Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Anemoiapolis
Anemoiapolis us the name of a new little suburban subdivision that at the moment is an empty field with an electrical transformer. Or so it seems. You play as a man called in to investigate why this empty field is sucking up impossibly high amounts of electricity only to fall down a shaft into an impossibly huge underground city. Though city isn’t quite the right term. Maybe, an impossibly huge underground vaporwave album cover?
Horror games are about vibes. I mean everything is about vibes if you think about it but for horror games you want to make a good and unsettling vibe. Obviously, the standard way is to activate the heebie jeebie nodes in your brain with something uncomfortable—dark, cramped, dirty spaces, with perhaps a ghost or ghoul too. Often they are very low poly as well. Suffice to say that the current indie horror geist is making a title that’s reminiscent of Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Silent Hill. What makes Anemoiapolis so interesting is how it’s turning that style completely on its head.
This title might be one of the least dark least cramped and least dirty horror games I’ve played in a while. It takes place in what I can only describe as an underground vaporwave pool superstructure. You find yourself in a seemingly endless labyrinth of different types of swimming pools. And yet, despite the extremely clean and serene atmosphere, Anemoiapolis is incredibly unsettling.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
Anemoiapolis is about exploring an underground city that prizes its beautiful public pools above all else. This game is mostly a walking simulator through a series of rooms. There are some instances of problem-solving—many of the rooms require some little hacking minigame to adjust circuitry, and some require more in-depth thinking. Mostly, however, it’s exploration. And near the end of the demo, you will find yourself desperately exploring as fast as you can to get away from the only other citizen in this subterranean pool city.
What works best in Anemoiapolis is that it is extremely uncanny. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never been to a pool by myself (not safe, if there’s no lifeguard on duty) and perhaps because indoor hotel pools are not usually measured in kilometers, but none of the locations in this game seem possible or realistic. However, they’re all very clean and don’t seem to break any laws of physics, and therefore tread the line between feasible and impossible. Add in a fantastic soundscape and the occasional glimpse of a scary ghostie shade creature that is keeping an eye on you and you’ve got one tremendous atmosphere in a horror game.
My main problem with Anemoiapolis is that it’s just a little too short at this point. Right as it seems like we’re finally leaving the pool part of the city and perhaps getting to explore the gigantic underground minigolf center, the title ends. Of course, this is to be expected. As it stands there is only one chapter released, and it is great. But that just means I’m left wanting more.
How To Fix It:
Seeing as this game is a work in progress and the only “how to fix it” is to wait for the work to progress, I will instead say what I want to see. Anemoiapolis chapter 1 is, as I have previously stated, entirely composed of pool and pool-themed places. I can’t decide whether or not it would be better to change to some non-pool areas (perhaps a sprawling gym) or to make the pools increasingly elaborate and bizarre. Personally, I think it would be an interesting challenge to go with the latter. The studio has already shown they’re great at making pools; let’s see how nuts they can get.
It’s hard to describe, but after playing icky horror games, something clean is a whole lot more unsettling. I know instinctually what to expect in a spider-filled gore dungeon, which is usually spiders and gore. Anemoiapolis is, to some extent, still something I know seeing as I’ve been to the indoor pool of a weird crappy hotel. But at the same time it is incredibly unusual in a way I have not experienced, elevating the whole sene to a unique level of distressing horror. Of course, if that’s not enough or you, a stalking shadow person in the mix always helps.
You can download the first chapter of Anemoiapolis on itch.io by clicking here.