March 16, 2006
I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream
Game Review By: Neuromancer
Author: The Dreamers Guild
Introduction: In the early nineties a game publisher named Cyberdreams specialized in games targeted towards a more adult audience. Their games incorporated adult imagery and themes set in a horror, scifi or cyberpunk setting. The list of published titles contains: DarkSeed (based on the artwork of Giger) and CyberRace (based on the -Tron- vehicle design of Syd Mead) and I have no mouth and I must scream.
I have no mouth and I must scream is based on the story of the same name written by Harlan Ellison. Not only did he write the initial story, Ellison was heavily involved in the game design as well as doing the voice acting for AM.
The story : At the height of the cold war China, Russia and America are the three ruling superpowers of the world. Each has built their own immensely huge supercomputer with only one purpose in mind: the destruction of the other two superpowers. By means which are not described the three supercomputers merge and become sentient. This new supercomputer calls itself AM (I think, therefore I AM) and has adopted one emotion from its makers: hate. Hate towards mankind. The first thing AM does is wage total war and subsequently manages to destroy all of mankind. All but 5 people who have been taken hostage for the sole purpose of entertaining AM. 109 years of torture and humiliation have passed as the game starts.
Now AM has devised a specific quest for each of its victims. The quests are filled with metaphors as each must enter their own personal hell. As the game progresses we find that each character has to face their own severe psychological issues caused by a traumatizing event in the past. The player must take a journey into 5 very troubled psyches attempting to rescue the last bit of humanity left. This game/story is very grim and not for the faint hearted. We are dealing with all too real issues here that force us to explore the humanity of not only ourselves but also mankind as a whole. Without giving too much away the victims have to learn to deal with murder, rape, cannibalism and the horrors of the holocaust. Each must be guided through metaphors towards some sort of redemption.
And it seems as if forces within AM (the original three computers from which it originated) are resisting their host and are very stealthily aiding and guiding the humans as they themselves want to be free…
When the game starts we get a view on AM’s pillar of hate and get to choose one of the 5 people. As a player we get a lot of freedom as all 5 quests can be undertaken in any order. The quests in particular can be completed in a variety of ways. The key thing to remember is we are trying to aide these 5 people to retrieve some of their lost humanity. Points are given for each choice we make that either lowers or raises the level of humanity this character has acquired. And these are very much needed for the end-game.
When all 5 quests have been completed AM retreats into itself to think about what went wrong. Finally the 5 people can put the pieces of the puzzle together and learn what is going on. The player then gets to choose a character which will be digitalized and loaded into AM. What follows is a very vague end-game wherein we will attempt to take out metaphors of AM’s ID, Ego and SuperEgo (yup, the Freudian ones). There are several endings possible based on the choices we make ranging from very depressing to slightly hopeful. This part of the game is the least interesting as things tend to get a bit too vague.
The game: This is an old-fashioned point and click adventure which runs on DOS. The interface is reminiscent of the old Lucasarts games like Monkey Island where you get to build sentences by clicking on the commands. The graphics are somewhat static (this pre-dates FMV) but really add to the atmosphere while the voice acting is quite good. The puzzles are logical and sometimes quite hard. Besides the end-game there is not much here an experienced adventure-player shouldn’t be able to solve though.
The verdict : The disturbing, unsettling psychological and intellectual storyline more than makes up for the outdated graphics and somewhat disappointing ending.
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