The Terrible Whiteness of Appalachian Nights

I was hoping to have my review of Four Lions finished today, but at the moment it’s still just a bunch of notes and half-baked ideas. So, instead, here’s a short review of something I played t’other day.

The Terrible Whiteness of Appalachian Nights is a web-based indie game from increpare games, a one man outfit with a portfolio of unusual, sometimes controversial and sometimes conceptually interesting titles.

Terrible Whiteness is based around the suburban life of a housewife, with the sub-heading “night terrors”. She’s been married twenty years and has two children and a loving husband. What the game contrives to do is demonstrate the nightmarish aspects of her life: housebound, literally unable to leave, there is “nothing to do but sleep”. Between every nap the game suggests tasks to undertake: play with her youngest, speak with her husband or daughter, and so on. On each occasion the player character is rebuffed as an irrelevance; “Jack is watching TV”.

There is nothing to do but sleep.

Terrible Whiteness screenshot

This banal but disturbing experience is underpinned by glitchy, stumbling, paranoiac music that wouldn’t be out of place in some Lynch-inspired industrial music video. The game itself is ASCII-based ala ancient PC titles or more recent indie efforts like Dwarf Fortress. Shifting colour tones and occasional animated effects also help maintain the sense of unbearable, pointless tension.

Unfortunately, perhaps for lack of anything more to say or perhaps to shock the player, after several days and nights the ASCII section of the game ends and the player is confronted with crude drawings of clownish faces with swastika eyes and a needlessly crass cock-sucking game mechanic.┬áincrepare apparently has a habit of trolling the player, or more kindly toying with their expectations, but the shift here doesn’t accomplish anything beyond seeming childish. Perhaps it’s a lashing out at the kind of banal suburban angst the game initially portrays, but that’s the kindest conclusion I could reach.

Still, the game’s worth playing because those first 5 minutes are genuinely quite nightmarish, and the balance between the game’s visuals, sound and mechanics is skilfully struck.

Comments are closed.