Please note: Tonight You Die comes with a content warning which although necessarily spoilery is worth checking if you’re concerned, wary or astute enough to think some content may prove difficult.
Those of you I know in real life have probably heard me standing up for Brutalist architecture, because knowing nothing about a subject never stops me having an opinion on it. 2015’s Tonight You Die is a first-person walking simulator which, instead of placing you in an attractive, rustic setting with gorgeous lighting effects, sets the player down in an ill-lit, almost-fractal concrete environment at night.
The game is pay-what-you-want on itch.io so you’re able to get it for free along with an EP comprising music and remixes by Grypt who are responsible for much of the game’s soundscape as well as its theme song. A quick aside: no matter how much I want pay-what-you-want to work for music and software, it’s often the case that I, the buyer, have minimal information or context for what’s being proffered and can’t accurately judge what a fair price might be. I suppose that’s what suggested prices are all about, yet it still seems a flawed system to me although doubtless better than crossing one’s fingers for a PayPal donation after the fact.
Asides aside, starting the game presents you with a brief message, those three little words that mean everything to hear. From there you’re on your own, quite literally from my limited experience of exploring the area. The game is short, less than half-an-hour to explore but has some replay value as it does feature different conclusions as well as different music and architecture to experience.
Ah yes, the music and architecture. Sound effects are footsteps, ambient metallic noises and indistinct slowed-down textures over a repeated whining bass sound. I think they’re all used as a way to help structure the space you explore, since so much of it repeats in design. There’s some music on one of the paths as well as the eponymous song which plays over the credits.
I played the game four times in total and found a different experience every time, not so much directly from the game content, but my reactions to and interpretations of it. By the third or fourth time I was approaching the Silent Hill wall. It really does become more unsettling the more you play, but thankfully there’s little need to repeatedly do so. My first playthrough was much more intellectually-engaged despite ironically finding and examining less that time through. It’s interesting to consider the meaning and effect of these deliberately Brutal structures on the human psyche which they intentionally oppose. Studies have been written! My final run through was for screencaps and nothing else. The game loses something on too many replays, even as you accrue different experiences of it. Leave something on the table, definitely don’t grab the pen-and-paper to fully map it.
Partial/oblique spoilers follow.
I described it as a walking simulator above, but there’s something of a bait and switch which goes on. Honestly, I’d rather that wasn’t the case as I only happened across the game as I was looking for a free-roaming, challenge-neutral game. I’m still glad to have played it, but I’m not keen on the choice of constraining the player’s freedom of movement within the game even as I recognise part of the purpose behind it. I do think the game plays well with ambiguity inherent in a safe wander through an unsafe space.
Partial/oblique spoilers end.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a review and probably the most insightful comment reads:
‘Can’t say I didn’t like it, but [if] someone called this “indie bullshit”, I doubt I would find the [right] words to defend it.’ – Jaykera
The download is a couple of hundred MB, dependent on platform (Win/Mac/Linux) and whether you get the version with the EP included (do). Performance-wise, the game sometimes gets a bit sludgy/swingy if you’re on a knackered old laptop like me, but seems to run well enough for the most part. On launch there’s an option to turn up the graphics settings which strikes me as utterly redundant. Who needs hyper-perfect grit and grain with graphics this dark, eh?
“All these concrete dreams in my minds eye….”