Anatomy

My 2013 MacBook Air can’t run much, but it can run Anatomy. If I had to choose one game for my Mac to run, it might be Anatomy. Anatomy contains so much in so little.


What is Anatomy?
Anatomy is a first person horror/exploration game created by Kitty Horrorshow for Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s $2.99 or more to purchase directly from the developer and download. Low-poly, low-res, high VHS tracking and static. In ANATOMY you explore a house, several times, always unsure of what’s in the next room and also unsure you want to find out.

Anatomy is a game for people who collect betamax.

Anatomy is a game for anyone with a free night and empty home.

Anatomy is a game for fucked up architects.


Playing Anatomy I would wander into a virtual room and immediately find a wall to put my back against. From the wall, I would watch the room carefully. There might be a bed, cabinets, a table, chairs, couch, TV, shelving — small suburban comforts. I was looking for cassette tapes or a jump scare, shadow, or creepy doll. I was seeking one at the risk of another. I stood against the walls because I wanted something solid behind me. But as the game advanced, even the walls were unreliable.

Anatomy makes everything frightening without frightening you with anything. This isn’t a spoiler so much as a thesis. Anatomy lets you do the heavy lifting, which is when horror is most effective.

Anatomy plays with tropes that have become a little over-familiar in recent years: dead blue screens, simulated VHS tracking, empty suburban homes. There are shades of Gone Home, just as there are shades of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, because Anatomy is pure genre, and that genre is “haunted house.” But while Gone Home and Jackson’s book subvert our expectations, Anatomy dives as deeply as it can into them. So deeply that it comes out the other side, makes reality itself seem a little haunted.

To really “complete” Anatomy, you need to reboot it , as in the software itself. The game ends itself several times, forcing you back to your desktop. The eerie implication (bogus, but eerie) is that the haunting extends outside Anatomy’s digital suburban house, outside its software even. It’s a neat trick. As neat as the game’s sound design, it’s dryly academic-yet-sinister audio logs, its stark and cryptic use of text.

At one point in Anatomy, you stand in the kitchen, listening to one of several cassettes you have found throughout the house on a bathroom vanity, bureau, ottoman, etc. When the tape ends, font cannily styled like a VHS set to PLAY — — : — — pops on the screen:

“There is a tape in the basement.”

The basement door, right behind you, is no longer locked.

You want to go into the basement. You don’t want to go into the basement. As with so many good horror games, Anatomy makes you want to play it and wonder why you ever started playing it. This push and pull is the friction of horror. It’s the against-the-grain screech of Psycho’s violin glissandos.

And, of course, you’ll go into the basement. Again and again, you go into the basement. ★