Traditionally, horror games use a combination of eerie visuals, atmospheric music and the odd sudden fright to create an unsettling atmosphere, and put the player on-edge. As human beings it would seem that we absolutely love being scared, so much so that we’re often found playing up to our own anxiety.
We’ve all done it – turned a seemingly benign situation into a faux-haunting, listening out for any small noise that might suggest we’re not alone. This feeling of manufactured anxiety is where the free short horror game One Late Night differentiates from the rest of the genre. It takes an average situation and plays on your ability to create your own scares.
And you know what? It’s bloody terrifying and works on Windows, Mac, & Linux.
Before I start looking at this self-proclaimed “short horror experience” I must say that it’s a horror game that really demands to be played rather than read about or looked at on YouTube. It is for this reason I won’t chatter on in detail about exactly what’s going on because I simply don’t want to spoil it for you. That means the rest of this article won’t contain any spoilers or insights into the game’s story, so you can read-on without worry of spoiling it for yourself.
The horror game takes place in a very typical office, with computers, desks, photocopiers, a board room and lots of empty drawers. You take on the role of an unnamed graphic designer who has fallen asleep at his desk, only to wake up to find the place empty. As you come to your senses, you decide you need a cup of coffee to get back into the swing of things – and that’s where the game begins.
One Late Night doesn’t take the typical approach when it comes to creating a spooky atmosphere. The noises you hear are the usual sounds of your average office – computers whirring, printers waking and sleeping themselves and the satisfying “click” of the modern office door. As an office worker you don’t have a loaded gun in your back pocket, nor can you sprint forever – or even jump for that matter – but you do have the ability to hide under desks.
For its realism, it’s quite an immersive game. You can sit down at your desk, spin your chair, look at your printer and log on to your – Ubuntu powered – desktop PC. Fans of the early Resident Evil games will unleash a nostalgic sigh upon learning that the computer is the only way to save the game, accessed by logging on and typing “save”. You’ve got a few other commands available to you too – “cd” to change directory, “ls” to list a directory contents, “cat” to open a file and “echo <string>” to print a line of text. It helps to know a few things about the Linux command line before playing this, because it’s like using a real terminal.
Just like the office itself, the computer is full of files and directories to poke around. If you’re not familiar with a console environment you might be a little frustrated to begin with, but once you learn the “cd ..” command backs out of a directory and that file names and directories are always case-sensitive you’ll get on fine.
From the moment you venture outside the office it’s apparent that there’s something not quite right, and it’s this unsettling feeling that will have you waiting for something to scare you. The game creates a manufactured state of fright within your head which is compounded by the fact that you’re completely alone. You will be surprised at how startling a photocopier can be when it randomly starts up as you walk past, though that’s nothing compared to when the horror game starts deliberately messing with you.
What makes One Late Night such a nerve-wracking experience is how mundane the situation is. It’s an office environment, not a haunted house, and that makes it very relatable for a lot of the target audience. You may have already been left alone in the office on a dark night, scaring yourself with dimly-lit rooms, the buzz of a printer or a phone suddenly ringing. This is the case with One Late Night before you’ve even scratched the surface of what’s really going on.
The game soon changes its pace as the story begins to emerge, and that means One Late Night does eventually start to feel like past horror games. Remaining near a source of light is your best chance of survival which echoes other horror titles like the absolutely terrifying survive ’em up Amnesia: The Dark Descent. That game also involved hiding when times got tough, and there’s a reason One Late Night lets you hide under desks.
But don’t let the game’s survival nature put you off. If you work in an office and enjoy horror games, this game was made for you. Black Curtain Studios, the game’s developers are not ashamed to admit this either: “Players who have been in similar situations, and worked with similar office jobs, will relate themselves to the game setting and scenario and become immersed. Even if you can’t relate to the game’s storyline, you will still get a good experience.”
Traditional horror games use mythology, spooky locations and creepy music to generate an unsettling atmosphere, before scaring the audience with a jolt. One Late Night doesn’t do that, it takes a different approach – the one that your own mind takes as it starts to wander after you hear a strange noise. Just like your over-active imagination, it takes the normal and puts a fantastical paranormal spin on it. It doesn’t last too long, after all it’s a short horror experience, but One Late Night is a refreshing change and one that you can play on Windows, Mac, and Linux.