Game Review: We Know the Devil

2016-02-19_00020

As a bisexual woman who had summer camps and Christian counselors alike try to wrestle the gayness out of me, I was instantly drawn to We Know the Devil. With a premise of queer kids enduring a religious summer camp, I knew I had to try it, and it was so much more than I could have anticipated.

We Know the Devil is about three somewhat-friends who are right on the cusp of their sexual identities. Venus is transgender and super shy; Jupiter is a tomboy with a crush; and Neptune is an avid texter who just wants the guys to leave her alone. They aren’t particularly close, but they were all thrown together in the same group so they have to learn to get along.

2016-02-19_00002

Their summer scouts program is a lot like your standard church camp. There’s incense, there’s sitting around a fire involved, and there’s an asshole carrying a guitar and spouting sermons with endless tangents. However, there’s one important twist: on the last week of camp, one of the groups is sent to spend the night in a cabin on the outskirts of the forest to be visited by the devil. As luck would have it, Venus, Jupiter, and Neptune are the ones picked.

Now, it should be established that the religion practiced in this game isn’t traditional Christianity. In We Know the Devil, everything is based on radio waves. There are sirens set up all over the campgrounds for when God wants their attention. Everyone carries their own personal radio, and there’s a house radio in each cabin. God is always on the same radio station, and He expects an attentive audience. The devil, on the other hand, is constantly jumping frequencies, but sometimes you’ll hear him for a moment when you’re changing channels.

2016-02-19_00006

So Venus, Jupiter, and Neptune venture out to this cabin, readying themselves to confront the devil. They have to keep watch all night, so they bide their time in the typical teenage ways: Truth or Dare, drinking smuggled liquor, 7 Minutes in Heaven. At some point in the night, their youthful distractions are interrupted; the sirens are wailing louder than ever, and that means someone needs to go out and make the rounds. Because it’s an odd-numbered group, two go out into the darkness and static, and one gets left behind.

Up until this point, you’ve gotten a few chances to choose pairings. You might’ve had Jupiter go off with Venus to replace a diode in a siren, sent Neptune and Jupiter to look for radio wires in an old shack, or had Neptune intimidate Venus during Truth or Dare. When it comes to investigating the sirens, though, whoever stays behind at the cabin is certain to be possessed by the devil.

2016-02-19_00018

They don’t speak in a demonic voice or kill the others when they return. It’s more of an outlet for expressing their personality, their sins and their shortcomings. Venus and Neptune are like two sides of the same coin. Neptune is mean because it makes her feel more honest, while Venus is compulsively good, but the devil can be found even in the light – the scorching, overwhelming light.

I thought Jupiter’s ending was the most compelling of the three. The air starts growing humid, and it feels like hundreds of hands covering their bodies. Her mother told her not to touch anyone because she shouldn’t be impolite, and her father told her never to let anyone touch her because she’s a girl and she needs to protect herself. It’s more than just lust that plagues her; it’s a feeling of isolation, a desperate yearning for human contact that she feels like she shouldn’t ask for and doesn’t deserve.

2016-02-19_00024

Once you’ve discovered each of their endings, you have the option to let all three go together to make the rounds. So what happens when no one is left out and all of them prepare to meet the devil side-by-side? Well, the devil might have a pretty convincing argument, at least compared to all the shit they’ve been through.

Completing all four endings only took me two-and-a-half hours, but for such a short game it displays such nuance. It replicates teenage speech very well, vague and searching at times, yet brutal and sarcastic at others. It’s deeply human, brilliantly capturing feelings like being overpowered by desire, wishing you could peel away the body you’ve been given, and resenting the unfair games we’re forced to play.

2016-02-19_00008

The three main characters are well-developed, yet at the same time there’s just enough left unknown to make them relatable, and to let you fill in some of the blanks yourself. The way religion is addressed is also quite interesting. The metaphor of radios and frequencies is one I never would have thought of, but it makes a lot of sense. It also allows the game to avoid any specific denomination but rather analyze religion as a general concept.

I’ve intentionally not gone into a whole lot of detail here, so not too much will be spoiled in case you’d like to play this game for yourself. I would highly recommend it. It has a thought-provoking and complex story, with dim wooded backdrops and an eerie soundtrack to match. We Know the Devil recently got released on Steam, and if you choose to pick it up, I guarantee it will be a worthwhile experience.

Comments

Leave a Reply