So this week’s VGM I actually don’t know much about. It is from a game that I have played, but it was supposedly in the demo for said game, which I have not played. Furthermore, it is already hard enough to find the original in game versions of the tracks in the original PC release, and this demo loop isn’t included on the official release of the soundtrack. Technically, I can’t really verify if this track is legit or not, but it’s a good one regardless.
TW: Mentions of torture and suicide.
This song is notably different in style compared to the soundtrack of the main game. The main soundtrack consists of ominous atmospheric music that would be fitting in an old silent horror movie, while this one is melodic and more melancholy and somber than creepy. If I’m being honest, I think I actually prefer this over any of the songs in the main game.
A recurring theme in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is that of helplessness and being trapped. The premise is about the last 5 remaining humans being kept alive and tortured for over 100 years by a malevolent supercomputer known as AM. Furthermore, the game differs from the original short story in that each of the five prisoners has their own separate stage that is based around their own flaws and insecurities. Three of the five prisoners are terrible people, and the other two are in poor mental health. AM merely choose the five that would be easiest to torture, rather than basing things on karmic retribution (Being an evil sentient AI tends to ensure that you’re kind of a dick).
AM torture his victims on an emotional and psychological level in addition to a physical level. They are permanently kept alive so AM can torture them for all eternity. He makes them lose hope completely as they are able to do anything to escape their fate; not even die. Perhaps the worst torture is not any specific thing that AM does, but the fact that one is forced to be left alone with their own deteriorating mind. The horror that one can completely crack and lose all control and, unlike in real life, they are forced to keep going even if they already lost their sanity. In a way, the most inaccurate part of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is the fact that the five prisoners are still stable after 101 years of torture (although it could be possible that AM kept them that way for his own amusement).
I have personal experience with this same concept to a lesser extent. Having suffered from suicidal depression and anxiety for many years, life has often felt this way to me. I just want it all to end but I can’t, or rather I can’t bring myself to. Not out of fear of death or the unknown, but because my friends and family. I could never bring myself to commit suicide because of them, but it never helped my mental state. In fact, it just made me feel even more trapped because no one could help me with the actual problem, they can only keep me alive to keep experiencing the horrific sensation while hoping that I just get struck down so it all would end. It is the type of torment that eats at you until you no longer have the will to even resist. You want to scream and cry out in rage but you can’t because you would just draw more attention to yourself and it would make things worse, or at the very least would do nothing; hence why the title I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is not just a creepy sounding phrase, but also a deep metaphor for helplessness. You may not literally “have no mouth” but you certainly can’t use it.
This song, instead of representing a specific moment in the game, encapsulates this feeling perfectly. It’s use of the DOS soundfont is remarkably creative and it was used in a way that enhances the song rather than sounding like it was trying to fit in to it. There is just enough emotion to symbolize that the soul is weary, but not dead. There is a small, very faint amount of hope; and amount so faint that you don’t even know if that’s what it actually is. Rather one creates a small glimmer because they literally cannot survive with any; even if they convince themselves they already have been. It sounds soft, like it still gives off a slight bit of light, but like it could go out any second.
The way how it strides the line between sad, peaceful, and ominous, especially in the second half, brings together a wide variety of emotions and thoughts. Its haunting and ethereal melody exudes the feelings of turmoil and despair that that permeate not just this game’s entire cast, but also the state of a post apocalyptic world in general, almost as if saying that even under all this horrifying shit, it’s still beautiful. Even its status as an unused song serves to further symbolize this as it is buried under a lot of ominous and scary tunes.
It is rather unfortunate that it wasn’t used in the final game, as it is a beautiful song, and is severely underrated due to its under use. It captures the more subtle and allegorical side of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream that often goes unnoticed (like most subtle and allegorical sides of things). Well anyway, that was this week’s VGM. See you next week if we haven’t entered nuclear war, otherwise, I’ll be playing this song on loop.
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