Whether it's Village of the Damned, The Wicker Man, or Witchfinder General, rural Britain has a proven track record of being a great setting for a horror story. And so it continues in Wallpaper, an experimental chiller developed by digital artists Andy Campbell and Judi Alston. The game, which is $5 on Itch (including the soundtrack), is set in the north of England, and fuses traditional and tech-horror with a premise straight out of a Black Mirror episode.
You are P.J. Sanders, a computer engineer who returns home to Yorkshire from the United States following the death of his mother. You're there to clean the place up and get it ready for sale, but not before testing the prototype of a device you've created called a Visual Memory Extractor.
At first Wallpaper seems like a typical first-person horror game. You explore a dark house by torchlight, read letters, study old photos, and piece together a fragmented story. It's atmospheric and nicely presented, but nothing I haven't seen in a dozen other games before. That is until you find the key to the parlor, a room your mother never let you see inside.
The room is bare except for some dusty furniture. You place a suitcase on the table, flipping it open to reveal a strange device. This is the Visual Memory Extractor, which has been designed to interface with the augmented reality glasses you're wearing. Sanders works for a software company called POPPITECH, and in a cute touch, when the VME boots up, I have to accept its end-user license agreement before I can use it.
Then the machine whirrs to life, absorbing decades of memories from the house itself and presenting them to me in the form of narrated film clips projected on the walls. I'll let you learn what these clips reveal about the history of the family for yourself, but it's something pretty shocking for Sanders.
Which makes the pop-up adverts, obnoxiously built into the VME by POPPITECH, especially cruel. "Soulmates in your area!" one promises, with a picture of a girl pouting at the camera, crudely interrupting the emotional story being told in the parlor. This is a very Black Mirror touch, and I love the idea of a technology as incredible as this being tastelessly commodified by a tech company—because let's be real, that's absolutely what would happen.
Wallpaper is a very cool thing, but only lasts about 30 minutes. There are some really nice visual touches, like the way writing from Sanders' mother's letters appears around the house, covering walls and floating in the air. The voice acting is surprisingly good too. It's more like a proof of concept than a fully-fledged game, but if you like experimental stuff, it's worth a look.