As The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home is now on Steam Greenlight, primed for a remake, now is a good time to revisit it. Even after three years it still hasn't lost its power. It still manages to overcome its Default Unity Engine look to deliver a 20-minute experience that captures the devastating beauty of our greatest fears.
TRIHAYWBFRFYH (say it with me: 'tre-hay-bwuh-feh') came out around the time people started to throw the term "walking simulator" around. Dear Esther and Proteus popularized the genre the year before and established a blueprint for a type of game that was easy to replicate. Suddenly, a load of amateur game makers popped up, eager to send players trotting across their own virtual meadows and forests. The point was either to tell a small story or for players to absorb the ambient beauty.
But for his first attempt at making a game, Connor Sherlock tried something a little different from the rest—his nature walk was tainted with cosmic horror. At first, it turns up in TRIHAYWBFRFYH rather crudely. Wander over to one of the upward streams of colored particles dotted around the game's gloomy countryside and you'll hear a voice actor read an extract from one of Lovecraft's stories.
The spoken words are effective at times, mostly as a way to bring a sense of doomed history to the ruined wooden houses you can find. You can imagine the weird events and unknowable creatures that terrify the characters in Lovecraft's passages being played out in the homes you find before they were abandoned. But that requires some work on your part.
Where TRIHAYWBFRFYH succeeds most is in its patient theatrics. From the very start of the game there exists a large grey object in the sky. It looks like a textureless UFO lingering above the Earth, as if its occupants were deciding the fate of our species; like a scene from Independence Day, or perhaps Arrival. Look directly at that thing and a strange growl plays as if you did something you shouldn't have.
As you rush across fields and forests, you'll notice that the shadow cast from the object above grows larger until it blocks the light. It's hard to see but it's steadily moving closer. This realization is the game's pure moment of sublime terror. You don't know what's going to happen what the grey mass arrives but you have a feeling it won't be good.
As if that isn't unnerving enough, mist starts to crawl across the grass, then lightning begins to strike. These are bad omens. Eventually, enormous alien pillars rise up from the ground as if to embrace their brethren descending from the sky. By this time it's as if the sky is falling. By its end, TRIHAYWBFRFYH captures our complicated relationship with accepting our own inevitable death. It's both a terrifying certainty and a transcendent release.