In September 1999, something is wrong. A lone house holds a secret, recorded on tape. You play through the tape as it jumps through a slow descent into gore and death. The whole game lasts five minutes and 30 seconds.
You play through the perspective of someone with a camera who is reviewing recorded footage. It’s not clear if you’re exploring the house or are a killer. The game’s presentation looks just like a grainy home movie, and while there’s no combat or chase scenes, there’s plenty of horror.
The last time I featured September 1999’s developer 98DEMAKE was for their game OK/NORMAL, which molded Playstation 1 era graphics and design into a nightmare game that felt like creepypasta. OK/NORMAL was overwhelming cruel, with large and nearly impossible to navigate mazes that you would have to restart if you made even the slightest mistake. September 1999 is more forgiving experience. There are no jumpscares and you can’t die, but you are perpetually trapped. This sense of claustrophobia that gives the game so much punch.
September 1999 draws comparisons to P.T. by virtue of being a first person horror game about enclosed spaces. But whereas P.T. emulated a fraying mental state with obtuse puzzles, September 1999 uses editing and cuts in the “film” to imply its degenerating spaces. In that way, it has more in common with this year’s Paratopic or 2012’s Thirty Flights of Loving. It uses lighting and edited presentation to create sudden and unsettling changes. It’s one thing for a room to lose the lamp in the corner. It’s another for time to pass and have a corpse slowly chopped up and disassembled.
September 1999 ends up being very simple: explore the space and note what changes. Watch how a slightly shabby house turns into something dark and bloody and fetid. There’s no need for monsters. Just a little time and blood, and you have a nice slice of Halloween-time horror.