This ICHF was written by The Real Kiryu2012. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
Indie horror games really need more love.
Firstly, I have to thank the Youtube channel Alpha Beta Gamer for making a video about today’s subject; they specialize in making gameplay videos about indie titles, including those of the horror genre, and I do believe they’ve a goldmine of interesting stuff to check out.
One particular horror game that caught my attention, and one that still sticks with me, is the increasingly unsettling game known by the name of Perfect Vermin. The creator behind this game has also created others works in the horror genre, one titled Swallow The Sea, and the other Pit of Babel. Just like those games, Perfect Vermin doesn’t rely on cheap jumpscares or loud noises, just an ever increasing degree of uneasiness.
Just as a heads up, this will be going into major spoiler territory, so if you wish to experience this game for yourself, I’d recommend not reading this first. You can find the game on Steam for free.
I should tell you ahead of time now that this is the kinda game to really give you a gut punch, considering it opens with “In loving memory of Harold A. Shpitz”. Keep this bit in mind.
The game begins simple enough; the player, a nameless voiceless entity, exits an elevator and breaks through a door with a sledgehammer, a no smoking sign by the doorway. Keep this bit in mind.
Moving on through the rest of the first level, an office, the player finds that they can break just about anything with their sledgehammer, but it’s specific objects that they need to find and destroy; these tend to be those objects that seem out of place in whatever room you find them in, like a refrigerator in the middle of a kitchen. If you break these, you’ll promptly find that they aren’t what they seem; they are in fact composed of flesh and blood, and give a bloody splatter when you strike them. You can even hear a little bit of a seeming pained cry from these disguised entities, perhaps their death rattle.
So by this point you might be thinking ‘okay, so this is like a twisted version of that Prophunt game mode from like Garry’s Mod or such. Dark, but nothing that deep, right?’ Weeeeeeell…
Once you kill all 5 of the disguised objects, you’re greeted by a news anchor, who tells you to return to the elevator so that you can try it again. You do so, and this time, you have to destroy each of the flesh monsters as quickly as possible, for there’s now a time limit. When the news anchor tells you to ‘do it again, but better’, his teeth have started to become discolored, and the ash tray that sits beside him is considerably more filled with cigarettes. Keep this bit in mind.
So now you’re going through the level again, but this time you know where to find each of the disguised monsters, and so it’s easier for you to locate and kill them all. As you pick off each one of them, the news anchor provides commentary, saying such things like ‘they hide poorly’ and ‘don’t let them spread’. Upon exterminating all of the monsters, you’re told by the news anchor that the building you’re in ‘has more chambers that need cleansing’ and he tells you to return to the elevator.
Upon starting the next level, things really start taking a turn for the horrific. The news anchor’s got a nosebleed now, and his fingernails have darkened. He tells you ‘no nonsense this time’ as you get to work once more. Once again you have to find and kill every one of the monsters disguised as objects throughout the level, and you often have to break down doors or the like to be able to locate them. The news anchor claims the monsters don’t feel pain, but considering the sounds they make in response to their death, that seems to be a dubious claim.
It’s when you kill the last monster that the news anchor’s condition has grown significantly worse. Tumors have begun growing along his body, his skin’s becoming discolored, and his nosebleed certainly hasn’t stopped. He comments that it took longer than expected for you to kill the monsters, and he needs you to work faster. Yet again you’re requested to return to the elevator, and yet again you move on to the next level.
This time, the level itself has changed too. The news anchor says that ‘this floor’s geometry has become uncooperative’. As it turns out, this is the first level flipped upside down, and the flesh monsters are still in their original spots, so finding and killing them should not be too much of a hassle. The news anchor, though, is only growing steadily worse in terms of condition; his head in his hands, still bleeding steadily, all he can do by this point is beg you to go.
The next level is a doozy; the news anchor by this point doesn’t even say a word, and he looks terrible too. His head bloated, blood coming from his mouth and nose, the tumors only getting worse. On top of that, the player now has two screens that the character’s present in, and the player controls them both at the same time. So now the player has to juggle looking at one screen to locate the monsters there, and likewise with the other, all while trying to get it done before the timer runs out.
Things really hit the fan once you manage to beat this level.
You aren’t requested to return to the elevator. There’s only a burst of static, and you’re brought to the final room, with the walls leading to it covered in no smoking signs. The room itself is just a mess; everything is rearranged in a completely disorganized manner, with things upside down, rightside up, or otherwise, and it’s effectively impossible to find all the hidden monsters in time. From what I know, it’s not possible to actually beat the level; given the messed up geometry of the room and the shortened timer, you’re not gonna be able to find and kill all the monsters in time.
But it’s easily the news anchor who suffered the worst changes.
Now he barely even resembles a human; now he’s but a bloated, bleeding, tumorous blob of flesh that somehow is still able to talk. And talk he does, about how he’s always hated his mother and that he was afraid of becoming like her, only for exactly that to end up being the case. He finds a horrible comedy in how he ultimately ends up dying like her as well. All this time, the ashtray seen alongside the news anchor has only become progressively more and more filled with cigarettes. I think it’s pretty clear by this point why he’s become this way.
The news anchor laments that the player’s task was always impossible, and states that the timer isn’t for them: it’s for him. He states that he is ‘being unborn’, and talks about the simple beauty of colors, and how he’ll end up unknowing them. As the timer runs out, the news anchor has only one last thing to say:
“If only I had more time.”
After that, the player traverses through what could only be described as a flesh tunnel, breaking what look to be tumors in order to open a series of fleshy doors that lead them to an elevator, which in turn brings us to a doctor’s room. And it is here we listen to the conversation between a doctor and the news anchor who had been guiding us all along. And it is here we learn what’s up.
The news anchor is Harold A. Shpitz, and he’s dying of cancer. The doctor states that his cancer has spread to even his bones, and that he has only months to live. Mr. Shpitz, however, refuses to lay down and accept this, for there’s a massacre going on in an office, and he wants to make the perfect story from it to be remembered. Why is that? Well, Mr. Shpitz says it himself.
“No one will care about my death if I don’t prove to them that I lived.”
That quote right there is just powerful stuff. It’s the kind of existential fear that I’m sure many experience at some point or another; who will remember you after your death?
And when you really think about it, the gameplay itself is a double whammy of a metaphor. The player going around smashing everything with a sledgehammer is both the killer at the office and the intrusive cancer treatments that end up harming the body just as much as they attack cancer cells. The monsters disguised as furniture and such are the victims of the office massacre, as well as the tumors plaguing the news anchor. The office itself is both the location of the massacre as well as a representation of Harold’s own body.
Perfect Vermin, at first glance, may seem like a simple game of finding and killing monsters masquerading as furniture, but it goes far deeper than that once you really start looking into it. It’s a great example of just how good indie games can be, and why we should give them more attention. If we help bring awareness to these passion projects, then perhaps the creators can get the incentive to continue making more games like these.
Rest in peace, Harold A. Shpitz.