Hey there! I decided to take a break from writing about being a wacky foreigner because I wanted to continue throwing random nonsense at y’all instead.
My great friend at A Gamer’s Story suggested that I try writing about video games (also, if you like video games, you should definitely go check out his blog!). We’ve been supporting each other as writers for the last five years, but we’ve never tried to cross over into the other person’s territory.
After a ton of suggestions and constructive feedback, it’s ready.
Behold: Blameless, a free-to-play horror game I found on Steam.
WARNING: SPOILERS AND PROFANITY AHEAD
The game starts out with you, the main character, telling your story. You are a freelance architect and were offered a last minute job to look at some property. You think it’s odd, but accept it anyway. You go to the property, which is in the middle of nowhere. The man who called you shows you around. There are tools and construction material piled up everywhere and blocking off the exits. You find a bloodstain, and then he hits you over the head.
You wake up in a dim room filled with tools and pieces of wood. There’s fresh blood on the floor. You have to figure out how to get out of there.
It had a very realistic feel to it and I loved the music. Being rusty at puzzle games, I tried to get into the mindset of “What’s the logical thing to do here? What would happen in real life?”
Well, in real life, if someone hit me over the head and I passed out long enough for them to drag me upstairs and lock me in a secret room, I would probably have a concussion. I would need medical attention. I would probably not be in the condition to jump up and down on the work table to see what the funny lines on the ceiling were.
Even though there are tons of tools lying around, you can’t use any of them. Maybe it’s just me, but the main character came across as a little naïve. When you find that the door is locked and the handle removed, the main character says, sounding mildly puzzled, “Why would he hit me and then lock me in here?” And then you continue to walk around the room, still not being able to use the tools or put them in your inventory (although you just got hit in the head real hard, so this could be plausible).
In real life, my reaction would have been, “Oh fuck,” and then I would have scrambled to find something to defend myself with. If someone hits me over the head and locks me in their tool shed, that someone is getting a sledge hammer to the knee.
For the next twenty minutes I wandered around with different tools in my hand, looking for something in the room they might be able to interact with. You can interact with stuff by clicking the mouse, but if the game doesn’t explicitly allow you to use an item, clicking just makes you drop it. And in order to interact with anything else, you have to drop whatever’s in your hand. I dropped those tools so, so many times while I was trying to get out.
Eventually I found the door to the attic, but I couldn’t figure out how to reach it. I felt like I had examined every inch of that room, and still had no idea what to do.
I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m taking this too literally.”
A few minutes later I thought, “Maybe it’s because I’m rusty at puzzle games.”
Some time later I thought, “Maybe it’s because I suck and I’ll never get out of this room and the game icon will just sit there on my desktop and mock me forever!”
And so, with great big pile of self-loathing, I turned to the internet for help (fuck you, desktop icon!). Oh, the shame.
But then I found that one of the German YouTubers I’ve been following did a Let’s Play of Blameless. For the past few years I’ve been trying to only watch gaming videos in either German or Spanish, because then it still counts as learning. My shame melted into slightly less shame when I found that Corrupted was the one who would be helping me on my possibly brain-damaged journey out of the tool shed.
I wasn’t cheating. I was practicing my German. Yay, learning!
I was relieved to find that, although he spent significantly less time jumping up and down looking at the ceiling, he had pretty much the same issues I did. I watched just long enough to get the first clue, and then I went back to my game.
I figured out how to open the door to the attic, but the attic was dark and scary looking. I really, really didn’t want to go in there. This is a horror game. Therefore, there’s probably something horrible in the attic. I wandered around the room some more, hoping I could somehow fool the game into letting me put the hammer in my inventory in case I needed a weapon.
Eventually I gave up and went into the attic, armed with my broken cell phone and a shaky sense of adventure.
The attic was dark and creepy, as expected. I had to crouch down to get past a bunch of wooden beams, and at one point there was a sudden noise that made my character jump and go, “What was that?” I was extremely tense, but nothing attacked me. So far, the game was relying on psychological horror, and it was working.
Eventually I found my way out of the attic into another room. There was no ladder, so I had to jump down, thinking about all the potentially life-saving tools that I wasn’t allowed to use in the previous room.
My confidence restored, I explored the adjoining rooms. There was a door held shut by some wires. I found metal clippers in another room, but they were broken and couldn’t be used. Then I found a box of screws. I was able to put a screw in my inventory, too! YES! I knew what to do next.
I really enjoyed the mechanics of fixing the broken clippers. It made me feel like I’d EARNED the right to cut those wires. I fully expected to be able to open and close the clippers as I held them.
Eventually I clipped my way to what looked like an alley. There was a chain-link fence blocking off one side leading up to a wall, which left the door at the other end of the alley as my only option.
The door was ajar and there was a light on inside, but it switched off as I approached it.
Shit. I didn’t even have my clippers anymore.
I walked through the door, expecting to be attacked at any second. As I went further into the building, the light switched back on and the door slammed shut behind me.
Again, the main character’s naiveté showed. I tried to run back to the door, but then he stopped and said, “There’s no going back through here. I don’t even want to go back.”
You fool! You’ve been locked in an abandoned building against your will, and now someone is guiding you through it. He obviously wants you to go in this direction. Have we agreed with his decisions so far? NO. Which means we should NOT do what he wants. If he wants us to keep going forward, then OBVIOUSLY we should go back the way we came.
Seriously. He didn’t even check if the door was locked.
Despite my infallible logic, I pressed forward. After wandering around another part of the creepy abandoned house, I found this:
I pulled the box aside and found:
She has a piece of paper and a set of keys in her hand. There’s a very realistic creaking sound as you pry her hand open to get them out. The music intensifies and you can hear the main character’s ragged breathing. He was clearly terrified, and so was I.
After I’d gotten the keys, I found a door to the yard outside. There was equipment and rubble everywhere, and two sheds on the other side. One had the lights on, and one was dark. I’m not sure which was worse. All in all, the atmosphere of the yard was very well-done. Even though I had a big, open sky over my head, I still felt trapped and afraid. Yay!
None had happened so far, but I was still braced for jump-scares. There was a lot of running back and forth between the buildings across the yard; keys in one building, locks that they open in other buildings, a fuse-box opener. Even though nothing bad happened while I was running back and forth, the tension in the atmosphere was amazing.
One of the doors you have to get through is held shut by a pile of heavy stone tiles, which means…
You guessed it. Fun with blocks!
You get to pick them up and drop them somewhere else, all within the comforting glow of your buggy flashlight. Or you can pick them up and drop them in the dark. The choice is yours! The stone tiles feel very heavy, like you would get a good crunch out of them if you swung them at a kidnapper’s head.
These were blocking the door to the shed with the light on. As I moved the tiles so I could open the door, I started thinking about the logic behind it. The killer must have been in that shed at some point. For some reason he decided to leave without switching off the lights, and then piled a bunch of stone tiles in front of the door. Did he think no one else would be able to lift these tiles? Did someone else put them there while he was in the shed, and he had to go out the window? Did he have a concussion, too?
What if this was all a distraction, so he could sneak up behind me while I was having fun with blocks? Quick, Hedgehog, LOOK BEHIND YOU!
I spun around.
There had been nothing supernatural so far. No ghosts. No monsters.
But holy shit, man. This was spooky.
Eventually I made my way into the garage. As soon as I opened the door, the lights flicked on and the wind whistled under the garage door. My character said, “Well, this is the way out.” Naturally, instead of trying the door to get out, I began exploring the garage.
In the back of the garage I found a ladder that I could pick up. “Cool,” I thought. “Maybe I can use this to escape.” But the main character had just said that THIS was the way out. I figured I should at least try it his way. I dropped the ladder and pressed the button for the garage door.
The garage door opened with agonizing slowness. It was loud and clunky and I was positive my kidnapper would hear it and come running. After a few seconds, the lights blew out and the door slammed shut.
I thought, “There’s NO WAY he didn’t hear that.” I waited for him to burst into the room and murder me.
The seconds ticked by and I was still un-murdered. I remembered that I had a fuse-box opener in my inventory, so I cautiously peeked out of the garage and then scurried across the yard to the building with the fuse-box. There’s a note on the inside of the fuse-box that tells you how to fix it. I have never had to deal with a fuse-box in real life, so this was a completely new experience for me. I felt a sense of pride as I flipped the switches. “I’m so good at this,” I thought. “After playing this game, I bet I could fix a real fuse-box without even electrocuting myself.”
Then there was a loud FZZT! and I was on the floor. The screen went blurry and my character’s heart was pounding. After a few seconds, my vision cleared and I got back up. The lights were back on. I did the logical thing and clicked on the fuse-box again to see what would happen.
I went back to the garage and tried the door again. It took forever. I had to stand there and hold down the button while the door screeched open. The whole time I was thinking, “Oh shit oh shit oh shit.”
When the door was about halfway up, there was a sudden jolt and the music got loud and intense. I looked up and saw this:
I was cornered. As the killer walked toward me, I started cycling through my inventory, hoping I could defend myself with something. Wad of paper? Nope. Wallet? Nope. Broken cell phone? OH SHIT HE’S COMING CLOSER. Keys? Maybe? I might be able to hold them in my fist like Wolverine claws like they tell women to do when they’re in a parking lot at night. Left-click. Nothing. Right-click. NO, DON’T PUT THEM AWAY! HE’S RIGHT THERE! FUCK! Now he’s right in front of me and I have a wad of paper in my hand! Can I punch him? OH SHIT HE’S HOLDING A METAL BAR. RUN!
And then he swung, and the screen went black.
I stared at the screen, heart still pounding. I wondered if I had done something wrong. The game started in the garage. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on. Was this the last checkpoint, or did the killer knock me out again and leave me here? Eventually I figured out that no, Hedgehog, you failed and this was the last checkpoint. I decided to try out the ladder I’d found earlier.
I carried the ladder out of the garage, still expecting the killer to come running at me. I wondered if there was a time-limit. Maybe he finds you if you take too long to escape after you first try the garage door. I found a place behind the garage to put the ladder. As I climbed my way to freedom, I thought, “There’s no way it’s this easy. Something horrible is going to happen.” I looked around, hoping that, since I was high off the ground, I might be able to see him coming.
I went ahead and jumped the fence. As soon as I landed on the other side, the game saved. That’s never a good sign. Something bad always happens right after a checkpoint. Still, there was a fence and a murderer behind me. The only way to go was forward.
From this side of the house, I could see the lights from the city off in the distance. I had made it out! Freedom was so close!
As I ran forward, there was a familiar jolt, the music intensified, and I turned around to see the killer standing behind me. This time I didn’t even try to fight. I wanted to run, but I fumbled with the sprint button and he caught up to me.
I stared at the loading screen again, feeling stupid. The game started outside the fence I had just cleared and there was no way back. So much for the garage.
When he appeared this time, I ran directly at him. Who knows? I thought. Maybe the trick is to intimidate the killer by appearing louder and faster and crazier than him. Maybe if I surprise him, I’ll be able to overpower him and escape. Yes, clearly a senseless act of aggression is the solution here.
After getting hit in the head a few more times, I eventually outran him.
I made it to the front gate with him right behind me, and then two police cars pulled up. I was saved! They yelled at me to get down on the ground, and when I looked behind me, the killer was gone.
The game cut to a conversation in the police station. The main character is being interrogated, begging the police to believe that he had been lured there. The officer tells him that the neighbors reported someone matching his description running around the property and there was no evidence of anyone else being there. When they found him, he had the victim’s wallet in his pocket, blood on his hands, and his fingerprints were on the body. As far as they were concerned, he was guilty. He would be in prison for a very long time.
I was outraged. I had already told them that a man called me and arranged to meet me there. They really couldn’t be bothered to check my phone records? Did we forget that I’d been hit in the head? Shouldn’t they have someone look at me? Do they have a time of death for the victim? Where’s my lawyer?
The game ends with the main character sitting alone in the interrogation room. It was devastating. I’d fought so hard to escape, and now I was going to prison for a crime I didn’t commit. That was the whole point of the killer luring me there. He won.
It was sickening. Apparently, the solution for the whole situation was: do nothing and wait for the authorities to arrive. Sure, I might have starved to death if I hadn’t been smart enough to get out of the first room, but at least I wouldn’t be this guy’s scapegoat.
Or maybe there was another solution: at the very, VERY beginning, call a friend and tell them that I was about to meet a creepy guy in the middle of nowhere, or maybe complain about it on social media. If I had checked in on Facebook with “gonna meet some weirdo 4 work lol #ihatedriving,” would I still be going to prison?
The game was superbly done. I’m a big fan of horror, but I tend to gravitate toward supernatural horror, with monsters and ghosts and the like. There was none of that in this game, but it still had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. It had a good story, it looked great, and I loved the music. It was brilliant in its simplicity.
Also, I had to go back and replay the game a few times in order to get all the screenshots I wanted for this post. And I was pausing the game a lot so I could add more to what I’d already written, make a snack, chat with my roommate, etc. So according to Steam, it took me ten hours to pass a 40-minute puzzle game.
Also also, if you want more stuff about video games, hop over to A Gamer’s Story and check out his blog.
Congratulations on making it to the end of this ridiculously long post! High five, you.