Having finished The Sorrowvirus, and been absolutely mesmerised by it, I’m in the slightly awkward position of not having even close to the faintest idea what just happened. All I know is I want you to play it too, then you can not have the faintest idea what just happened with me.
For context, the full title of this game is The Sorrowvirus: A Faceless Short Story. It appears that Faceless is to be a large, fantastically bizarre multiplayer game in which players must team up to solve puzzles and find incredibly creepy dolls. I don’t pretend to understand it, but it seems that during a burn-out phase of that project, the creators decided to make a standalone single-player “short story” set in its universe. Or indeed its sorrowverse, as I keep accidentally typing its name.
This is the incredibly creepy tale of Wyatt Heyll, a man trapped in an eternal loop of death and Purgatory. His parents deliberately dosed him with a “paranormal substance” called Sorrowvirus, that infects the soul and prevents his cancer-ridden life from properly ending. His death and resurrection allows them opportunities to experiment on the organic matter he appears to bring back with him each time he comes back to life, hoping to discover a complete cure.
Or, you know, subjecting him to an eternal hideous torment to prevent their own grief. Either way, you seem to play as Heyll, as he’s trapped in this Purgatorial place, trying to understand the role the bloody horrible dolls play in his torture. Which primarily involves exploring, reading through documents, listening to audio logs, and BEING ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED OUT OF YOUR TROUSERS.
Yes, jump-scare-avoiders, run for your lives. This game has some beauties. While I’m a giant scardicat in most aspects of my life, I’m annoying difficult to jump-scare. But this managed it so, so damn well, right near the start. I properly hopped in my chair. Oh it was just so good, so perfectly delivered.
It’s probably fair to say that The Sorrowvirus over-relies on that first-person gimmick of having the level change behind you when you’re not looking, but you know what: who cares? I bloody love that trick. There’s one section in the game where almost every time you look around something’s shifted, and it turns out you can’t do it too often. It makes you trust nothing.
Exactly what the flipping crikey is going on is likely up to you, how thoroughly explore, and how successfully you finish certain elements before you realise everything’s moved on. There are four endings, too, and a bunch of little hidden treats throughout. For something that was supposed to be a side-project as a break from the larger game, there is just SO much going on in here, with the most extraordinary detail in every room. It’s so densely detailed, blurring real-life elements with the Sorrowvirus’s creepy Upside-Down-ish vibes.
I swear I unwittingly played a long section of the game with my mouth hanging open in a sort of idiot-faced anticipation of what brilliantly creepy thing would happen next. It does eventually peter out toward the end (or at least, one of the ends), as it becomes a little more focused in funnelling you along. And it has all these bizarro mechanics like requiring you to click on grandfather clocks every so often to prevent going entirely mad. (Although going mad causes such brilliant visual effects that it’s definitely worth deliberately seeing at least once.)
I dug this so much. I did at one point begin to wonder if Kill Monday might have some concerns about the incredible similarity of the creepy dolls from their fascinating creations, but then I saw Natalia and Isak’s names in the credits, so perhaps it’s a super-awesome collision of worlds? Gosh, that’d be too creepy if Fran Bow were leaking.
And it’s only a fiver! If you fancy being completely weirded out by a deeply sinister and absolutely mystifying three-hour creep-em-up, jump on this one. I am super-intrigued to find out what Faceless is going to be.