Last Updated on December 30, 2019
The art of folklore has never died; it has simply evolved. The millennial generation is producing new urban legends in every medium possible, creating a vast library of tales that will make our ancestors envious. Bravemule is a game studio that specializes in this. They’ve written and developed interactive fiction containing stories from several cultures.
The Domovoi has Slavic origins, and Beneath Floes – written in collaboration with Nunavut-based game studio, Pinnguaq – is based off Inuit folklore and history.
The Silence Under Your Bed, written by Kevin Snow and Cassandra Khaw, is mainly Southern Gothic, with the horrors of being poor in the Deep South, ghosts, creepypastas and childhood mythology.
Bravemule’s narrative design is usually accompanied with the gorgeously detailed illustrations of Trevor Henderson (now with a punk flavor to fit the game’s early 2000s nostalgia) and the audio design of Priscilla Snow.
In The Silence Under Your Bed, you are choosing the dialogue of Lin and Aidan, who order pizza. But, they completely screw up regardless of your choices due to Aidan’s phone anxiety. The teens have an hour until the pizza arrives. Depending on your choices, you discover that either Lin and Aidan forgot to tell the pizza shop their address or maybe Pizza Paradise really is too far. The duo then decides to tell tales to kill time and ignore their empty stomachs, with kvlt metal in the background.
The Silence Under Your Bed is a story collection with in-game choices that lead you to a selection of stories by either Kevin Snow or Cassandra Khaw.
Branching exists subtly throughout conversations between the teens and the stories you choose, which leads to at least five randomized endings. The Silence Under Your Bed is almost akin to a sound novel, where interactivity is more of an environmental element thanks to the hauntings that crawl across your screen, the demons that unmask themselves from beneath the darkness, and howling winds and crunches that claw at your ear drums. The game does not solely depend on complicated plot branching to make an interactive experience.
The Silence Under Your Bed was made in Twine, where gameplay usually involves glowing hyperlinks of various colors and effects for storytelling.
Stories by Kevin Snow
A dominant theme in Kevin Snow’s stories are abusive families, isolation, monsters, and alienation.
In “Toad to Ruin” a precocious child that becomes infatuated with frogs witnesses an abusive cousin, Joseph, kill one of her amphibian friends. Consumed with rage, she wishes death upon him, dreaming of all the cruelest fates imaginable. Then, Hurricane Floyd rips through the South, making Joseph a causality. She feels avenged, as if the storm was summoned by herself.
“Frame 5170” is about a son’s fading memories of his dead, abusive father. His father’s face becomes more distorted over time by trauma. He then reveals that he has a childhood tape with footage of his father playing with him at the pool, and it reveals to the reader who his old man truly is.
“It Will Get Stuck That Way” is about a boy who likes to crack his neck because of a skeletal abnormality that runs in the family. His mother warns him to stop or it will get stuck that way, but just like any kid he doesn’t listen, until he meets the uncle that he shares much in common with.
Stories by Cassandra Khaw
Cassandra Khaw’s stories usually deal with ghosts, the horrors of the internet, and how our society has become closer to the claws of evil and just as close to the dead.
“Cold Hands” is a ghost story about a family that spends a night in a run-down motel, their child befriends an army of ghostly hands seeking living warmth. They leave, but their child doesn’t.
“The Drowning Ritual” is a Tumblr blog post series on how to open up the gates to hell and unleash a demonic spirit of a teen murder victim.
“Ah Ma’s Rules” is a cautionary tale about respecting your elders; the differences in mores between the older and younger generations of Chinese diaspora women.
In “Necromancer Blues” Khaw shifts the storytelling medium to songwriting and Priscilla Snow decides to set aside the SFXs, pick up a guitar, and sing a soulful song about the restless souls of femicide victims.
A Spooky Experience
Kevin Snow’s stories are raw and darkly humorous; portraits of how humans become monsters. The only story by Snow that didn’t stand out was “MovieBrain”, an interactive tale about a streaming service’s algorithm. Its meaning is rather obscure compared to most of the other cyberhorrors, which are mostly written by Khaw. Khaw’s cyberhorror stories are much better in execution than Snow’s, and were some of my favorites by her, especially “The Drowning Ritual.”
Khaw’s stories are vastly different from Snow’s because they are focused on hauntings. Ghost stories tend to be similar because you can’t stray too far away from the rules and mechanics on writing the dead. Most of Khaw’s ghost stories felt beautifully written to me, you can feel the chill down your spine as the spirits settle into your room, but the plot twists aren’t so surprising.
Some stories in The Silence Under Your Bed are slightly confusing and need a re-read. A common scare mechanic in this game – which appears in both Snow’s and Khaw’s stories – is when a narrator tells an eerie urban legend, then suddenly the subject of the plot appears in front of you indicating the ending. Sometimes this mechanic fell flat, because there wasn’t enough time to build up the strength of the impact, and it took several reads for me to understand what exactly happened.
Snow’s “Meah Boll” was an example of this, where a narrator owns a peculiar pet that has an unusual growth spurt and becomes more monstrous overtime. I enjoyed the suspense and I knew that the animal was a monster of some sort, but wasn’t sure what kind and why did specifically bloody beef make it transform.
Despite that, I still found The Silence Under Your Bed largely enjoyable. It is abundant with visual and audio experiences, filled with lurid, cut-throat prose. It’s highly recommended for people who enjoyed childhood spooky classics such as Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, or if you liked Bravemule’s previous works.
If you enjoy interactive fiction and visual novels, then this is a treat for you. Bravemule is a unique force in indie gaming, where storytelling is often ignored as an art much like in the realm of AAAs.
Narrative games are becoming more visible and it will continue to be one of the most underappreciated, but most powerful modes of gaming experiences.
All screenshots are taken from the game itself with Snip & Sketch, except the title screen which is taken from the official itch.io page
Wei Yuan Lee is a interactive fiction writer and game dev. He enjoys spooky interactive fiction, quirky platformers and RPGmaker games. He checks Itch.io religiously.