“The world is a small, unnatural, and empty area…I don’t know where I was, who I was, or what happened.”
The most interesting thing about Sunset Spirit Steel is that which is not said. The game’s artist, Kitty Horrorshow, describes the experience as an exploratory horror game. The horror aspect is apparent in the tone, lighting, and structure of what information there is to be gleaned during exploration; yet, there is a lot missing in the engagement of what we should be afraid of or even why be afraid at all.
The player walks around a closed off world, finding small floating pyramids highlighted by a circle of white light. Seven in all. Getting close and clicking on the pyramids causes a sentence or two, snippets of what happened, to appear on the screen. They form the vague outline of the plot, but the player exists in a vague aftermath of the events. The story hints at a village finding these sculptures and falling victim to hubris and greed. The stones took advantage of this and caused everyone to kill each other. Who we are as the player is left unexplained.
All of that is rather unimportant and less interesting than the physical elements of the in-game space. The land is at dusk, bathing the world in a pallet of rust red. The setting sun paints the sky ablaze in the various evening colors of the ends of the spectrum. Dull reds and deep purples among them. The ground is a darker, grimier texture of red. The strange dark structures, built upon and into the hill at the center of this closed off world, are a metal grey or dark dirt brown, tinted red, reflecting the light of the rouge sky. Sheer walls encircle the whole area.
Everything in the world looks twisted. It’s off from our natural understanding of how things should be. The wind turbine’s blades are not the elegant spinners that make them useful and functional. Instead the blades are long and pointed, like a set of stiletto knives rotating in a non-existent wind. The trees are dead and bare and yet their remains are also not natural. The branches are like spines or needles arranged reaching for the sky. Atop pillars and reachable by metal walkways are huts styled in an alien fantastical architecture. They look like a collection of stalagmites and stalactites formed by hardened goo. All around and atop the low polygon geometry of the hill, which gives the very earth an unnatural resonance as it has been contorted into straight angular shapes.
Scattered around the area are the sculptures, the presumable objects mentioned in the story. They are floating, asymmetrical, tooth-shaped, glowing stones. Get close to them and they begin to spin, faster the closer you are. Each emitting a unique background sound effect. One an eerie whine, another like song played on a record player, another a low gurgling. The noise’s volume also depends on the player’s proximity.
Other than these basic elements, the area is devoid of anything else. The high cliff prevent a view of the world. The world is a small, unnatural, and empty area. Maybe we should be scared by that as well as these stone sculptures with the power of people’s minds through their lethal drive. When you collect all the story giving pyramids, the world goes dark as the light then put through a filter. A high whine begins and soon a shuddering happens and the screen goes black. I don’t know where I was, who I was or what happened. It’s these few points of style in the elements that exist in the world that are far more interesting than anything the collective whole might amount to.