something interesting going on? The answer in this game is… no, not really, unfortunately.

There’s a few instances where the author uses some interesting techniques with text. Descriptions of women tare filled up with violent text over time like “KILL” and “DISMEMBER”, breaking your concentration with these compulsive thoughts.

There’s only one real choice in the entire game. The rest feels more like clicking through a short story divided into vignettes and introspective thoughts. Unfortunately, as a short story, I didn’t think it was very good – at least, it didn’t add anything new to the “serial killer” genre. The game flops between violence and humor, drama and parody, not quite sure what tone it wants to take.

The story starts with you in a shed or container of some kind, your kill room with violent torture tools and a “guest” unconscious on the table. Initially this looks like the kind of game that will force the player to enact torture on a victim – a way to make players complicit in the deeds of the serial killer. But this is taken away from you: you observe some torture instruments and then the victim is promptly dead. The game spend more time talking about walking through the woods to dispose of the body than anything about the act of killing itself. You never feel complicit. You feel like a passive observer.

The narrative takes a turn as the killer meets a woman he is attracted to, but doesn’t feel a compulsion to kill. They date, they move in together, and then the killer feels the need to kill again. Like in the beginning of the game, there’s no real focus on the act of killing – it’s skipped. The storyline develops in an obvious direction with no surprises, even with some plot holes (you drive to your container in the woods after work and get home that night – even though it’s an 8 hour round trip?). The only thing that had the potential to set “The Urge” apart from other serial killer stories was its reference to some beast – “it” – that roamed the wood that fed on the body parts you left out for it. But that was never really explored fully – mentioned at the beginning and end of the game to sort of wrap it up nicely.

The game talks a bit about the ritualistic notions of killing and the compulsion to do so, but I don’t feel either are really explored well. Ultimately, I found it unsatisfying.

In celebration of spooky October, I’ll recommend some of my favorite films about serial killers:

  • Zodiac – detective film about the enigmatic clues behind the Zodiac Killer. Not excessively gory or violent.
  • The Chaser – a Korean thriller about a former cop chasing down a serial killer, and does some really unique things that I have never seen in this genre before.
  • I Saw The Devil – a gruesome Korean flick in which a detective enacts vengeance upon a serial killer outside the law. (Excessively violent).
  • Memories of Murder – a Korean film by the director of The Host & Snowpiercer (but in a very different style) based on a true story of a serial killer in a small Korean town that was never caught
  • Lady Vengeance – yes, another Korean film (they are so good) from the creator of Oldboy, as a very good revenge tale. Excessively violent).
  • American Psycho – an outrageous satire of upper class NYC yuppie lifestyle, plus murdering
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – I believe this is the most accurate and real film I’ve ever seen about a character who is a serial killer. It doesn’t make claims about good and evil, but rather lets the killer just exist on his own. As a film from the eighties, it’s aged really well.
  • Silence of the Lambs – if you haven’t seen this, you should. About a detective who uses the insights of a captured serial killer to help track down a new one.