I did not sleep last night.
Anatomy is a first-person psychological horror game from “game-developer bird-girl witch-poet” Kitty Horrorhow. She is responsible for a slew of odd, horrific mini-games, interactive vignettes, and visual novels, with Anatomy being the first game she has charged for (albeit for the low price of $2.99). It is also the best horror game I have played all year, perhaps the best horror game I have played since Silent Hill 2.
It is hard to review Anatomy without spoiling it; the experience being so singular, intense, and dependent on the shocks and twists it delivers. To illuminate it too much would be to ruin it, which is fitting for something so concerned with forcing its players to traverse perilous darkness.
The premise is fairly simple: after what sounds like an old VHS tape being entered into a machine and played, you find yourself in a dark house, bereft of guidance or instructions. As you explore you will find a series of lectures recorded on cassettes that you will play in the kitchen; each lecture discusses some aspect of the anatomy of the home. After each lecture has played, a door is unlocked and instructions tell you where to find the next one.
It sounds simple, but it isn’t. The house is incredibly dark, with only the walls reflecting the barest amount of light needed to find your way around, and the centre of each room is like a black hole. Two steps in the wrong direction can leave you lost and disoriented.
Traversing the house is a tense, arduous process as you are forced to hug the walls for guidance, and as the lecturer begins to talk about the house as a living, breathing, thinking thing, the centre of every room becomes laden with monstrous possibility.
The graphics are lo-fi and simplistic, leaving gaps for your imagination to fill, and the screen is interrupted by lines of static – are you playing the game or watching that VHS tape from the game’s beginning, or both? In any horror game atmosphere is king, and Anatomy drips with menace and implication.
Anatomy ends abruptly, kicking you to the desktop without warning. The only explanation is a little text file exhorting you to play again and again. And this is where Anatomy really comes alive – with each successive playthrough the game begins to twist, change, and fuck with the expectations it has built. To complete all its sections one after the other will take about an hour, but what an hour; I was left with my childhood fear of the darkness re-awakened, followed for the rest of the night by the feeling that something, somewhere, was watching me.
Anatomy is fascinating, strange, distinctive, and disturbing. It is a game that has to be played to be understood, a singular, disturbing vision that will undermine your sense of safety and make you reappraise the mundane world around you. Go and play it, and then go and check out Kitty Horrorshow’s Patreon; if she can mess us up this thoroughly in under an hour, I dread to think what she can do in a full game.
You can also watch us play through the entire game on the Critical Twits Gaming Channel.