Time to diversify things a bit on Few Years Old Game Reviews, and I’m going to do so by tackling an adventure game, and oh boy, it’s a doozy.
Based on the short story of the same name written by Harlan Ellison, the I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream video game is a bit of an odd duck in terms of point-and-click adventure games. Not in as much as what or how it does things, but much more so related to why it does things, the story being the real crux of the game.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is dark
This is a dark game, with a dark story. Dark in a psychological way, not in a Dead Space kind of way.
The game is about ethical and moral choices, in a most fucked-up of settings, but I have to mention that the choices aren’t as ambiguous as I would’ve liked, so as to be in tone with the overall atmosphere. You can easily tell which options are considered the “good” ones and which ones are the not-so-good ones. The game will also let you know which type of decision you have made via audio-video feedback.
On the other hand, this is a game released in 1995, so I’m going to cut it some serious slack considering that the majority of modern games don’t go anywhere near the depth of choice that I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream does.
The basic premise of the I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream game is the same as the short story. Humanity has been destroyed by a sentient computer – called AM – who has grown to hate the civilization that created it. So much so, that the computer has seen it fit to keep a few specimens alive for over a hundred years just so that he could torture them in all manner of ways; physical, psychological, emotional, you name it, he’s had enough time to do it. You will be playing as each of these final survivors of humanity, through a last trial of sorts, a fresh and final torture prepared by AM.
Throughout each individual adventure you’ll be set in front of ethical and moral choices, whilst you’ll be subjected to witnessing some truly horrible scenes. The nature of good and evil are always being discussed, more or less indirectly, with the focus being on things like adultery, murder and rape. All of these are expressed through some of the more ludicrous and repetition-awarding puzzles that have ever existed.
Actually, I have to rectify what I said initially, a bit. The game is also odd in terms of how it does things relating to the conclusion. The thing is, you can’t really win the game, per se. There are favorable, sort of, and not so favorable outcomes and that can be a bit of a turn-off for some players. But this is very much in tune with the premise, atmosphere and the very mature story being told.
As recently as 2013, Ellison stated that the game had been purposefully made to be unwinnable, saying:
“I created it so you could not win it. The only way in which you could “win” was to play it nobly. The more nobly you played it, the closer to succeeding you would come, but you could not actually beat it. And that annoyed the hell out of people too.”
I Have No Mouth, but I Must Conclude
What it boils down to is that the game offers a wildly different sort of point-and-click adventure gaming experience because of the source material and the subject matters discussed, as well as how it chooses to do so.
Is it for every adventure game lover out there? No, I can’t say it is, but it’s definitely there for those interested in something different, maybe something actually thought-provoking and at the end of the day, sometimes, that’s what we’re looking for from a piece of art.
I’m curious however, if you gals and guys played I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream till now, and if so, then what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments.
See ya next time, again in the past.
The original DOS version of the game is hard to get a hold of and annoying to get working in this day and age, so the good folk at Good Old Games have made it available in their catalog on GoG.com.