Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blackout

I want to tell you about a game called Blackout, created by Deadline Media and released 1997. It will be quite a long read so I want to apologize for that, but this game has been haunting me since my childhood. It's not sold anymore and there are barely any traces of it online. Nobody I know has played it except my younger sister who sat with me as I tried to understand it as a kid, much too young to play it.



It is set in a worn down european city where the player takes the role of Gabriel, a schizophrenic individual with no knowledge of his past. You wake up in a completely bloodied down apartment next to a headless corpse with flies buzzing around it. The miniature doll world and the blurry imagery makes the whole scene bizarre. In this scene you walk around in the apartment which is in a complete state of chaos resembling the hellish world of Silent Hill. You have a blackout.

You wake up in the exact same spot as before, but the radio is playing a pleasant song and the apartment is clean. It feels sterile and even the pale light resembles a hospital. It should have felt safer, but it's not. There is something eerie and unsettling about it. You walk out and leave the apartment, take the shoddy elevator down to the street where you meet a neighbor approaching. Here too the stop motion animation and creepy puppet faces make the whole scene bizarre.


After this scene the game can take on make different paths depending on your choices. When I played this game there was a bug that make me unable to save my progress, so I always had to re-play everything from the start. I still didn't experience the same story more than once.

I vaguely remember that you took the subway to different parts of the city. The harbour, a downtown area, a posh neighborhood with fancy apartment buildings. Everything was equally dark, muddy and unsettling. There was a brothel where you could choose which prostitute you wanted to either talk to or have sex with. They'd tell you different stories about who you were, since you have no idea yourself.
There were bars you could go to. One of them offers you to order "the usual" which you have no idea what it is until you receive it. The bartender obviously knows you but you don't know yourself. You visit a fortune teller, an old blind lady with glasses covering her eyes. After she tells you about your dark past she removes her glasses, revealing black holes straight into her skull. You black out again.

There are many more memories I have about the game, but they are so distant since I haven't played the game since I was about 11 years old. I once wrote to the writer of the game, a man named Michael Valeur. He was happy for my mail and replied, explaining the vision to create something different I quote: 

"For me Blackout was a very special thing, because it holds all the ambitions there was in the ´90s for making interactive art. We want something else than Doom (which was big at that time) - and I remember we talked about; "To much Schwarsenegger and to little Kieslowski in the game business". I was very inspired of art from eastern europe - espescially Prag - and the whole tradition of using puppets."


The use of puppets and miniatures for a game is something I haven't seen done seriously in a game... Ever. The idea is so amazing and unique and gives the game a feeling a 3D world could never accomplish. The game feels like a David Lynch movie in so many ways where nothing is true for sure and everything leaves you with a feeling that something is wrong.

The mechanics of the game were unique too. During the game you get different dialogue options that throughout the game somehow makes a psychological analysis of your character. In one scene you are confronted with a gang of thugs threatening to beat you up. You have four options and only one will save you from pain. There isn't a pre-determined path, instead you have to make the choice that fits the other choices you have made previously in the game. I had no idea about this when I played, so I got to suffer for it.


The game was originally released with a novel that explained the story from another characters perspective. I sadly never got this novel since I bought the game in a collection box with other games. I wish I could read it, and understand more because I feel that I'll never be completely satisfied until I get to play through this game for real and understand it all. I never got to the end and the game only works for Windows 95. Who has one of those these days? Besides, I don't know where the CD's are and the game can't be found anymore. I guess it will remain a mystery unless the original developers somehow re-release the game on a new platform. I hope and hope for that day to come because I want more people to get to experience this old, eerie, unique game. If you have any more information about this game, or have played it yourself, PLEASE, I want to talk about it with someone. Consider me obsessed.

8 comments:

  1. this game sounds awesome! Maybe we can persuade them to re release it ^_^ And ... I think the book sounds really interesting too ! Reminds me a bit of amnesia ! but different, too .

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    1. The game writer told me they wanted to re-release it, but I think there were some problems finding the original code. I just hope they do it :3

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  2. I had this game as a youngster too. I was just blown away by it. I lost my book and game a long time ago and cant find it. I too, like you are obsessed to get it and play it once more and to read the book.

    Could you give me the adress or similar to Michael Valeur? Me and several friends are real keen on trying to get a re-release. And nowadays with the community funding spesial games it can be done. Because this game is a pearl that really needs to be spread to people world wide.

    My e-mail is: kallefranord@hotmail.com

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  3. Do you have an facebook account? We could talk a little there if you like. I need some information about your contact with Michael Valeur and some other questions. Would be glad to hear from you.

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  4. Stumbled upon your blog post via Google. Great little time capsule - I'd forgotten all about the fortune teller's empty eye sockets, but now I totally remember being freaked out by that!

    Anyway, I just ordered "Blackout" on bibliotek.dk. My plan is to see if I can salvage the (presumably) worn CDs to make some ISOs and try to run the game in a virtual machine.

    I obviously won't be sharing any illicit copies of the game, but maybe I can put some gameplay videos on YouTube or something. Maybe document the steps I take to get it to run; I remember that "Blackout" heavily relies on an ancient version of QuickTime - it's doubtful that a reissue would ever be feasible. But, you know, anything that ensures that this game doesn't vanish from the public eye - it's too interesting to just become an artifact in a museum.

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  5. Hi:) Tried to Google this game, and found your blog. Seems to be immpossible to get a copy of it. I only played it once in 97-98. I remember the soundtrack well, because it won a music award i Norway that year. Here it is: http://open.spotify.com/track/5ebPbz5MnTWLwlNJCLjyPd

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  6. I have a swedish version. Contact me if you want it.

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