This week’s featured Indie Freebie is 2D platformer I’m Alright. I can’t really explain why, but I was drawn to this game by its curious name and cover art while perusing the catalogue on Game Jolt. But I’m glad I checked it out, because it’s a genuinely intriguing creation.
The game commences with you, an unknown female protagonist, awakening in some kind of hospital or clinic. It’s light and colourful, the sun is pouring through the windows, the birds are chirping happily outside, the music is pleasantly relaxing. But as you attempt to further explore your surroundings, you’re suddenly plunged into a sinister alternate reality. You reawake in the same place, but there’s a very different vibe. Now it’s darker and your character is panting audibly; everything is dilapidated and in ruin, even your own garments are in tatters.
It would seem that the aim is to escape from the hospital, but blocking your path are all manner of hellish creatures intent on doing you serious harm. However, your only option when facing these entities is that of total avoidance. You must navigate each section by running and jumping, climbing ladders and crawling through ducts; crucially you can also hide in doorways and underneath beds, and sometimes you can use a different path to lure an enemy away from an opening.
The gameplay may be simple, but I’m Alright is an incredibly immersive experience, best played with the lights down low and the sound turned up. The hand-drawn pixel art is gorgeous and the atmosphere is unrelentingly tense – a menacing soundscape of reverberating footsteps, creepy babyish laughter, humming machinery, and buzzing lights. The sound of your own heartbeat and frantic breathing persistently loom large. Its full of jumpy horror moments, disgustingly bizarre creatures, and gruesomely gory deaths.
And it thrives on its ambiguity, featuring an insanely cryptic ending. The narrative is imparted entirely through environmental details and your character’s actions – there’s no dialogue, cut scenes, or introductory text. Where are you and what the hell are those things – demons, aliens, manifestations of your own subconscious? It’s the film Jacob’s Ladder meets classic 1991 Amiga game Another World (the art style, structure, and minimalist approach are strikingly similar and both games feature a red-headed protagonist), with a bit of Bosch thrown in for good measure. And it works really well.
Sadly, there’s only around 15 minutes worth of gameplay. It’s also quite difficult, though this is mostly down to the clumsy nature of the keyboard controls (with no joypad option) and the poor collision detection. In particular, you need almost pixel perfect accuracy for getting onto ladders, which is a little frustrating in a game where survival depends entirely on speed and timing. Be prepared to die a lot. Fortunately, this only slightly detracts from what is otherwise a hugely worthwhile experience.
Amazingly, this is creator Allen Jay Roldan’s very first game. They’re studying game art in New Zealand and I’m very interested to see what else they come up with – I’d love to see an expansion or sequel.
If you fancy trying I’m Alright, you can download it for free on Game Jolt here, although it’s currently only available for Windows.