GOG.com is really becoming a force to be reckoned with, both in terms of new titles from the mid-budget and indie markets, and when it comes to re-releases of classic games from yesteryear.
The company's latest release is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, an adventure game based on the Hugo-winning short story of the same name by sci-fi author Harlan Ellison. The game originally launched back in 1995 and was praised by many critics for being well ahead of its time, particularly with regard to its tackling of difficult topics, mature use of horror and thought-provoking approach to moral dilemmas.
The game was developed by The Dreamers Guild and co-designed by Ellison himself. The narrative explores the story of the last five human survivors, each of whom a malevolent AI known as AM (played by Ellison himself in the game) has been keeping alive and torturing for the past 109 years. Each character has a fatal weakness, and AM takes every opportunity to exploit these character flaws and shortcomings and prey upon their weaknesses. Success in the game is dependent on being able to prove that humans are better than machines by proving they have the capacity to redeem themselves.
The game makes use of a point-and-click system somewhat akin to early implementations of LucasArts' SCUMM system -- a series of verbs appear at the bottom of the screen, and you can command the various characters by picking a verb and then choosing an object in the world or your inventory to apply it to. A notable difference from LucasArts games -- and a key part of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream as a whole -- is that each character has a "spiritual barometer" that reflects whether they have been performing good or evil acts throughout the game. You're free to direct characters to do either good or evil things as you go through the game, but things are rarely as black and white as this -- the story tackles numerous ethical dilemmas on weighty subjects such as insanity, rape, paranoia and genocide.
The original intention for the game was to maintain the nightmarish mood of Ellison's original story by making a game you couldn't win -- just lose in different ways. Perhaps you might lose heroically through self-sacrifice; perhaps you might lose through cowardice, ignorance or foolish behavior. A "best" ending was eventually added, however, though this was unattainable in the German version of the game due to the removal of a Nazi Holocaust-themed chapter and the consequent inability to make use of that particular character's skills to resolve the overall plot.
To say too much more would probably be to spoil things, so I'll simply say the game is now available on GOG for $5.99 and leave it at that. I missed this first time around -- at least partly due to being a bit young to appreciate it at the time! -- so I'm very excited to finally be able to give it a try.