[I] Doesn’tExist is a new horror game that peels back the layers of its reality, unveiling a dark underbelly at its core. Similar to stories like Toy Story, this game instead interrogates what lies behind the scenes of the everyday. In this case, even the most simplistic computer programs. This title is truly an experience in its own right and leaves the user to sit with it even once it’s over. Developer LUAL Games took advantage of classic forms’ limiting qualities to highlight the thematic elements they looked to tell.
The developers used their game’s narrative to function in tandem with the player’s own sense of frustration with a lack of control. They even styled the User Interface after the computer’s command line, adding to the format’s sense of simplicity. Beyond that, however, they accomplish a clean combination of other styles in unexpected ways that quite literally suck the player into the game. The effects, stylizations, and functionality are all such a well-crafted combination that is an absolutely incredible blend that forms the atmosphere.
Even in the face of the rise of Generative AI technology like ChatGPT, the studio made the intentional decision to continue using prewritten text options created by their writers. This is extremely noticeable in the dialogue itself and maintains a well-structured narrative with a crystal clear intention. Now, the game’s nature as a text-based medium creates an inherent limitation placed on the player and how they interact with this world.
The game designers must define any action available to the players. This limitation isn’t quite the same as modern open-world games where it functions in more of a sandbox style. That should be a notion players have when going into this title. That being said, [I] Doesn’t Exist is instead specifically a modern text adventure, and wow. While using generative writing can have its benefits and appeal, this title shows it is no stand-in for talented writers. The unique individual perspectives really offer a breath of fresh air to a concept audiences might already be familiar with.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
While the narrative begins slowly, the promise of more control in this world entices the player. As they progress, however, they begin to understand that they are one of 3 actors within the game itself. Aside from the player, the character they control and the narrator show themselves to both be distinct free agents. The horror of their existence is formed by the lack of power held by the player’s character. They are subject to the whims of the narrator, and to a lesser extent, you. What does their life mean? Why? Why force them to live through this nightmare painted pretty colors on repeat? It’s an incredible and fascinating experience that despite its short nature is awe-inspiring. While it may not be the first title to ever play around with such a concept, its execution will leave you craving more.
That being said, you too can experience a disillusionment with reality through the wonders of magical realism! [I] Doesn’t Exist broadens its scope to the computers of the general public with its release. For those curious souls who don’t mind possibly killing the cat, you can catch it on Steam!