You Should Probably Play A Mother’s Inferno

The IndieCade section is effectively E3 in microcosm but with, you know, less. In its entirety, IndieCade takes up about a sixth of the Microsoft booth and shares its space with the Into The Pixel exhibit, Nvidia’s live musical performers, and the best hidden secret of E3: totally clean and unravaged bathrooms.

But that’s besides the point. It showcases a bunch of indie games that some people have heard of and flock around like Johann Sebastian Joust (the triple-A equivalent) while the smaller titles get little attention (an IndieCade inside the actual IndieCade) despite deserving so much more.

One such title is A Mother’s Inferno, a game developed in one month by 17 students from DADIU, or the Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment. It’s totally free and totally psychedelic and you probably need to play it.

The game itself, in the big picture, is about a mother who has lost her son to demonic possession/kidnapping while aboard a train and you must go about trying to get him back with nothing but “your will, your hands and a shard of glass.” It’s from the first-person perspective and has extremely simple controls: WASD plus right-click to grab things and left-click to stab things.

And while it metaphorically examines the five stages of loss in the journey to get back your son, it also does so literally. Each stage receives a physical representation in the game. From the normal-looking world when everything is just peachy, as soon as you collect yourself from the supernatural noogie you just received, the outside world becomes black and red, windows stained with the colors and images of violence and hate. Through the frantic glances about the cabin, you deny what’s happened. It’s not possible. I can’t have lost my son.

You enter the next car and are blasted with an audio and visual overload (sound plays a “vital role to the experience”). My senses are overwhelmed, I can’t tell what’s happening. Hell, I can’t even tell if I’m going the right direction. I actually feel mad at the game for making me feel this way. I’m blinded by the rage of being lost in this hell. Why couldn’t I have just played the game about blocks?

And that’s when it clicks. This nightmarish landscape of banshee screams and swirling clumps of crimson hate not only visually represents what the game is trying to convey with rage, but the design also makes me feel the rage. The mother is lost as I am lost. She is mad as I am mad.

But I continue. I move forward through the door, eager to press the next living thing if not for answers then certainly justice. The deal I offer is this: either I get what I want, or nobody leaves. I’ve begun to enter bargaining, albeit a Rambo-tinged sort.

For the sake of this being a preview, though, I’ll stop there. A Mother’s Inferno is actually a rather short game. The demo itself was about 15 minutes, showing off bits and pieces of each stage of the game, while the full game will clock in at roughly 45 minutes. Each chunk that I saw told me I needed to play the rest. At a certain point you take your shard of glass and, given impetus from a demonic voice and message, sacrifice your…well, it’s rough, and it totally flips the game on its head.

For the entire time I sat there playing this game, perched on the very edgiest edge of my stool, I was locked in. People I recognized in my periphery coming up to greet me immediately became tertiary to the game and the quest. Both of my hands were solidifying into claws of phalange anxiety. A Mother’s Inferno was easily the most affecting game I played at E3, and it will probably be the most jarring 45 minutes you can experience with a video game.

You definitely need to play A Mother’s Inferno.

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