By Chris Nichols, ©1999
Yellow is a new video game, the first product from American software developer Cloudwave Design, for the Playstation. The game, loosely modeled after Konami’s Silent Hill, shows the main character, John Gaines, searching The City, trying to find the mystery woman he feels driven to protect.
The setting of Yellow is ingenious, a mixture of several real world cities, including New York, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, and apparently ancient Mexico City, incorporating slightly off-kilter versions of the famous landmarks of these and other cities. Completely surrounded by the sea, The City seems to have no exits, although in the distance, a drawbridge and numerous boats can be seen. The City has a very raw and realistic feel, which some reviewers have likened to films ranging from The Maltese Falcon to Seven. The seedy side of the metropolis is shown is stark detail, from brothels to drug dens, from street crime to serial killers, all glossed over by a layer of official corruption. The City, a bustling metropolis at the beginning of the game, gradually turns into a ghost town, and then things start to get really strange. Sickly yellow fogs rolls into the streets, huge beetles scuttle everywhere, buildings age rapidly, a strange island rises from the bay, along with other unsettling events. While the action in The City takes place almost entirely by daylight, the game still creates a sense of dread and impending doom.
One of the features Yellow takes from Silent Hill is its Other City. This flip-side realm is a place of constant night, in contrast to The City’s ever-present day. Here, wraith-like figures drift on the streets, warped spires rise over the streets, and here, the most clues to the location and identity of the woman that the player seeks are found. Features of the other city include a gallery of paintings, an underground carnival, and an observatory, among others. Once The City become a ghost-town, the action switches to and remains in the Other City.
Throughout Yellow, one finds strange black and yellow books. Each book tells part of one of four stories. One story appears to be a novelization of Yellow, and either reflects an action that just occurred, or predicts a future action. The second set of books is a set of poems that vaguely discuss the impermanence and unreality of emotions, ideas, people and reality. The third set of books present non-fiction articles on the occult, violent behavior disorders, high-level physics, astronomy, and other topics. The final set of books contains short sections of lines from a play. Although unnamed, the play is The King in Yellow. Further, reading each book is necessary to advance to the next part of the game.
The cast of characters in Yellow is disturbing as well. While the cast at first is fairly standard – a friendly cop, a shop-owner, and some others – these quickly disappear. Those who remain turn traitor or come to messy ends. The characters take darker turns – a prostitute, a junkie, a serial killer, and a troop of sideshow freaks, all appear – before the Other City’s inhabitants arrive – including, a rag-cloaked thing (is it a man or a corpse?), a brain in a box, and a whispering shadow.
Yellow isn’t just puzzle-solving, reading and exploration though. There’s lots of combat too, in the style of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. As in those games, standard zombies and demons are among the enemies faced. However, Yellow offers a wider variety of foes. Enemies include, an assortment of tentacled things, giant marionettes, strange steam-powered robots, living shadows, and, oddly, in one of the slum sections of The City, a horde of midgets wielding spears and blow guns.
The final segments of the game take the player’s character across a misty lake, where on the far side, they explore and palace. A whole new cast of characters – including, Uoht, Thale, Cassilda, and Noatalba – is introduced, and in the opulent maze of the palace, each new room contains a view of some wholly original scene of horror, eroticism, or both. Interestingly, no palace room contains the some scene. The maze of the palace is apparently randomly generated, as no two players have ever reported playing the same end game. Even web-board set up to discuss the game have not found the same end game out of hundreds of players. Following the woman they have searched for throughout the game, who is now revealed to be Camilla, a princess of either The City or the Other City (accounts vary from character to character), the player threads the maze until they reach the final boss, the being who has drawn Camilla and the player to this place. Obviously, this is a computer representation of The King in Yellow. While not the real
deal, somehow this representation of the King in Yellow is damage to the psyche, none the less.
Through skillful use of atmospheric effects (fog, rain, etc.), sound effects, background music, and other tricks, Yellow manages to create ever increasing paranoia in the player, a paranoia which transfers over into the rest of the player’s life. Further, younger players tend to fixate on the poetry found in Yellow, imitating it and its themes in works of their own. Many player begin to fixate on Yellow to the exclusion of all other hobbies, in some cases up to the exclusion of eating, drinking, on moving to go to the restroom. Further, some experts argue that Yellow desensitizes players, priming them to act out violence in the real world. While these accusations are common to all violent video games, Yellow CDs have been found at the scene of several school shootings and one mail bomb attack.
Interestingly, while produced by an American company, Yellow appears to have a problem similar to the translation errors found in games translated from Japanese markets.
Cloudwave plans to release a sequel to Yellow, called Green, sometime next year.
The involvement of the Secret Senate is, of course, an obvious possibility.
Yellow (Video Game by Cloudwave Productions)
SAN Loss: 1d2/1d4
Cthulhu Mythos: +2%
Study Time: 100+ hours game play