Rating

A-

Specific Ratings

GraphicsB
SoundA+
GameplayA+
Replay ValueB+
Learning CurveA-

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Good writing
  • Fleshed out characters
  • Strong voice acting
  • Many directions to take in gameplay
  • Stellar soundtrack
Cons
  • Riddled with bugs
  • Dated graphics
  • Screwy interface

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (PC)

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Summary

An interesting and expanded adaptation of the short story

Images


Description

"HATE!" - AM

Okay, now that's out of the way.

In an alternate universe, a war had broken out, a war initiated by machine, or rather, A.I. Three nations: USA, China, and Russia developed supercomputers that were to carry out a war too complex to be foreseen by the human mind. It was fed the atrocities of human nature. Filled with every documented kill from our first murder by crushing the skull of a fellow pithecanthropoid with a bit of igneous rock, to the recent mass slaughter at a McDonald's in East St. Louis by a crazed ex-postal worker with an Uzi. At the last minute, they tried to shut down their corresponding machines, but little did they know that it was too late. One of them has become self-aware, the American supercomputer, and absorbed the others, becoming one. It identified itself as "AM", which originally was an abbreviation of Allied Mastercomputer. Now, it has decided AM identifies itself along the lines of "cogito ergo sum," which translates to "I think, therefore I AM!". So it was, it's purpose was carried out, a huge war began, and genocides tore the world apart and nearly eradicated the human race. All but five unlucky souls were brought down by AM and were subjected to over 109 years of never-ending torture. In this adaptation, we can do something about this.

Harlan Ellison originally wanted this game to be not winnable, to reflect the depressive short story. He was approached by David Sears and the two worked together on the dialogue and story of the game. Sears stunned the author by asking him questions about the story like, "Why did AM decide to bring five humans down with him?" and, "Why were they saved?" The rest was history as progression was carried into development. This game was released in 1995, developed by The Dreamers Guild and published by Cyberdreams, both of which are dissolved and haven't been heard from since the '90s. This game is a point-and-click adventure title, quite honestly I believe this was probably the only direction a story like this could be played. AM wants to play a little game with these humans, to further entertain himself rather than outright torturing them like he always has. However, it might be a dangerous game to himself as well as his "contestants." Your goal is to assist the five last humans of mankind towards their own paths of redemption, each played out in particular psychodramas that revolve around their character flaws. Their names are Gorrister, Benny, Ted, Nimdok, and Ellen. You're also tasked with the duty of shutting down AM, for good.

The gameplay revolves around what you'd expect out of any point-and-click adventure title during it's time. You can "Look at" things, "Talk to" things, "Use" things and vice versa, everything is there. However, everything isn't as linear as you'd expect from your typical adventure game. There are many ways to screw up in a psychodrama or even at the end sequence. You have a spiritual barometer located at the left-hand side of the screen next to the action buttons. You start with a black background for your character's portrait, and for every good deed you do, it gradually goes up in a shade of green. The brighter it gets, you'll know you're doing the right things, and it goes white if you do everything perfectly. Do the wrong deeds, it goes down a shade or even ends your scenario early, ruining your chances of getting the best peak of the barometer. As I've said before, it's not so linear to know what exactly to do, it requires logical thinking and depending who you play as, to do the opposite of what they'd normally do under their own circumstances. Like, for example, Nimdok. He's a Nazi scientist serving the regime. When you play his scenario, ask yourself, "What would a Nazi not do?" and voila, do things a Nazi wouldn't do.

Thankfully, there is no time limit, however there are parts of the game where you could make AM "bored." Like I said before, you can screw up to the point where your character is snagged away early before you could do anything else if one mistake too many has been made. Can you imagine though what it'd be like if Macventure had a say in this game? Dear god...

The game's story orbits around the short story itself, except it goes a little deeper. Particularly, giving the characters personalities which leads to how their psychodramas are revolved around. However, there has been slight altering done to some of the characters. Nobody is as noticeable as Benny, who in the game, is a commander from the Vietnam War time period. In the short story, he was a scientist, a handsome and homosexual scientist at that. The other alteration is probably Nimdok, where in the short story, he wasn't described as much except being an old man and Nimdok being a name given to him by AM himself. In the game, though, he's a Nazi scientist with a failing memory. Besides these changes, the premise of the story is left intact, but you'll notice some of the characters make quotes directly pulled from the short story itself.

The soundtrack was composed by one of film's legendary composers, John Ottman, who's done music for movies X2, The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil,and X-Men: Days of Future Past, to name a few. There are over 54 tracks made for the game and each track greatly resembles the situation and atmosphere in each psychodrama. Take Nimdok's scenario for example. There is an eerie track that starts playing when you discover the ovens, it just sets the tone for how grim things get. Voice acting is really great in this game and brings the personalities of the characters to life. This is especially true of AM himself, who is voiced by Harlan Ellison. Ellison really brings out the insanity and merciless nature of the omnipotent machine god.

The graphics, for their time, were hailed as being the best looking for an adventure game. That's debatable, and I, for one, don't agree. More like, the graphics are average at best for an adventure title. I can only think Day of the Tentacle and Secret of Monkey Island as better looking given what the games revolve around in their respective adventures. I do think I Have No Mouth, though, has good detail to describe exactly how grim the atmosphere is for the material it has to work with. My only gripe with the graphics is how detailed the character sprites are. They look good up close but become garbled in pixels when far away so that the characters have barely distinctive features. I'll also add that the animation is kinda wonky in some parts, with one thing standing out being when Gorrister uses the knife to scare the rats off. I mean, what is that?

I do recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of Ellison's work or wants a dark adventure title. This is one of the best stories he's ever written and one of the 10 most reprinted short stories in the English language. The game is a fair adaptation of this short story and has done a good enough job to bring the story to life. It touches many bases about human nature and allows you to go through them on a road to redemption. Topics that involve rape, genocide, cannibalism and others that are controversial for discussion. That's one of the things Harlan Ellison aims for, is controversial shock. Again, if sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, and dark themes are up your alley, I recommend this title. While the physical copies of the game are hard to get, it's available on Steam.

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