Welcome to Game Pass Roulette, a weekly series where I hit the “Surprise Me” button on Xbox Game Pass for PC and play whatever game the random gods give me. Don’t think of it as a game review, think of it as me exploring different experiences that I would otherwise never have tried and sharing my impressions. Maybe we’ll stumble on something incredible, maybe it’ll be something intriguing or maybe it’ll be a great big dumpster fire. It’s all down to where the Roulette takes me.
Hitting that “Surprise Me” button for the first time, I thought I would get something safe. Perhaps some first-party Microsoft exclusive that everybody and their loving mother has dissected and discussed to oblivion and my impressions would be “yeah, it’s alright.” However, the random gods care not for my assumptions and gave me a hellishly strange game that I have never even heard of before. I didn’t even know the game existed on Xbox Game Pass for PC until the Roulette gave it to me and I was very eager to jump in to satisfy my morbid curiosity.
The game’s name is Apocalipsis, which funnily enough is the shortened title. The full title is Apocalipsis: Harry at the End of the World and it’s developed by a small Poland-based developer called Punch Punk Games. Undoubtedly the first thing that struck me was the extremely interesting art style that managed to tickle my fascination with the weird. The game looks like one of those 15th-century medieval engravings, those that you would see in those funny medieval memes where somebody gets stabbed through the head while smiling. However, not a lot of smiling is happening in this oppressive, depressing and desolate world I suddenly found myself in.
The story is simple, you play as a boy named Harry who loves a girl called Zula who is accused of being a witch and burned alive for her crimes. Harry needs to travel to the underworld to find a way to bring Zula back and boy do you go on some kooky adventures on the way over there. The game starts with a short little cutscene to establish our little love story and then you hoist a hanging corpse out of the water, take a pointy stick from the corpse, stab a rat’s head off and feed it to a demon cat. It was at this point where the game not only had my curiosity, but it now had my attention as well.
Going back to that first little cutscene, the narrator had a relatively thick Polish accent, but I could swear I’ve heard it before somewhere. I checked the game’s information page and they proudly proclaim the narration was done by none other than Adam Darski. You may not know that name, but he’s better known as Nergal from the blackened death metal band Behemoth.
It was such a pleasant surprise as I’m a huge metalhead and Nergal is a legend within the metal community. The last thing I expected to hear was his sultry Polish voice slowly telling a tragic tale of lost love, but it was certainly something I was totally down with. But back to the game at hand.
Apocalipsis falls squarely into the point-and-click adventure category i.e. there are a ton of puzzles, rubbing stuff on other stuff to see if it works and a bunch of head-scratching. I’m woefully inexperienced in the genre as my only experience is Tales of Monkey Island back when I was a little curious gaming larva, but I picked it up pretty quick. The puzzles weren’t exactly easy or hard, but they hit that perfect middle ground of giving you the satisfaction of figuring it out while not being a cakewalk.
But the real reason why the game managed to eventually hook me was the batsh*t crazy scenes and scenarios the game puts you in. The rat stabbing I mentioned was at the start was only the tip of the macabre iceberg and it got progressively more like a fever-dream. Harry stumbles upon some horrific creatures that would give any kid nightmares for at least a month and there are scenes of torture and depressing destitute landscapes around every turn.
I was transfixed by these absolutely bizarre designs and the game does a great job of giving away absolutely nothing. There is no dialogue except for the little storytimes with Nergal and if Harry can’t do something, he just gives a lazy shrug to tell you that your convoluted solution is wrong and you need to try harder. The game just felt so oppressing not only because of the bleak visuals, but there’s also depressing music droning away in your ears to really sell that feeling of hopelessness. Sad, distorted string instruments give this atmosphere that everything is collapsing and the world is slowly descending into Hell. And that’s exactly my jam.
I soon found myself so hooked on seeing the next bizarre scene and doing more of the game’s devilish puzzles that I managed to accidentally finish it within a few hours. It’s not a very long game, but these days I’m thankful for a game that isn’t puffed up with a bunch of nonsense and focuses on what it set out to do. I’m hesitant to call it a “pleasant” experience since it’s more in line with “cocaine trip inside a 15th-century museum”, but because it was so unapologetically out there, I was so glad the Roulette fell on this little weird title since I would have never sought it out myself.
And that’s really the point of this series. Trying games I would never give the time of day to and giving them the chance to surprise me. For this one, I experienced some point-and-click puzzle-solving which is a genre I never really participated in and found something beautiful. Frightening, but still beautiful. I also just saw it is going to leave Game Pass soon so looks like I got there just in time.
Now it’s time to spin the Game Pass Roulette again. I’m doing this live and with no re-rolls. The game I’ll be checking out next week is …
This should be interesting.