Top 50 Challenge 2016 – Anatomy

by Jeff Cork on Nov 25, 2016 at 12:00 PM

When Suriel brought up Anatomy in our morning meeting the other day, the reaction was fairly unanimous: "Huh?" It's been a busy year for games, and Kitty Horrorshow's lo-fi indie horror game didn't generate a blip on many of our radars. I enjoy horror games, so I was more than happy to check it out as we get closer to our annual games of the year discussions. After spending a little over an hour playing through it to completion, my reaction hasn't changed. Huh?

The game clearly left an impression on Suriel, as he outlined in his feature where he championed the game. I didn't do any research on Anatomy before I downloaded it, since I wanted to go into this as fresh as possible. Fortunately, the game's low profile made avoiding spoilers one of the easiest things I've done all year. I'll do my best not to give too much away here, too – not that there's really all that much to give away.

Anatomy successfully exploits your sense of anticipation as you work your way through the game's house. I was surprised at how tense the opening 10 minutes or so were, as I slowly crept through the halls in search of the next cassette tape – and braced myself for an inevitable jump scare. The game's VHS-era aesthetic was a nice touch, though I wasn't nearly as in love with how sparse and ugly the environment was overall.

The house gets weirder on subsequent explorations, but the low-poly models and fuzzed-out textures are a consistent and distracting presence. Artwork that appears on the walls is presumably intended to be unnerving, but it was mostly confusing, as I tried to find optimal viewing distances to see what they were even supposed to be. Is that a shirt or a skeleton? 

That sense of repetition is the strongest part of the game, requiring that you start over several times to see everything that Anatomy has to offer. Over time, the house becomes barely recognizable, as doors open to other doors and weird glitches appear. That's not to say that the payoff is particularly interesting or thought-provoking. I liked seeing the edges start to fray and then completely fall apart over time. Unfortunately, it all kind of peters out. There's a read-me document that accompanies the game that specifically tells you when it's finished, in case you weren't quite sure. I'm all for ambiguity, but when a player has to consult a text document to confirm that, yes, the game is indeed over, that seems like a failure.

I love that games are big enough for huge AAA titles that require the efforts of thousands of people as well as one-person passion projects. I also don't think that things that are disappointing should get a pass because they're small or indie. There are some fantastic ideas on display here, but they're not executed as well as they could have been. Ultimately, Anatomy reminds me of a weird experimental student film that one of your friends puts together for a class.


My Vote
I see what Kitty Horrorshow was going for, but I just wasn't bowled over by it. Sorry, Suriel, but I'm going to have to be a dissenting voice on this one.