Review # 133: Mortis.
Mortis is not to be played under any circumstances. Do not download it. Do not talk about it. Do. Not. Play it. Don't bother searching for it and if you find it anywhere, avoid it at all costs. For respect of he who I and many others held dear, please do not play this game.
I used to frequent a website called" horrorgamesarchive.com." Don't bother looking for it now; It's long gone. It was a website centered around highlighting horror games, mainly obscure ones, and writing a paragraph-form summary and review of each game. The website was updated every week and never broke formula so far as my memory serves me. I discovered many of my now favourite horror games on this website: Silent Hill, Hell Night, Clock Tower, Sweet Home, and Saya No Uta. Because of my affinity for horror games and my respect for this website, I got in contact with Dex, the website's creator and main writer over Skype.
Dex and I had spoken for a few months and had developed what I suppose you could call an internet friendship. He would give me an update every time he made a new review, and I became a co-writer, editing and adding sections to some of his reviews. I even completely wrote his review of White Chamber. He had also told me that he was developing his own game, though I'm sad to say I don't think he ever finished it.
It was no surprise to me that after about eleven months of our frequent conversations, he asked me of all people to write a review while he was away for Spring Break. He sent me the link over Skype of that week's game: Mortis. He told me it was a PC game that came out in 2001 and that the copy he had sent me was completely legitimate. I had never heard of this game in all of my years on the vast internet, but whenever I asked him where he found the game, I never got a response.
I clicked the button to download the game which took about five minutes because Dex thought it right to send me the game over Skype (he was nice, but not all that bright). I looked inside the Zip file Dex had placed the game into and saw just an executable file and a readme file. I took the file's request and read it to find what is typical for a game's readme file: original game credits, other credits, and installation instructions. None of this interested me, but what did interest me was the controls. Using my master investigative skills, I infered that Mortis was a Resident Evil-type game, what with the "up to move forward," "left and right to turn" and "press space while in action mode to attack." I got myself ready for clunky controls, hilariously bad voice acting and cheap scares. I should've been ready for more than that.
Before even playing, I researched the game and found nothing about it. No mention on any forums, nothing. I even Googled Nemesis Games: the company responsible for this game and found nothing on the subject.
Clicking the executable file immediately launched the game. This was actually quite the surprise; to see a game meant to run on Windows '98 or the ilk instantly boot up on my Windows 7 computer of last year was kind of stunning. Nevertheless, after the game launched, I saw the familiar names of Nemesis games show up at the bottom of the screen along with the traditional copyright notifications below them. The Nemesis Games logo was very low budget-looking, almost like someone threw it together in Photoshop. However, I suppose an obscure game nobody's ever even talked about before shouldn't really have the highest of hopes. I was going to capture a screenshot, but the game crashed every time I pushed the Print Screen button. What I did manage to capture however was the title screen, if you can even call it that.
All it consists of is a crudely drawn rendition of what I know to be the main protagonist with a gun to his head with the text under it in a scratched up text reading "Appuyer sur [esc]." Following the only instruction I could understand, I pressed the escape key, a decision I regret wholeheartedly. Upon my input, the gun fired into the character's head. The character then cracked a smile, one of relief and reassurance. This was a gruesome scene, certainly, and it is a surprise that this game never got any negative attention, especially in a time when violence in video games was such a big issue.
The opening cutscene then loaded and I was given an FMV cutscene with very high production value given what I had already seen. It was live action, but the video had very high contrast and a colour-scheme consisting of dark, saturated shades of orange and green. The first shot was that of an actor playing the main protagonist, a man anywhere from the ages of seventeen to twenty in an orange hoodie and a black, sleeveless coat over-top of it. His head were in his hands, which were shaking furiously. The camera then panned down to a gun on the table he was sitting in front of. The next shot was that of the protagonist's left eye peeking through his fingers, only for his arm to jolt down, grab the gun, and shoot himself in the head. He fell back out of his chair as his arms and legs twitched disturbingly. I didn't know what to think. This was not only a graphic, realistic representation of death, it offended me as someone who has closely known people who took their lives at a young age. How could this be in a game? In all of my years of gaming, never once have I seen such a realistic, gut-wrenching scene, especially not one of such a controversial subject matter.
The scene faded to a loading screen, featuring the main protagonist's twitching hand. While it was loading, the voice of the main character sounded in my headphones, though it sounded as if he was speaking under water. He spoke in French, and with my limited knowledge of the language, I am fairly certain he said "Je m'appelle Patrique," meaning, "My name is Patrick." There was, however, no sense of urgency in his words. He spoke them slowly and calmly in a serene tone, and he did not merely speak them, but it felt as though he was talking specifically to me. In the few dozen seconds it took after that to load the first level, I had some time to think about it. Why would the main character of a video game address its player, and why tell them such information?
When the first level finally loaded after what felt like an eternity, the main character, Patrick, awoke in his hoodie, ripped over-coat and jeans from the opening cutscene. He stood up from his bed, and this is when I gained full control. My suspicions were confirmed in that it did control like Resident Evil, but it controlled a lot better. It's hard to explain, but Patrick had more weight to him, and I was able to get through doorways without having to run against the wall all the damn time. The second major difference was that the camera angles were not fixed, but instead swung around freely in the same style as Silent Hill. Other maneuvers were sidestepping, backstepping, jumping in the four cardinal directions as well as vertically, crouching and crawling. After practicing Patrick's acrobatics routine, I searched his room for items that may be useful in later puzzles, something Silent Hill and Resident Evil have taught me well. I found nothing but a generic handgun in the dresser and a bottle of prescription medication which description read: "Do not use under any circumstances." I didn't, of course.
It was when I was finished searching frantically for plot important objects when I could truly see what was actually happening. I heard a scratching coming from all around the room. It was in both ears, and although it was subtle, it was the only sound I had yet heard. Though the noise was quiet, it was so frequent that my head started to throb. I shot my hand out to turn down the volume and a wave of relief swept through my body. I pressed on, but was only met with another roadblock: the door out of the room was unable to be opened. Patrick did not even attempt to open it; he merely stated in a now shaky, stuttering voice,
"je ne peux pas échapper."
The subtitles did not state an English translation, but I wrote it down in my notes. At this point, I don't want to know what it says. As I walked around the room searching for a point of escape, Patrick would start to say things like, "je dois," or "Allez, venez." Patrick was growing frantic, and started to walk more slowly or quickly at seemingly random intervals. After a while, he started to simply shamble of his own volition to random areas of his bedroom. There was a window in his bathroom adjacent to his bedroom. It game a button prompt, "Regarder [SPACE]." Upon pushing down the spacebar key, the game changed to a first person perspective. Patrick was on the second floor. I tried opening the window but to no avail. "Je ne peux pas échapper," Patrick stated again. There were no doors. No way out. There was one more option though...
I opened my inventory, highlighted the medication and selected its "use" option. Sure enough, Patrick shakily opened the bottle and popped the medication into his mouth. For a moment, all remained normal until, after a few seconds, he began to slow to a crawl and eventually collapsed on the ground.
"je suis en vie."
Patrick spoke those words in the subsequent loading screen, but instead of calmly, he spoke in a dull, monotone whisper that was broken up into multiple utterances separated by harsh voice cracks. The loading screen was that of Patrick's foot, twitching as if Patrick had still just died. It was at this point in which I questioned the continuity of these events. I clearly saw Patrick shoot himself and fall to the ground dead, but I was clearly controlling an alive Patrick, only to cut back to him dead once again.
Patrick ended up in an alleyway. He was lying on the ground and the camera was swinging around frantically and elastically. It was hard to gain my focus and this effect did not cease even when I gained control of Patrick. The same prompt existed as when I was in his bathroom, "Regarder [SPACE]." When I chose to obey this command once again, the game shifted to first person as before, though it was looking up at the second floor window. As I pressed the arrow keys to move, Patrick did not walk, but rather shambled like a dead man walking. Every other step or so, he would wince with pain, but with a different, increasing sound of agony as I went on. I almost wanted to get through this section of the game as quickly as I possibly could for his sake. But he's just a game character, right? As I proceeded, the moans of torment started to echo in my headphones. I almost wanted to unplug them and play the sound through the speakers, but my partner was asleep in the other room and I really didn't want to wake them up with this of all things. The echoing started to give me a massive headache, so I turned the sound down to a lower, more hushed volume.
As I was focusing on the sound, I lost track of where I was going. I tried to get my bearings, but I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going anywhere. Every corner I turned just lead me to another adjacent alley. As I turned each corner, Patrick gained new behavior. He started looking behind him, trying to search for someone who may be following him. I took to his attempt to find someone and turned him around myself, to find nobody there. Turning around lead Patrick to shake and peek behind him less, almost seeming reassured. I can't get it out of my head that I swear he said, "thank you" in English when I did this. At the time, I thought it was only in my head.
I began growing bored of all this walking and turning around until I noticed something: the scratching noise had begun to continue once more. At first, it was quiet and I barely noticed it, but it began to get incredibly grating despite my volume being set almost to mute. Patrick began picking up his walking speed even with his condition. He began yelling out in agony and there was a harsh cracking sound with each step he took. Along with the horrifying sound of broken bones grinding against each-other was the quickly loudening scratching sound. The scratching then turned gradually to a scraping, to a grinding, to a screeching. The camera then swung around to face Patrick and it was then when I saw him.
He... no... it was not that of a human. It was chasing me relentlessly and I was amazed I have no idea how I did not notice it before. It was a creature that resembled a human but was not a being of flesh and blood. Rather, it was a being of bone. Its jagged edges jutted out in every conceivable direction, scratching the stone floor and the brick walls that only seemed more constricting as it grew nearer. It did not run and certainly did not walk. It simply moved. I cannot explain the manner in which it achieved motion or why, but it merely proceeded in its direction. It was at this point where the turns stopped and I was running down an endless, isolating hallway. It was then when the most disturbing, haunting thing occurred.
Patrick pleaded for help. It was not in French and there were no subtitles, but it was in English, and it had a sense of fear I had never heard and never again will hear. For as long as I live, I will never forget the words, "Help me, please! You can't let me die! I don't want to disappear! Please!" This was not a scripted event. There was no way this could have been planned. There was no way that this was a game. What sick, twisted individual would make this? Was this a cry for help? Was this somebody's last words to the world? Was I playing out somebody's pleas for help?
It approached me. That... thing was growing nearer by the second as Patrick was only growing more desperate, speaking shakily as if crying. "Please! Don't let him get me! I don't want to fade away! Please!" It was only after that last word in which the most shocking thing I had ever witnessed occurred.
It finally caught up and grabbed Patrick with a stray bone. Osseous shards began protruding out of what could barely be called its body as it hunched over Patrick who was now squirming on the ground. His scream pierced my ears and I felt like screaming too. His arms and legs twitched frantically and I could not tell anymore whether he was alive or dead. I know I must sound weak but I was horrified. Between this, the screams for help and the theme of the game, my body could barely handle this stress and anxiety.
The screen cut to black as I heard the sounds of scraping and gnawing on top of a barely audible, "I am so, very sorry..." But it was not Patrick. The "game" closed and cut back to my desktop with nothing but the .zip file open. Something was different, however. The executable was gone, nowhere to be seen. I checked many folders until I rediscovered it in my recycling bin. I tried opening again, but all that happened was a black screen with deafeningly loud scraping noises playing until I forcibly closed the game via the task manager. I tried permanently deleting this wretched file there, but, for whatever reason, it refused to leave, and even opened a few times with my efforts, again playing those disgusting sounds. I at last admitted defeat and checked the .zip folder once more and checked the readme file, to see it had been altered to contain only one sentence.
"I am so, very sorry to leave you all like this. -Dex"
A few days later, the website was taken down and I never heard from Dex again. I cry about it to this day, almost two years since this incident. I still hear his voice, the last thing he ever said to me, "I am so, very sorry..." I am sorry too. I am so, very sorry I couldn't help you. And with this, I bid you one last farewell, my dear friend of mine. Goodbye, Dex.