The free release of The House Abandon on itch.io last August caught on slowly among horror enthusiasts, eventually developing a solid following. It wields the aesthetics of an old text adventure–right down to the computer itself, which is positioned on a wooden desk next to family photos, giving you a ‘game within a game’ perspective–and twists them into something horrifying.
An updated version of The House Abandon headlines Stories Untold, a four-part horror anthology about poking around with old technology until that technology pokes you back. It’s the simplest episode in the package, tasking you with typing in commands that will be familiar to anyone who has ever typed ‘use key on door’. Straightforward, simple instructions (‘move to hallway’, ‘check note’) are typically all you need, although it requires you to be quite precise with your wording, sometimes irritatingly so. For the first half of The House Abandon you mentally map out your character’s family home, where he has returned for what seems like a much-needed holiday. Things take a turn when you find your old computer in-game, and load up the game inside of it, and The House Abandon goes a bit Inception on you – you’re playing a game within a game within a game, but your actions start to reverberate right back to the first layer. To say too much more, or to talk about how much the game manages to do with its one static fixed camera angle, would detract from its effect.
It’s a great introduction for the collection, where all four episodes focus on the aesthetics and potent strangeness of older technologies. The episodes move between different settings, but the setup is always the same – you’re sitting in front of various pieces of technology, and you need to figure out how to interact with them to move forward. Most of the time you have access to only one or two areas, which you can flit between with the tab key, and your actions are limited to clicking and pulling at objects with the mouse or typing commands.