[Editor’s note: If you don’t know Sam Barlow’s history as a games developer and storyteller, please start by reading our interview with him.]
Sam Barlow’s games company, Half Mermaid, is working on a mysterious new horror game called “Project Ambrosia”, which they describe thusly: “██████████ new ███████ Sam Barlow ██ Half Mermaid █████████████ is ███████ ██████████ cinema ██ death”.
No, your browser isn’t malfunctioning. That’s the way the logline is presented on Steam where the game is currently wishlisting. The release date is also redacted along with the longer description, only adding to a strange sense of ambiguity and dread:
We’ll let internet sleuths with more time on their hands than us decipher the meaning behind some of the breadcrumbs Barlow and company are leaving online as they work on their game, but here’s some high level information we’ve gleaned so far.
Barlow’s last two games have been interactive narrative games that relied on unique mechanics to help players reveal complex stories. And while we don’t know anything about how Project Ambrosia plays out, we expect it will be some kind of narrative experience that plays out either over four timelines, or involved four characters.
As outlined in a blog post called “Why am I Making a Horror Game?“, Barlow runs through why he loves horror and where this love originates from.
He drops a lot of references and inspirations that StoryFix readers will know including Infocom’s 1987 text adventure The Lurking Horror, which was written by Dave Lebling and inspired by the horror fiction writings of H. P. Lovecraft.
This, based on some truly strange videos and images on the game’s Steam page, leads us to wonder if there is a similar cosmic horror element at the center the game, an evil that transcends our astral plane.
He also gives a shout out to Electric Dream’s CPC version of Aliens from 1986.
Moving away from games specifically, Barlow explains how his personal interests in fine art, books and movies continued to lead him back to the horror genre through his life.
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The other big piece of the puzzle for Barlow seems to be horror movies and cinematic surrealism as defined by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí (he includes an still from their famous film Un Chien Andalou).
I am particularly interested in a kind of horror that exists on the periphery of your vision, one that once injected into your brain isn’t easily flushed out when you turn the screen off.– Sam Barlow
He also mentions Clive Barker’s literary works as an inspiration for the game, but Barker’s early work, particularly his first short film Solome which is super surreal.
Whatever Project Ambrosia ends up being, or how coherent it is as a game, it’s worth noting that independent game development still represents a place where artists can experiment and maybe even flourish.
Barlow will be updating players on his blog here.
Who’s excited for this one? Let us know!