(You Can't) Escape the Unholy City

by alyshkalia profile


Web Site

Go to the game's main page

Member Reviews

Number of Reviews: 3
Write a review

Short surreal horror game, January 24, 2024
by Cerfeuil (*Teleports Behind You* Nothing Personnel, Kid)
Related reviews: Shufflecomp 2023

I'm the one who submitted The Unholy City to Shufflecomp. It's a "song" (though more like a spoken poem set to music) from Thomas Ligotti, a severely depressed horror author with a severely depressing worldview. (TLDR: he thinks life is pointless and consciousness is a curse, a viewpoint maybe understandable when you live with devastating anhedonia and anxiety for decades on end.) With this game, there are now three Thomas Ligotti-inspired games on IFDB: Skulljhabit, this, and a third one called The Crooked Estate I admittedly haven't played. We're growing the Thomas Ligotti fan community, guys. At this rate we'll have 10 whole Ligotti-inspired games on IFDB by the end of the century!

In the game itself, you progress through a sequence of scenes relating to daily life, which start off normal and rapidly descend into horror. Eventually, inevitably, you end up drawn into the Unholy City. The city itself is never described - each scene ends with you "entering" it. There's only one ending I could find, which of course doesn't result in your escape.

Playing while familiar with the original song is a fun experience. There were moments that I could pick out as being directly inspired by the song, or drawing on it more strongly than other parts. I noted the mundane workaday nature of the scenes, at least at the outset. Before Ligotti became a horror author he was, by his own admission, a severely depressed anhedonic working an office job at a publishing company and having violent fantasies about murdering his coworkers. To say he hates corporate America and everything it represents would be pretty accurate. If you look at his larger worldview and body of work, it's clear that the Unholy City represents all of reality, or perhaps the state of existing as something conscious and capable of suffering. (Though one of the best things about his horror stories is, unlike his nonfiction, they're open to interpretation. You could view it as a real place, if you wanted to.) Knowing that, it seems to me that the game protagonist can't escape the Unholy City because they're already in it, and you can only leave through death. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this.

The game itself is short, so not incredibly expansive, but has a neat little collection of scenes. If I had any criticism to offer, it'd be that I wish there was more! Would be fun to see this concept taken to more extremes.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment