This M’sian Indie Game Set in the ’90s Tackles Mental Illness & Sexual Assault
Story-based games have made a comeback in recent years due to titles like The Last of Us, Death Stranding, Until Dawn, Life is Strange and Beyond Two Souls. These games have been hailed as top-selling releases due to their ingenuous story-telling and integration of the now commonly used trope, ‘The Butterfly Effect’, which is an interactive element that allows players to choose their own journeys and endings.
With those games igniting a resurgence for more complex storylines, it’s no wonder why Malaysian indie game developer, Persona Theory Games, decided to create their own rendition of the genre. Enter Fires At Midnight, a retro-looking horror game that tackles issues such as sexual assault, racism and corruption while having heavy themes of suicide and mental illness.
I know what you’re thinking… That sounds too heavy for the average player and you may be right, but the neon-drenched, ‘graphic novel’ look of the game as well as it’s references to ’90s pop culture in Malaysia and unique gameplay might sway you in the other direction.
What is Fires At Midnight about?
Set in the final years of the ’90s, Fires At Midnight, takes place during the inception of the Internet, which leads to many easter eggs such as Windows 98 OS, Minesweeper and glitchy Internet pornography. Players will play as the two main leads–first as the male character, Yun, before playing as the female counterpart, Chitra. But, their world is no ordinary snapshot of Malaysia…
In this alternate universe, there’s a wild disease called ‘Love Bug’ that causes people to spontaneously combust and explode if they have sexual intercourse with someone they’re not in love with. This naturally evokes fear in those who just want to get it on with no strings attached. I don’t know about you, but that disease sounds like it will save all of us the heartbreak of being ghosted (or ghosting) if it actually existed…
The story essentially revolves around Yun and Chitra who are navigating through flashbacks of their relationship after it all ended. Yun is struggling with his overpowering sexual needs whilst knowing that engaging in mindless sex will lead to death by fire (yikes!) while Chitra is recovering from trauma and her deep hatred towards men, who seemingly in this universe, are all trash.
Watch the teaser below:
Of course from that description alone, you can tell that this game is meant for mature audiences, preferably above the age of 18. Not only does it include nudity, but it also includes mature topics that could potentially be triggering to those with mental illnesses, as mentioned before. So tread carefully!
What makes Fires At Midnight so special?
Since players will be playing as two different characters of two different genres, the game integrates the smart ‘Second Layer’ element, where players will experience everything differently, as if using two separate lens. Technically, that is the truth in real life as well since men and women experience life through totally differently pairs of eyes.
One feature that is present in Yun, the male character, that isn’t available for Chitra, the female, is the magnifying glass. This feature allows Yun to look through women’s clothing, as seen when he peeks at the waitress, exposing her underwear. Some have speculated that this is a harbinger to Yun’s repressed sexual tendencies but I believe this is what we call in film as the ‘male gaze’, which is often applied in movies that have a predominantly male audience (read: Transformers. Damn you, Michael Bay!)
The game is said to take 2 hours to complete one story, making it 6 hours to get all 3 of the alternate endings.
However, the best element of the game is its Malaysian flavour. With characters that speak in Malaysian slang like, “I saw Chitra tapau nasi lemak” to actual images of nasi lemak and the occasional jingle of the “old newspaper, paper lama” trucks, Fires At Midnight is unapologetically Malaysian.
Currently, Fires At Midnight is having a 17% off discount on Steam and you can get it by clicking here.
To see more gorgeous screencaps of the game, check out their Instagram.
For more pop culture, JUICE is pretty cool!