Why you never played: The Dark Eye is an experimental point-and-click adventure based on the depressed, possibly deranged writings of 19th century author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe. Sound like something you’d be willing to try nearly fifteen years ago? Unless you were coincidentally a high-school English teacher and follower of obscure cult games during that time, we’d wager not.
What’s so scary: Um, have you ever read Edgar Allan Poe? His short stories – meticulous depictions of murder, torture and insanity – remain as bizarre and unsettling today as when they were originally published in 1800s newspapers. “The Cask of Amontillado,” for example, follows a narrator who buried his drunken friend alive, slowly sealing him away brick-by-brick in a catacomb cell. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” an old man is dismembered and hidden under the floorboards simply for being ugly. And while the titular victim of “Berenice” is killed by disease, her cousin / fiancé is the one who pulls the teeth out of her corpse and stores them in a box on his office desk.
All three of these gruesome tales are brought to animated, interactive life in The Dark Eye. Shockingly, however, that’s not why the game is so disturbing. Nor is the fact that you play through each Poe-inspired crime from two different perspectives – both the victim’s and the perpetrator’s. Nor is the hub world between nightmares, a decaying mansion full of empty rooms, locked doors, surreal paintings and sharp knives.
No, the real reason that The Dark Eye is our top choice for “scariest game you’ve never played” can be summarized in one brief but horrifying word:
Yes, every single character you interact with looks like that: a motion-captured marionette wearing dusty doll clothes and staring blankly through the screen from a melting clay face. Their eyes are sunken, their arms are spindly, their complexions are ashen and their bodies resemble decomposing potatoes. They are literally some of the most terrifying… things… we have ever seen in a game. And after researching this Top 7, we’ve seen more than most will ever imagine.
Current availability: The Dark Eye’s developer, inSCAPE, shut down shortly after making the game. What a surprise, right? Fortunately, you can still buy copies on Amazon for about $25, and if you search the web thoroughly enough, you might even be able to find a free download of the full product. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about those puppets, though.
Oct 26, 2009
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