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Sacred Reviews: Screenlife

Intro

"Screenlife" is a short horror game developed by Wikimon using RPG Maker VX Ace that takes around 10 to 15 minutes to complete depending on how many incorrect choices you make over the course of the game. Though how terrifying this game is will vary from person to person. The real problem with this game in my opinion is that it's too ambiguous. As a result it's not exactly clear what happened in this game. And while the game does give him some bread crumbs. These crumbs aren't enough to completely fill in the picture in my opinion. That being said I should probably get to discussing the game's story.

Story
Summary

You play as Donald, a man who can't leave his apartment for fear of his boss, who is presented with the option to either save people or condemn them to death in order to save his own life. A choice that should feel meaningful, but considering your character lives in a crappy apartment with spoiled food that tastes like ash and contains obvious signs of water damage. It's not exactly clear your life is really worth saving. At any rate, as you advance through the days your shown flashbacks of a woman as you sleep.



A woman that smells like coconut and has a laugh that sounds pretty evil in my opinion. At any rate if you manage to make it to the end of the game your character is saved by your next door neighbor calling for an ambulance. Though the game decides to go for one final big reveal for the end that raises question about whether Donald deserves to be saved.

What Does the Story Mean

Well seeing as how I'm not a mind reader, I'm not sure how the developer intended the player to understand the story. I'm willing to offer up my own interpretation. An interpretation that may or may not be accurate.

In my opinion the story heavily implies that Donald killed the woman in the flashbacks through inaction. This is why the game repeatedly presents Donald with the ability to save people at the cost of his own life. And yes, we definitely know this woman is dead because one of the people at the end of the game pull back Donald's bed sheets while commenting on it smelling like coconut around his bed.



And when he pulls back the bed sheets he reveals the woman's corpse whose flesh was eaten away by the flies. Albeit her hair is still attached somehow. Though, I suppose it could be a wig he had washed with shampoo that's meant to leave your hair smelling like coconut. After all, that smell has to be coming from somewhere. And his comments on the smell did occur while Donald was sleeping with the corpse that one night.

Though I suppose Donald could have also murdered her in his apartment or dragged her corpse back to his apartment. He does have a large assortment of knives after all. A collection that grows larger at one point during the game. And this might be a bread crumb to indicate how many times he stabbed her. And it's stuff like this that makes the game rather ambiguous in my opinion. And this lack of clarity is a bit of a blessing and a curse. On one hand it leaves the game's narrative open to interpretation. On the other hand it feels like Wikimon wasn't willing to fully present his ideas to the audience.


Strengths/Weaknesses

"Screenlife" is a bit odd in that it's horror elements are both a strength and a weakness at times. A lot of the scares are rather weak jump scares. While I understand these are an easy way to ratchet up the tension. One can also argue their effectiveness goes way down. Especially when the player is on edge and expecting such a thing to happen considering the game also loves to include graphical glitches as you play as well. In a way the over abundance of these elements causes them to lose their bite.

On the other hand some of the horror elements are a lot stronger since they rely on the player's imagination. After all, the shark in "Jaws" is super scary because you see very little of it for the longest time. This is why the scene with your boss opening the door if you try to search for the mysterious woman is so good.

Gameplay

There really isn't that much here in my opinion since your only able to move around your cramped apartment for most of the game and then make a few choices when prompted. And whether a choice is wrong or not can be rather arbitrary like how you'll die if you drink the whiskey you ordered.

Graphics

Graphically the game features a lot of custom artwork and cut scenes which definitely makes this game stand out from most of the game's on this site. On the other hand a lot of those graphics are intended to either scare or unnerve the player so I really don't like them that much. Though, I suppose that does mean they are doing their job.

Sound

Sound wise the game is a bit odd since it does make use of some pretty unnerving music during a scene where the player needs to run back to their apartment. Albeit the game doesn't actually have anyone chase the player. After all, most of this stuff is happening in Donald's head. At the same time large portions of the game are entirely devoid of background music which is a mistake in my opinion since it means the game loses the atmospheric power that music provides.

Conclusion

"Screenlife" is a short horror game whose overall nature is rather mixed in my opinion. On one hand some of it's horror elements are overused which undermines their overall effectiveness in my opinion. At the same time it does contain a lot of original artwork which show cases that the developer was trying to put their best foot forward. It's just unfortunate that best foot wasn't as good as they were hoping for in my opinion. Though, I'd still take my score with a grain of salt since I'm not particularly fond of the horror genre.