A mysterious disease has swept across modern civilization, tearing society apart and bringing the world to its knees. Those afflicted by the plague are turned into sex-starved plant-zombies who prowl the streets in search of fresh victims. A young girl — who had long since barricaded herself in her apartment waiting for rescue — finally resolves to venture through the hellish landscape of a ruined city, in a bid to find salvation. Packing only a pistol, a pipe, some molotovs and a handful of glow sticks, she faces almost impossible odds as she eludes the greedy clutches of a world trying to drag her down into an abyss of unnatural pleasure.
This concept may sound vaguely familiar to those who have seen or played Pixel Factory’s Parasite in City. Developed by the two-man team Sourjelly as a respectful tribute to the survival horror genre, Anthophobia is a side-scrolling 2D survival horror game that follows very closely in the footsteps of Pixel Factory’s work. The inspiration seems clear in just about every facet of the game, from the general concept to the particulars of how it plays. However, Anthophobia offers some interesting twists to that formula that help to set it apart from its source.
Keep your eyes peeled, and watch for enemies lurking in the dark.
Just like Parasite in City, the game plays as a slow and methodical side-scrolling survival horror experience, with careful positioning and proper resource management being vital to the player’s success. Actions taken — such as a swing of the pipe or reloading the pistol — are rather slow and often leave you vulnerable. Reloading your weapon completely discards the previous magazine, whether or not there were still rounds in the clip. While you may wish to conserve ammo until the clip runs completely dry, that runs the risk of bumping into an enemy who won’t give you the chance to reload when you need to. The heroine’s clothing acts as the player’s armor with pieces being torn away as she takes damage. Once naked, she becomes susceptible to health-depleting grapple “attacks” which may quickly end your game. Stripped naked and surrounded by enemies, you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed.
The greatest difference between the two games is Anthophobia’s increased focus on immersion and atmosphere. Unlike its spiritual predecessor, the game instills a sense of apocalyptic dread that Parasite in City doesn’t quite match. The environments the player must carefully navigate are dark and claustrophobic, and unseen threats shuffle and groan just out of sight. The main character’s line-of-sight dictates what the player can and cannot see. They will need to physically glance at the ceiling to see what may be crawling above, and once they turn their back on something it disappears from view. There persists an unshakable feeling of paranoia and isolation throughout the game, which is further enhanced by the details in the world. Players will find corpses littering the streets of people, who have taken their own lives or mutated into plants during the process of being raped; their bodies fusing together into disgustingly warped amalgamations of their former selves. A grotesque fate that the heroine hopes to avoid.
At the cost of your clothing, you may choose to snuggle up with a friendly cat-zombie for a health boost, but if you wait too long, she might take the initiative herself.
Sadly, the creepy atmosphere is somewhat tarnished by the sub-par reactions from the heroine in response to being attacked. Generally, being struck by an enemy prompts a half-hearted squeak from the protagonist, who recoils more in mild annoyance than in genuine pain or fear. While being restrained and having a gangrene penis rubbed in her face, she grunts and whimpers with all the urgency of a child whining for an ice cream cone. Zombies sound eerie when they are at a distance, but downright laughable when they are up close, and the way that enemies attack doesn’t help things either. The common zombies lunge themselves dick-first into your face, the looming Nemesis-styled giant pirouettes like a ballerina, and crawlers spastically cartwheel through the air to pin you on the ground.
Fortunately, there are a few notable exceptions to the generally underwhelming and goofy enemies you are faced with. One unique enemy type is a bulbous monster having its way with a victim who has relinquished herself to her fate, groaning with a voice that sounds warped and corrupted, with flowers sprouting across her body. Approaching the abomination without crouching results in the creature emitting a shrill, terrifying wail that may send shivers down your spine. Scattered throughout the game’s levels are crates that contain a curious surprise: a friendly plant-cat-human hybrid who follows you around, providing a health boost when you need it the most. The cat-girl is fully voiced, and her pining mewls for attention were as convincing as they were charming.
I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: the flower sprouting from her spine or her anatomy in general.
The game-over CGs are pretty horrifying in their own right, but perhaps not in the way they were intended. Shaky line work and surreal interpretations of human anatomy make for CGs that — while morbidly fascinating — are anything but enticing. Thankfully, the in-game art fares a bit better with decent sprite work and detailed animation. The artist certainly had some good ideas for Anthophobia, and I would like to see him improve on his craft so that he may illustrate them a little better. Unfortunately, the game-over stills are such a boner killer that I feel the game would have been better if they were just removed entirely.
Anthophobia is certainly an interesting experience, and a respectable derivative of what came before. It does a few things to set itself apart from the source, and in the gameplay department, it is certainly in-depth and engaging. Unfortunately, on the pornographic side of things, the game pales in comparison to the source material. While it is certainly a valiant entry into the world of Eroge by the Sourjelly team, and well worth a look for those interested in the genre, there is certainly room to grow for this fresh new indie dev.