It’s rare that a video game is based on a book. It’s even rarer that the book in question won a Hugo award. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, based on the novel by Harlan Ellison, is the rare exception to that rule. Now that it’s available as a mobile game, it’s time for an I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream review to figure out if the story made the transition to a handheld platform as well as it did to the PC.
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I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is, at its core, about humanity and accepting the good and bad of one’s own life. This is a game meant to make people think – a rare gem in a time when gaming was largely in the process of being simplified for mass consumption. The game is imperfect and aging, but this I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream review tends to view the sheer audacity of the game as its saving grace.
Design & Graphics
It wouldn’t be an honest I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream review if we didn’t mention the dated graphics. This game is admittedly very old, and it doesn’t look great. There are some games from the early eras of gaming that hold up very well, but this is not one of them. At some point, players have to forgive the fact that the game doesn’t look great.
The mobile port looks better than the original game, mostly thanks to some cleaned up graphics. It still doesn’t look perfect, but the ability to switch back to the original graphics will show players exactly how much work goes into the game. It’s a nice feature that can help new players appreciate how far gaming has come in just a few decades.
The game has, however, aged well in terms of controls. Point and click doesn’t really get old, and the switch over to touch controls is virtually flawless. There are a few little hiccups here or there, but nothing that will give players too many headaches. This is a game that benefits from the move to mobile more than most others, so enjoy the transition for what it has managed to pull off.
When playing through this I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream review, it was the characters that really stuck out. The characters who you play are by turns engaging and horrifying, and none of them are more important than AM.
AM is a great example of the victim as a villain. He’s one of the more terrifying villains to come out of early gaming, especially in an era where the average villain was more of a stock device. AM helps to push the boundaries of gaming forward, even if it is ultimately a tragic figure.
The rest of the cast remains stellar, of course. Benny, Ellen, and Gorrister are all still sympathetic figures. Nimdok is still one of the vilest player-characters in gaming history. Even Ted is a joy to play with, as paranoid as he is.
There’s probably not a cast of characters in gaming that’s as well-rounded or thought-provoking as the cast of this game. Every character is memorable, and everything they go through feels frighteningly real. Even as far as games have come, it’s amazing to note that this cast still stands out. More games could learn from how this cast was constructed and how well they are portrayed throughout.
This I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream review paid special attention to the story, as it’s far more important than the mechanics. In many ways, this game’s a forerunner to visual novels and other more modern forms of gaming. It’s the story that ultimately matters, not how you play the game.
The story involves a group of the last human survivors, being tortured by a nigh-omnipotent AI called AM. After over a hundred years of torture, the characters get a new task. Participating in individualized psychodramas, they have to overcome their own fatal flaws. What follows is some of the darkest and most compelling storytelling to ever appear in a game.
The five characters each have their own unique experiences. One is in a concentration camp. Another is trapped in an ancient society, while another must confront her own rapists. The game doesn’t shy away from being as dark as possible, and much of what you see is deeply upsetting.
The story doesn’t necessarily have a bright ending. In fact, of the multiple endings, only one is unambiguously good. It takes a lot of work to get there, and even one wrong move is enough to lock players out from ever seeing it. This is a game about the darkness in the human soul. And it takes a relatively large amount of work to clear up that darkness.
This I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream review looks at the game for what it accomplished, not at how it aged. The graphics aren’t great and there are some choices that aren’t incredibly useful in today’s environment. But it is nonetheless a fantastic game to play. Did you play I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream in its original format? Let us know by leaving a comment below. We’ve recently taken a look at another classic game turned mobile, namely Baldur’s Gate.