In The Chinese Room, a game developed for Ludum Dare 37, a zombified human has to infiltrate a triad and steal their crime secrets. But pretending to be alive is a lot harder than it looks.
The Chinese Room gives you a simple set of controls to do something we all do unconsciously every day: look human. The character you play as wakes up in a room with the only instructions being the to-do list on the right hand side of the screen. You have to press buttons on your keyboard in order to blink, breathe and beat your heart manually. If you don’t, then an alarm blares in your ears and you slowly get discovered as an imposter. While you know the broad strokes of what you’re supposed to accomplish, you’re dropped into the story in medias res. The woman across from you knows all about the rival gangs, the Golden Lotus, and even what body you’re inhabiting, but you don’t, and in a cruel twist of fate you also have occasionally answer her questions. You juggle piloting a meat puppet and figuring out the plot of the game at the same time, and it’s very hard.
The real challenge of The Chinese Room is basic human interaction. I barely had enough time to read and react to the dialogue in between remembering to breathe and blink. At one point, I realized I was supposed to be eating, filled my stomach and then heard the alarm. In a panic, my interrogator telling me “You look like you’ve had a stroke,” I pressed the button that made me shit myself. I’m great at parties.
I haven’t gotten good enough at being a person that I can do much more than listen at this point, but at least I’ve gotten chewing and swallowing my food down. You can grab The Chinese Room on itch.io, and check out the rest of the games from the jam on the Ludum Dare website.