Horror publisher DreadXP, which has previously brought us spooky weirdness including the Dread X Collections (opens in new tab) and a Cthulhu mythos dating sim (opens in new tab), has joined with Darkstone Digital on a new game that’s out today called The Mortuary Assistant (opens in new tab). It’s yet another game about having a job, but—of course—there’s a lot more to this gig than draining stiffs and filling out paperwork.
In truth, the mundanities of the job are unavoidable. You’ll have to follow step-by-step procedures for identifying bodies, processing and embalming them, and even cleaning up after yourself, and frankly that part of the game is plenty unpleasant all on its own. Using a trocar (today I learned what a “trocar (opens in new tab)” is) to suck fluid out of the stomach of a corpse is actually one of the less stressful parts of the experience—I found stitching the jaw together to be much more traumatic, largely thanks to the sound effects but also, you know, teeth.
It quickly becomes apparent, however, that this is not a mundane morgue. The place itself is creepy as hell, for one thing, and the mortician in charge is clearly not okay. A window slams shut unexpectedly; a bottle of improperly stored chemicals pops open; a glimpse of movement outside catches your eye. Then the doctor sends you into the dimly-lit storage closet to whip up some cleaner for the embalming machine, and man you know something bad is going to happen in there, so you’re mixing and you’re looking for the descaler and you’re stressing out because something is going to come screaming out of the toilet at any second, and then—nothing happens. The tension doesn’t break and you’re back cleaning the death goo out of the machinery, and then the doctor tells you to go home early with a tone in his voice that leaves no doubt that inappropriate things are going to happen after you’re gone.
That’s day one, which is as far as I’ve gotten with it. As you can see in the trailer above, things go a whole lot more haywire as the game begins in earnest.
The Mortuary Assistant’s interface takes some getting used to, and I ran into a couple of frustrating moments where it wasn’t clear what I was supposed to be doing: I spent several minutes in that storage closet, for instance, trying to figure out how to make the cleaning fluid for the embalming machine before I realized that I just needed to take it and go. The first day on the job is basically a tutorial, though, and by the time it was over I felt pretty comfortable with the game overall.
Comfortable in the sense that I knew the basics of getting around, I mean. The game itself is very uncomfortable, even with simple stuff like wheeling bodies out of cold storage, which gave me this lovely perspective on the circle of life as I was trundling down the hallway, pondering the choices that brought me here.
Even the descriptions of basic tasks have a brutality to them that seem calibrated to evoke maximum revulsion.
Oh, and yes: The gut-sucking is fully interactive. Bit like Powerwasher Simulator in reverse, eh? Just imagine what this sounds like.
I haven’t played enough of The Mortuary Assistant to declare it “good,” but I can say that I really like what I’ve seen so far. Gamers with an aversion to horror should probably (well, definitely) steer clear, but if dark portents, low-grade body horror, well-timed jump scares, and a sinister mystery sounds like fun, you should probably give it a look. The Mortuary Assistant is available now on Steam, and there’s a demo too so you can get a taste of what it’s all about for free.