“We Know The Devil” is a gorgeous, disturbing queer game

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We Know The Devil is a “game” in the same way that the nameless, terrifying thing you felt for the strongest girl at summer camp was “love.” It’s a “game” like the way you let the mean girl slap you around was “friendship.” It’s a game like 7 Minutes in Heaven is a game, in that it stalks the dark borderlands between fear and pleasure like the devil him(her/their/our)self.

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Technically, WKTD is a “visual novel,” like the ones I’ve reviewed lately from Voltagebut whereas those are primary colors with bleached-teeth smiles, this game is messy and moody. Created by Twitter Personality Aevee Bee and Mia Schwartz, with a fuzzed-out soundtrack by Alec Lambert, WKTD is an example of the vast worlds being opened up by the democratization of online games. Specifically, it speaks to the experience of being a queer teenager with a poignant accuracy.

The game itself is vague and strange. There are three kids at a Christian summer camp, being punished for offenses the exact nature of which you never learn. There is Jupiter, the leader, who is very much the captain of the soccer team, president of student council type. There is Venus, who you would naturally assume is a Hufflepuff but was actually sorted Slytherin. (Also, Venus goes by male pronouns, but his relationship to maleness leaves a great deal open to interpretation.) And then there is Neptune, whose casual cruelty and recklessness are heartbreakingly self-aware.

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Neptune is my favorite because I Know My Type. The three teens must survive a night in a dilapidated old cabin while they wait on a visit from the devil (who may or may not already be among them). My main point of contention with the game is that while the dialogue is incisive and specific, the circumstances are frustratingly nebulous. Does the camp take place in a universe where witchcraft and Christianity are not mutually exclusive? Why does the Bonfire Captain look like a giant thumb? Why is God’s radio station only a one-way connection?

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Whatever; the real game involves the connections between these three people. Your choices are which of them to pair off in given circumstances, with the knowledge that you are blowing on the coals of the pair you pick and painfully isolating the one you exclude. While I played through the game trying every route (and so will you; the $6.66 price tag is a bargain when you start to get attached to these kids) my favorite pairing was always Jupiter and Neptune. Because get load of this:

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I mean, come the fuck on.

The game gets adorable when Neptune sneaks in a bottle of booze, that pernicious rogue. The dialogue is never funnier than when they’re arguing about whether or not they’re drunk, and never more warmly evocative of the days when taking a sip of shitty alcohol felt like riding the line between bravery and badness.

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And then it gets scary.

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The ways it gets scary are up to you, but you can’t get out of that cabin unscathed anymore than you can grow up queer without winning some battle scars.

In terms of production values, We Know The Devil is the video game equivalent of a zine. The characters are pencil drawings and the background photos are washed-out snapshots that look like half youthful mementos, half police evidence file. But in spite of the graininess, the game says something darker and more challenging than its glossier rivals.

It’s a good game to play by the light of a flickering jack-o’-lantern. It’s a good game to play alone. It’s a good game. (If it is a game.)

Buy We Know The Devil and let us know who your OTP is.

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