My house as a child had a basement. It was partially furnished, with a sofa, coffee table, bookshelves, and TV in a comfortable, carpeted room, but the further into the basement you went, the rougher and less comfortable it got. The back room had concrete floors and walls, dim lighting, exposed pipes and ducts, water heater and firebox.
It was where the monsters lived, as far as I was young. And while the TV room was where I spent most of my happy time, here came the dreaded moment every night: when I had to turn off all the lights in the basement and climb the stairs back inside to go home. the bed. That’s what the monsters were waiting for, naturally. They were extremely patient throughout the night while I watched TV or played games, but they lashed out during the five seconds I had to turn off the lights and run – my heart racing – up the stairs in the dark.
They never caught me, of course – I was only fast enough to escape them on the (estimated) 2,900 consecutive nights I made my mad dash for safety. And now I can relive this terrifying daily horror in a video game.
Lights off! is a free first-person horror game that is on Itch.io for a while, but recently appeared on Steam. It simulates that fear of turning off the lights and climbing the stairs to go to sleep in the dark, and despite the low-fi graphics it’s immediately and immensely effective. You start on the ground floor of a well-lit house at midnight and have to walk through the rooms and turn off each light one by one. In the near-silence (except for a faint, menacing hum) his footsteps are a little too loud and the sharp click of each light switch, along with the encroaching darkness, makes the tension quickly rise from a little uncomfortable to “Oh God, something’s going to happen.” catch me .” If I ever wished a game had a sprint button, this is the one.
When all the lights are off, you can go to bed and try to fall asleep by holding down the mouse button to close your eyes. You can, however, release the mouse button to briefly open them again if you want to take another look through the gloom in your dark room. Not sure if you want to do this. Better keep them closed. Sweet dreams.
The game takes place over a series of six nights, and as you might expect, each night gets progressively scarier. Getting to the top of the dreaded stairs is scary enough, but… wait a second, I know I’ve turned off all the lights downstairs. Why is one of them back? Now I have to go back downstairs, cross the room, turn it off and walk all the way back in the dark. Again. And things only get scarier from there.
Lights off! It’s a short game and you can finish it in about 10 minutes, but honestly it’s as effective a horror game as many longer and more detailed ones I’ve played. Turns out, no matter how old you are, you’re still pretty sure there are monsters in that dark back room in the basement, just waiting for you to turn off the lights and go to bed.