I’ve always really enjoyed fiction about the so-called “dark web”, even if they manage to get almost everything about it wrong. Heck, maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much – I feel like it’s going to become the major urban legend of our generation. Years from now, our grandkids will ask us if the dark web really was a place where you could slickly and anonymously hire the services of professional killers, or pay to watch livestreams of real murders (and, of course, we’ll tell them it was, just to mess with them).
And that’s why, despite their simplicity and corniness, I enjoy the heck out of both Welcome to the Game games.
If you played the first Welcome to the Game, you probably already have a decent idea of what the sequel is like. If you didn’t, though (and you really don’t need to, since the sequel is largely a separate story), here’s a brief overview.
In Welcome to the Game II, you play an investigative reporter who stumbles across what seems to be a real-life “red room” – a site on the dark web where depraved visitors pay to watch a real murder being carried out live. Viewing a video showing a desperate plea for help from a woman lined up to be the red room’s newest victim, the player begins scouring the depraved world of the in-game dark web, seeking clues to the red room’s location.
The interface has been built up somewhat from the first game, which, for the most part, never allowed you to leave your in-game desktop. Here, the player can not only leave the desktop, but wander beyond the protagonist’s flat and out into their (eerily silent and empty) apartment complex, setting up alarms and motion sensors to alert them to any incoming dangers. And there are plenty of those – the denizens of the dark web, it seems, don’t appreciate having their illicit activities probed.
Continuing the spirit of the first game, Welcome to the Game II is to the real dark web what the movie Seven is to a real American city, drawing upon grim realities and cranking them up to ludicrously exaggerated degrees. In this version of the dark web, you can’t go two links deep without coming across some disgusting sexual paraphilia, or an image board where some madman is documenting his extended stalking of his attractive new neighbour, or a site where professional hitmen are hawking their services. And while some people might consider this a bit ludicrous, for a horror junkie like me, it’s one big dream come true.
There are issues, though. The game has added some extra challenges, such as forcing the player to constantly switch between different wireless networks to avoid being traced, as well as retaining the old ones, like having to visit certain sites at specific times in order to access them. And while it’s all well and good to want to up the game’s difficulty (no doubt it would be far too dull to just make the game a browsing simulator), the constant challenges the game throws at you can often feel rather derailing, given that the browsing aspect of the game very much is its most interesting aspect.
Overall, Welcome to the Game II has its flaws, as can be expected of pretty much any one-man indie production; but nonetheless, it’s a treat for any horror fan, and a solid tribute to the internet age’s biggest source of urban myth.