Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Shut In
Shut In is a game about a person who is just that. The objective here is simple. Just get out of bed and get some fresh air for once. But the basic tasks are not as easy as one might think. Your character soon finds themself in a Silent Hill style Otherworld. Everything is scary and unfamiliar and your internal dialogue does not seem to want you to succeed. Perhaps this is a metaphor or allegory for something about the human condition. Or perhaps it’s about scary bugs and weird monsters. Perhaps both.
It’s not easy to represent something like a mental disorder. The mind is such a chaotic and complex thing that it would be impossible to describe in just words (barring that harrowingly real essay on depression by David Foster Wallace), especially to those who have not experienced the phenomenon firsthand. Shut In aims to describe depression and agoraphobia through visual representation instead..
I’ve never experienced agoraphobia but Shut In displays the symptoms of pathological fear in incredible detail. The simplest tasks are monumental challenges. Your own home is terrifying. And everytime you fail, you’re met with sarcastic applause. Shut In can be interpreted literally—that is to say that you’re in a haunted house with freaky stuff. But it can also be interpreted as the mental blocks that come from trying to simply live while having bad brain chemicals.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
Shut In is a sort of point-and-click adventure. You walk back and forth through the 2D environments and have to solve traditional horror puzzles in order to progress. Find a seemingly normal object like a plunger or spatula and use it for a very specific objective. You know how it goes. However, there are a lot of instances where if you don’t use the right object in the right place, the result is an extremely gruesome death.
What works about Shut In is that it in addition to focusing on a mental health issue, it is also a legitimately unsettling game. Just because these are metaphors doesn’t mean it’s not scary. The atmosphere is oppressive and the aesthetic is terrifying. Sometimes the writing is pretty funny. And the most real part is the narrator who is constantly deriding your progress. All of it creates a tremendous experience that any fan of horror will love.
Shut In does have some issues. For one, it’s a keyboard or controller only. This means navigating a somewhat clunky menu whenever you need to use an item. Match that with some somewhat longer death scenes/ descriptions and you’re likely to spend an extra few minutes replaying the same sequence, occasionally with the game itself belittling you (in a charming way) for being such a goof.
How To Fix It:
The game could definitely benefit from some streamlining in regards to death scenes and menu navigation. Especially the former, since you’re likely gonna die a bunch of times. Other than that, I think Shut In is a very well polished and executed title. Try it out.
The amazing thing about a video game is that it can encapsulate all that is powerful about audio and visual and print media into one experience. Shut In creates (I assume) an accurate allegorical representation of the paralyzing fear that haunts people with agoraphobia, while at the same time, being a rad horror game.