September 1999 Crafts P.T. Levels of Dread
If it isn’t apparent by now with all of the P.T. references I’ve made in my ‘When Horror’ series that’s ongoing, I am a huge Silent Hill fan. And this game, ladies and gents, ticks every box of the P.T. homage package. First, this is a VHS horror game that generated a lot of buzz via social media– much like P.T.- and also has a significant YouTube gaming presence. Secondly, the game is free- just like P.T.- as long as you have the proper gaming console. Third, this game is dripping with the same sound design and terror that P.T. engendered so many years ago. Lastly, even playing this game with the lights on does not reduce its scares.
In a speed run, you can complete September 1999 in a little over five minutes, but if you take your time and revel in the ambiance, explore each nook and cranny, or continuously wipe your sweaty palms dry, you should complete the game in about eight minutes. The game’s creator, 98DEMAKE, utilized every single second within this game to phenomenal hand-wringing effect. With its first-person perspective and late 90s camcorder presentation, there’s an undeniable escalation of dread while playing it. I’ll attempt to be spoiler-free here because this is absolutely a game that you have to experience on your own (or with friends for emotional support).
The game is set across the span of five days, and the why is never fully explained, but as the camera resumes recording from day to day the mounting paranoia and panic that begin to set in are absolutely palpable. It’s also unclear if you see the events in the past, present, or future tense. As we well know, even when there is a time stamp or linear mode of storytelling on display, horror games can easily pull the rug from under the player. We experience this house before the grisly events take place and then witness the jarring aftermath, replete with freshly dismembered limbs and moist, blood splattered walls.
As mentioned previously, the game’s creator has made this title free; they also have a Patreon for this game and further projects. Indie games like September 1999 show how developers can take a straightforward premise, house it within a very familiar setting and stretch it into one of the most nightmarish experiences of your life. Smooches and hugs to its spiritual predecessor, P.T. I most certainly hope the creator absorbs the entirety of our fear surrounding this game and releases a sequel or two… or three. Perhaps September 1999 will rise to the same heights as Five Nights at Freddy’s. This pre-Halloween treat is available for Windows and macOS in itch.io.