‘Don’t worry! I’m a murderer!’ – award-winning comedy Anthology of the Killer is out next week

By admin May26,2024

In Anthology of the Killer you do not exit the game using a pause menu. You exit it by walking down a back alley into the quavering arms of two hungry bears. This is just one of many laughs your diaphragm will endure as you navigate “the escalating adventures of a girl trying to make zines in a town of giallo-style masked serial murderers”. The horror comedy already won its creators the Nuovo Award at the Independent Games Festival this year, recognition that has been a long time coming for prolific game maker Stephen “thecatamites” Gillmurphy. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, you can get acquainted next week, when Anthology of the Killer gets its full release on Itch.io on May 28th. At which point you can explore its unsettling urban hell of shady corporations and cops who think they’re cool. There’s a trailer below.

Watch on YouTube

In the first of the nine-part series, protagonist BB is an employee of a life insurance call centre where everyone wears sheets over their head. When you sit at BB’s desk to work, the usual office chatter slows to a haunting warble, like listening to a cassette tape submerged in a bathtub of jam. A TV in the break room is set to a news channel reporting that 1000 bodies have been found somewhere (“Same news as always,” remarks BB.) In the printer room a sign yells: “Remember! We don’t pay out if the corpse is unidentifiable!” When you walk into the complaints department, the doors lock behind you. What follows is… well, I’ll let you figure it out.

Many point to the likes of Disco Elysium or Baldur’s Gate 3 as examples of excellent writing in adventure games. I will point to the entire body of work by thecatamites. As ever, it’s the combination of DIY MS Paint visuals and a surreal comic voice that draws me in. The sea’s breathy waves are caused by geology, “the baleful science”. When our zine-printing heroine is nabbed by the cops she reflects that “Rule #1 of making a zine is never talk to the police.” She lives in an apartment block with metal shutters that clamp down at night, a security measure “far beneath today’s superior anti-murderer technology”. I could basically pick any dialogue box that appears in any of these games and it would have something worth smiling at, or frowning at, or feeling something at.

A murderer approaches BB wielding a bloody hammer, but tells her not to worry, because he is a murderer.
Image credit: Stephen “thecatamites” Gillmurphy

Thecatamites has been making short games for over a decade now. At this stage I have lost count. Many of us at RPS have been fans of his work. After a period of tinkering away he tends to compile a bunch of his games together, as with 10 Beautiful Postcards or 50 Short Games. In the same vein (blood joke) Anthology of the Killer compiles a bunch of games he’s made in the last few years. This time it’s a clear serial format though, the story continuing its bloody theme with each new installment: Hands of the Killer, Face of the Killer, Drool of the Killer. You might have already been playing through BB’s story as each episode was released, but if not, this collection handily puts them all in one place, all complimented by poster art by A. Degen.

In today’s tempest of game releases, small games sometimes slip past our ever-watchful eyes. So it’s a good thing Gillmurphy got in touch with RPS to let us know the murder mystery compilation was due out soon.

“I believe the concept of ‘death’ will be a big hit with the readership,” he said, “as why else would they be playing video games.”

A valid observation. I am interested in this innovative approach.

BB is accosted by a sleazy cop in a backroom of her corporate office.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Stephen “thecatamites” Gillmurphy

Gillmurphy calls the murderthon a “comparatively straight narrative”, somewhat underselling his skill as one of the homegrown scene’s most creative storytellers. Playing through thecatamites work after a long time of consuming clinically polished “story rich” blockbusters is like having the language centers of your brain treated with a batch of medicinal maggots. It looks horrible! But once the maggots roll away, holy shit, what a sparkling temporal lobe you’ve got. It is writing as a controlled explosion, but the detonator is one of those fake Pringles cans with a spring snake inside. Text as the rediscovery of a forgotten species that doesn’t quite match the other amphibians, but yes, is (probably?) still a frog. It’s worth reading his musings on art as a lucky bag, if nothing else.

One might say I am exaggerating, or that thecatamites’ writing is an acquired taste, but you may easily acquire it in any of the following methods:

  • suffering the Irish psyche
  • subsisting for years on an auditory diet of avant-garde music
  • playing his games

That last method is easy. You can start next week with Anthology of the Killer. Or else…

By admin

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