Review # 133: Mortis.
You’re not going to play Mortis. It’s not anywhere, and I’m certainly not going to provide a download link. If by some freak occurrence you manage to get your hands on a copy, I urge you to stay away. It’s something personal, and I think it’s better that way.
I used to frequent a website called "horrorgamesarchive.com." Don't bother looking for it now; I’ve made sure to get rid of it. It was a website centered around highlighting horror games, mainly obscure ones, and writing a paragraph-form summary and review of each game. The website was updated every week and never broke formula so far as my memory serves me. I discovered many of my now favourite horror games on this website: Silent Hill, Hell Night, Clock Tower, Sweet Home, etc. Because of my affinity for horror games and my respect for this website, I got in contact with Dex, the website's creator and main writer over Skype.
At the time, Dex and I had spoken for a few months and had developed what I suppose you could call an internet friendship. He would give me an update every time he made a new review, and I became a co-writer, editing and adding sections to some of his reviews.
I even completely wrote his review of White Chamber. He had also told me that he was developing his own game, though I'm sad to say I don't think he ever finished it.
It was no surprise to me that after about eleven months of our frequent conversations, he asked me of all people to write a review while he was away for Spring Break. He sent me the link over Skype of that week's game: Mortis. He told me it was a PC game that came out in 2001 and that the copy he had sent me was completely legitimate. I had never heard of this game in all of my years on the vast internet, but he was quick to assure me it was worth the effort.
I downloaded game which took about five minutes because Dex thought it right to send me the game over Skype (he was never the tech-savvy type).
I looked inside the Zip file Dex had placed the game into and only saw an executable file and a readme file, as well as your run of the mill data folders. I took the file's request and read it to find what is typical for a game's readme file: original game credits, other credits, and installation instructions. None of this interested me, but what did interest me were the controls. Using my master investigative skills, I inferred that Mortis was a Resident Evil-type game, what with the "up to move forward," "left and right to turn" and "press space while in action mode to attack." I got myself ready for clunky controls, hilariously bad voice acting and cheap scares. I should've been ready for more than that.
Before even playing, I researched the game and found nothing about it. No mention on any forums, nothing. I even Googled Nemesis Games: the company responsible for this game and found nothing on the subject.
Clicking the executable file launched the game, no problem. This was actually quite the surprise; to see a game meant to run on Windows '98 or the ilk instantly boot up on my Windows 10 computer of last year was kind of stunning. Nevertheless, after the game launched, I saw the familiar names of Nemesis games show up at the bottom of the screen along with the traditional copyright notifications below them. The Nemesis Games logo was fairly slapdash, as if it had been thrown together by a high-schooler in Photoshop. However, I suppose an obscure game nobody's ever even talked about before shouldn't really inspire such confidence. Once the formalities had finished, I was presented with what can best be described as a title screen.
All it consists of is a crudely rendered image of what I know to be the main protagonist with a gun to his head with the text under it in a scratched up text reading "Appuyer sur [esc]." Following the only instruction I could understand, I pressed the escape key. Upon my input, the gun fired into the character's head. Blood spurted from the character’s head in a very choppy fashion. This was a gruesome scene, certainly, and it is a surprise that this game never got any negative attention, especially in a time when violence in video games was such a big issue.
The opening cutscene then loaded, and I was presented with an interesting sight. It appeared live-action at first, but turned out to be a mixture of collage-esque visuals mixed with some rotoscoped animation, almost as if it had been created from previously existing assets. The first shot showed the main protagonist, a young adult male in an orange hoodie and a black, sleeveless coat over-top of it. His head was in his hands, which were shaking furiously. The camera then panned down to a gun on the table he was sitting in front of. The next shot was that of the protagonist's left eye peeking through his fingers, as dark silhouetted hands reached from behind his head, grasping at his face. After a few seconds, his arm jolted down, grabbing the gun, and shooting himself in the head. He fell back out of his chair as his arms and legs twitched disturbingly. I didn't know what to think. While by no means realistic, this cinematic was extremely visceral and gruesome.
While I was fairly well-travelled in the world of horror games, and I’m fairly hard to impress in this regard, the cinematic created a pit in my stomach. As crude as it appeared, the direction and contents of it were what I could only describe as deeply personal – a level of gratuity and raw pain to which no trite jumpscare or blood spatter on a wall could hope to compare.
The scene faded to a loading screen, featuring the main protagonist's twitching hand reaching in from out of frame. While it was loading, the voice of the main character sounded in my headphones, though it sounded as if he was speaking under water. He spoke in French, and with my limited knowledge of the language, I am fairly certain he said "Je m'appelle Patrique," meaning, "My name is Patrick." There was, however, no sense of urgency in his words. He spoke them slowly and calmly in a serene tone. It sounded very deep – unnaturally so – as if it had been pitch shifted.
When the game loaded after what felt like an eternity, the main character, Patrick, awoke in his hoodie, ripped over-coat and jeans from the opening cutscene. He stood up from his bed, and this is when I gained full control. My suspicions were confirmed in that it did control like Resident Evil, but it controlled a lot better. It's hard to explain, but Patrick had more weight to him, and I was able to get through doorways without having to run against the wall all the time. The second major difference was that the camera angles were not fixed, but instead swung around freely in the same style as Silent Hill.
After getting myself situated with the controls, I searched his room for items that may be useful in later puzzles, something Silent Hill and Resident Evil have taught me well. I found nothing but a generic handgun in the dresser and a bottle of prescription medication, the description of which read, "Do not use under any circumstances." Though tempted, I felt it best to explore the area first before taking any action.
After a few minutes of wandering about the apartment room, I heard a scratching coming from every direction. It was in both ears, and although it was subtle, it was the only sound I had yet heard which did not come from the player character. Though the noise was quiet, it was so frequent that my head started to throb. Though I turned down the volume several times, it always seemed to crawl back up, as if the sound was gradually growing nearer. I pressed on, but was only met with another roadblock: the door out of the room was unable to be opened. My character did not even attempt to open it; he merely stated in a now shaky, stuttering voice,
"je ne peux pas échapper."
The subtitles did not state an English translation, but I wrote it down in my notes. As I walked around the room searching for a point of escape, Patrick would start to say things like, "je dois," or "Allez, venez." Patrick was growing frantic, and started to walk more slowly or quickly at seemingly random intervals. After a while, he started to simply shamble of his own volition to random areas of his bedroom. There was a window in his bathroom adjacent to his bedroom. It gave a button prompt, "Regarder -- [SPACE]." Upon pushing down the spacebar key, the game changed to a first person perspective. Patrick was on the second floor.
I tried opening the window but to no avail. "Je ne peux pas échapper," Patrick stated again. There were no doors. No way out. With no other options, I found only one alternative.
I opened my inventory, highlighted the medication and selected its "use" option. Sure enough, Patrick shakily opened the bottle and popped the medication into his mouth. For a moment, all remained normal until, after a few seconds, he began to slow to a crawl as a gradually slowing heartbeat sounded in the background. After not too long, Patrick collapsed on the ground, and the game faded to black.
"je suis en vie."
Patrick spoke those words in the subsequent loading screen, but instead of calmly, he spoke in a dull, monotone whisper that was broken up into multiple utterances separated by harsh voice cracks. The loading screen was that of Patrick's foot, twitching as if Patrick had still just died.
Patrick ended up in an alleyway. He was lying on the ground and the camera was swinging around frantically. It was hard to gain my focus and this effect did not cease even when I gained control. The same prompt existed as when I was in his bathroom, "Regarder -- [SPACE]." When I chose to obey this command once again, the game shifted to first person as before, though it was looking up at the second floor window. As I pressed the arrow keys to move, Patrick did not walk, but rather shambled like a drunkard, or a zombie. Every other step or so, he would wince with pain, but with a different, increasing sound of agony as I went on. I began to feel a sort of sympathy towards Patrick. As I proceeded, the moans of torment started to echo in my headphones. While I wanted to just unplug the headphones, I didn’t want to miss any part of the game.
As I was focusing on the sound, I lost track of where I was going. I tried to get my bearings, but I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going anywhere. Every corner I turned just lead me to another adjacent alley.
As I turned each corner, Patrick gained new behavior. He started looking behind him, trying to search for someone who may be following him. I took to his attempt to find someone and turned him around myself, to find nobody there. Turning around lead Patrick to shake and peek behind him less, almost seeming reassured. Though I can’t recall exactly, I seem to remember hearing “thank you,” whispered overtop the cacophony of grunts and atmospheric noises.
After some time of wandering aimlessly, the scratching noise had begun once more. At first, it was quiet and I barely noticed it, but it began to get incredibly grating despite my volume being set almost to mute. Patrick began picking up his walking speed even with his condition. He began yelling out in agony and there was a harsh cracking sound with each step he took. Along with the horrifying sound of broken bones grinding against each-other was the quickly loudening scratching sound. The scratching then turned gradually to a scraping, to a grinding, to a screeching. The camera then swung around to face Patrick and it was then when I saw the thing.
Even after years of reflection, I find it difficult to accurately describe the beast.
It was a being, humanoid in shape, but bone in structure. Its jagged edges jutted out in every conceivable direction, scratching the stone floor and the brick walls that only seemed more constricting as it grew nearer. Its body undulated with insane speed and unnatural patterns. It did not run and certainly did not walk. It simply moved. I cannot explain the manner in which it achieved motion or why, but it merely proceeded in its direction. It was at this point where the turns stopped and I was running down an endless, isolating hallway.
Patrick pleaded for help. It was not in French and there were no subtitles, but it was in English, and it had a sense of fear which made the perpetual pit in my stomach sink even further. The words echoed, "Help me, please! You can't let me die! I don't want to disappear! Please!" It wasn’t the deep, bassy voice I had known to be Patrick’s. It was familiar to me, though at the time, I failed to see why.
The thing continued to approach me, growing nearer by the second as the voice was only growing more desperate, speaking shakily as if crying. "Please! Don't let him get me! I don't want to fade away! Please!"
Despite my efforts, the thing finally caught up and grabbed me with a stray bone.
Bone shards began protruding out of what could barely be called its body as it hunched over my character, who was now squirming on the ground. His scream pierced my ears, and I felt like screaming too. His arms and legs twitched frantically and I could not tell anymore whether he was alive or dead. It was only at this moment when I saw the beast closely. Its face was vaguely human in nature. Its eyes caved in through cracked bone, with scratch-marks lining the face. For a moment, I think it looked at me.
The screen cut to black as I heard the sounds of scraping and gnawing on top of a barely audible, "I am so, very sorry..." But it was not Patrick. The game closed and cut back to my desktop with nothing but the .zip file open. Something was different, however. The executable was gone, nowhere to be seen. I checked many folders until I rediscovered it in my recycling bin. I tried opening again, but all that happened was a black screen with deafeningly loud scraping noises playing until I forcibly closed the game via the task manager. I was going to delete the now inoperable executable before once more checking the files. The readme had been altered. All had been removed, except for one, solitary line.
"I am so, very sorry to leave you all like this.
In the coming years, I’d not heard from Dex. The website’s forums were flooded with people wondering what was going on. I decided to take it down – better than to meddle in personal business, I suppose. I still hear his voice, the last thing he ever said to me, "I am so, very sorry…” My only regret is that he felt there was something to be sorry for.