I'll let you into a little secret: I voted for P.T. in Push Square's internal Game of the Year poll last December. I wasn't alone – the survival horror sampler scraped enough votes to secure our Silver Trophy. The placement spurned outrage: how could a glorified demo possibly factor into our Best of 2014 list? But even today, while others tell me that they regret voting for our overall winner Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, I stand by my pick.
P.T. remains, in my opinion, the strongest slice of survival horror ever produced. The iconic looping corridor may have been built as a mere viral marketing stunt, but Kojima Productions hit the jackpot with this terrifying 20 minute teaser – it's a tragedy that the title that it was designed to debut, Silent Hills, will never see release. But while no game in 2015 has flushed the colour from my face quite like P.T. did, I want to talk today about a 2015 release that put me on edge.
That title is not SOMA, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, or Until Dawn – though I think that they're all great in their own regards. No, it's Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, a release which haunted me more than any other this year. Now, I know that it's not a traditional horror game: the only blood in it is that smeared across handkerchiefs, and there are no enemies or predators. But hear me out, because The Chinese Room's walking simulator made my stomach churn throughout.
I've never been to a Shropshire village, but the town that I grew up in sits inside a neighbouring county, and is bordered by settlements very similar to Yaughton. As such, house hugger plants, quaint cottages, and rural land are quite a familiar sight for me. And Everybody's Gone to the Rapture absolutely nails its setting: Yaughton is extraordinarily well thought out, from the holiday park that overlooks an unsettled lake to the public houses that have been deserted since last orders.
Yaughton felt eerily familiar to me – it reminded me of the open gardens that I used to attend with my parents as a child, where tea, cakes, and botany provided the backdrop for a very British day out. And yet in Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, that familiarity paves the way for something much more haunting. It certainly starts like a nice village open day: the sky is blue, the flowers are blooming, and the swings are rocking. But there's no one around.
And as you progress, that isolation becomes increasingly unsettling. The blue skies pass as you venture deeper into the village, and errant sunrays instead start to break through rain-weary clouds, resulting in some terrifying light contrasts. Some would probably point to religious paintings for a clearer indication of what they mean, but it reminds me of a certain Soundgarden music video – you know the one.
And if all of that wasn't enough, you have the orbs which inhabit the village like spectres – glowing ghosts which recount the days leading up to the end of the world. It's spooky stuff – the game makes you feel like some kind of perverse voyeur, as you intrude on the personal space of people who have passed just to understand exactly what's going on. And, as should be expected when you're eavesdropping, you end up picking up on more information than you bargained for.
All of this, combined with Jessica Curry's edgy yet angelic score, put me on edge all through Everybody's Gone to the Rapture; I wasn't sh*t my pants scared per se, but I felt very uneasy – like I had a bad case of butterflies. I've never really felt that way playing a game before, and I certainly never expected it going into The Chinese Room's walking simulator. It's part of the reason why I think it's one of 2015's stronger releases, and why it will have a lasting impact on me.
Did Everybody's Gone to the Rapture stir some unexpected emotional reactions in you, or did you just find the PS4 exclusive bland? Leave a glowing orb for others to discover in the comments section below.