Short Horror Week #3: Hyde

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A dark, tragic narrative of a business tycoon’s descent into madness

Platform: PC

By Ian Coppock, Originally Published on February 19, 2013

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As I’ve argued before, video games are at their best when they present a powerful story. Short Horror Week’s third entry, Hyde, breaks from The Briefcase and Mental Hospital in that it tells a stirring and all-too personal tale. The game also forsakes monsters and jumpscares in favor of dark, eloquent scenery, as well as a spoken narrative. Make no mistake; the game is still deeply unsettling. As the title suggests, the story is allegorical for Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

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The Story
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You are Henry Edwards, a powerful British businessman who abhors the idiots he’s surrounded with. The game begins at the end of a long work day, when Henry retreats to his lavish penthouse to contemplate his life. Players can explore Henry’s apartment and interact with various items, through which I learned that he suffers from several behavioral disorders and general dissatisfaction with his work and wealth.
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Looking at certain items triggers playable flashbacks. Henry explores a hospital, a university, and a graveyard as he narrates living under the thumb of a greedy, tyrannical father. He was also close to his mother, who died of cancer, and he was forbidden by his father from returning home to say goodbye. Henry also complains of his peers at school accusing him of violence he doesn’t remember. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this man is more than just depressed.
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The story’s narrative is decently paced. Players follow the main story linearly, but can discover nonessential background information about Henry by interacting with objects such as pill bottles, knives and a vase of roses. All of this adds context to the depths of Henry’s rage. It’s a sad, dark tale, to be sure, but it’s that sort of feel-good-to-be-alive sadness that you get from watching Le Mes or Phantom of the Opera (don’t judge me). Like the other games I’ve reviewed this week, Hyde takes about 15-20 minutes to play.

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The Artwork
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 Hyde‘s environments are heavy, but beautifully decorated. There’s an interesting contrast between the locations’ significance and how they were designed. Henry visits a cemetery, but it’s gorgeously decorated with Gothic spires, mausoleums, and archways. The university area is also flooded with surreal sunlight that is both beautiful and unsettling. To compound these visual contrasts, the game was also independently scored by a group of orchestra musicians. The music they made rings of tragic opera, with sweet, sharp voices and contemplative violin. Voice acting provided for Henry Edwards was also quite good, though awkward in places.
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As with The Briefcase, though, I thought that a few of the environments were a little sparse. When visiting the hospital, I felt like I was just walking through a sequence of bare rooms. The university was also somewhat barren. While the graphics are not super-sharp, the level design is still superbly done, guiding the player through a variety of open doors. It was intuitively designed to respond to my basic impulses of “which way”, which is great game design, so I applaud that. Does that make sense? Basically, the route that made the most sense to me was what was implemented. That’s awesome.
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Should I get it?
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Hyde is not a conventional horror game. There are no weapons or monsters. It’s a fully story-driven game that unfolds as the player progresses. Though it’s not full of monsters waiting to rip your face off, Hyde still contains a deeply chilling narrative and disturbing imagery that wouldn’t be missed in a more action-oriented game.
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Hyde has a few processing quirks that annoyed me. At half a gig, it’s a very large file for how long the game is, and my PC used a lot of processing power to run it, despite its basic graphics. If you can deal with these issues, though, it’s well worth a 15-minute gaming session. Props for Hyde go to Australian indie developer Megan Lean and her team.
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