What would you do when death presents itself, but you're not ready to die? You push through. That's the premise of Rage In Peace, which features everything you need from a video game: brutal kills, dark humor, and a heart-rending plot.
Rage In Peace is a new game created by Rolling Glory Jam, the independent game developer based in Bandung, Indonesia, and published by Toge Productions. It's a side-scrolling platformer with smooth, lively animation where each level is crammed with endless traps of the most insane kind. It was officially released last week on digital game distributor platform Steam.
Taking place inside an average office space that's been engulfed in flames and cracks, players control 27-year-old Timmy Malinu, a jaded corporate employee with a marshmallow-shaped head whose life changed when he received a visit from the Grim Reaper telling him he will die today. The players' job is basically save Timmy from traps and obstacles so he can live another day.
After every few steps, players will be faced with deadly traps ranging from sharks that jump out of water puddles to spiked wrecking balls that come out of nowhere and a sliding stone henge that crushes everything on its way. A good comparison might be the critically-acclaimed 2016 game Limbo with its trial-and-death gameplay (the developers also cite other titles like Braid, Bastion, To The Moon, Owlboy, Dust as key influences).
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Indeed, the developers had the end in mind when they began to develop the game. The purpose is to remind gamers of their own mortality in a non-scary way, said Dominik D. Putranto, who directed, designed, wrote and programmed the game and with co-writer Halida Astatin.
“Some of it was about looking at how death of a close one would change someone's life completely, basically shaping that person's future,” says Dominik.
More so than stupid ways to die, the game is about perseverance.
"The key idea is about how challenging it sometimes is to try and reach whatever goal you have," Dominik said. "But that you can reach it if you work really, really hard. That's the underlying premise of the game's memorization approach. It's different than games that rests on skills, lucks, or a super-brilliant mind to finish it."
Visually, Dominik and his colleagues, Rizki Riva Marino and Karina Utami Putri, looked to fellow independent game developers Behemoth and Juicy Beast for inspiration.
“What we thought was interesting to explore was the contradiction between the gameplay's absurdity and trolling nature and the story, which is more on the serious and depressing side of things,” Dominik says. “We've had sessions where we were in a sour mood, and forced ourselves to work on a level, and it just turned out to be a bad level that you had to grind through and was no fun to play.”
The game's first level was given away for free on Steam last year as a trial run, where it gained the attention of a lot of game journalists and game vloggers who then posted play-throughs on their YouTube channels. Most notably, it received a shout out from PewDiePie, arguably the most controversial and influential YouTube game vlogger ever. And the hype around Rage In Peace isn't just out of pure luck.
Gervasius Anton, who also goes by Hasta, runs a popular gaming channel on YouTube called HastalavistaGaming. He played one of the game's earliest demos, and told me that the game works because it perfectly balances the art of being "ragingly" difficult without coming across as unfair.
"It definitely falls on the playable spectrum of rage gaming," Hasta said. "And for an indie game, it's got great graphics and humor too."
One element of the game that makes it stand out to other communities outside of game addicts is its soundtrack, which was curated by sound artist company Monkey Melody and indie label Nanaba Records. This isn't the first time a local game developer has worked with underground musicians, but this is the first of its kind and scale.
“I was intrigued with how independent musicians could work within a different discipline outside of the usual music landscape,” said Jodi Setiawan, the owner of Nanaba Records owner Jodi Setiawan, whose band Peonies also contributed a song to the game. The soundtrack's physical format will be Nanaba's final release before the label dissolves this year.
“It just happens that I'm a massive gamer myself, and having seen how they've set the music against certain scenes, you can tell they definitely know how important it is to the overall of each action that's playing onscreen,” Jodi said. "The music here isn't just there as background, it's there to also share center stage."
For the developers, the game will hopefully provide some pondering material beyond its addictive gameplay, whether it's about work, life, or death.
“Death can come at anytime and for any reason, in ways that we didn't even imagine, even stupid and silly ways," Dominik said.