Alongside the traditional health bar, Eternal Darkness has a sanity meter. Beaten down after witnessing too many of the game’s scuttling nightmare creatures without performing cathartic execution kills, a low sanity rating eventually causes your character to go guano bonkers all over the place. Blood will drip down the walls, camera angles will skew, and Lost will become a worthwhile televisual experience. But at extreme levels, the game starts monkeying around with the player in the real world.
It will pretend the TV has switched off. It will simulate a deleted memory card. It will reduce or mute the sound output. The credits will roll, followed by a teaser for Eternal Darkness 2. Whole sections of the game will reset, turning out to have been hallucinations, often after putting the player through a brutal unwinnable fight. And then, later on, you’ll doubtless really die after not taking certain tough fights seriously. In Eternal Darkness, it’s hard to react accordingly, because you’re never entirely sure what you’re reacting to. In a way, the game’s cruel manipulations effectively make you troll yourself. It’s a bit like The Joker, in that respect, only with fewer whimsical purple suits and more seething cosmic horror.