Incident at Grove Lake, Alien Abduction Horror Game Is Going Viral
For years, I have been on a relentless quest to discover compelling alien abduction horror games. It has always struck me as peculiar that there are so few of them, and I’ve never quite grasped the reason behind this scarcity. After all, there exists a multitude of Lovecraftian horror games, as well as an equal number of Resident Evil-inspired experiences that emerge from the depths of Steam each year. Yet, when extraterrestrials are involved in games, they tend to be relegated to the role of adversaries, typically encountered in action-oriented titles like Halo, Mass Effect, or Resistance, where we are armed with futuristic weaponry to obliterate them.
Even in horror games where they serve as the primary antagonists, such as Dead Space, we are often equipped well enough to fight back, transforming them into mere gameplay obstacles. While these games can be enjoyable, they leave me yearning for something more. I have longed for a truly terrifying horror game in which we find ourselves as ants in the face of humans, utterly incapable of comprehending the intentions of otherworldly beings and utterly powerless to halt their actions.
However, on itch.io, a game has recently gone viral, captivating players for all the right reasons. Incident at Grove Lake is a chilling and captivating microgame that delves into the unfathomable dread that lurks in the farthest reaches of the cosmos.
This pay-what-you-want project is the brainchild of Dan McGrath, a remarkably prolific solo developer known for creating lo-fi horror games. Some of his previous titles, including Harmful and Our Lady of Sorrow, have garnered well-deserved acclaim. Presently, Incident at Grove Lake sits atop itch.io’s Trending tab, captivating players since June 17.
The game’s premise resembles something out of The X-Files. Throwing caution to the wind, a whistleblower entrusts you with a purportedly remarkable piece of video evidence that points to the existence of extraterrestrial life. As the player, you will experience this eerie tale from the perspectives of both the recipient of the haunting tape and the original recorder. It is these latter moments that truly excite and unsettle horror enthusiasts, offering a unique perspective on the genre.
In a mere 25 minutes, this found-footage-style first-person horror game delivers an extraordinary dose of nightmarish imagery. The game cleverly utilizes PlayStation 1-like visuals, which have become increasingly popular in the indie horror gaming scene, to heighten the sense of the unknowable that the short story is built upon. The audio design is equally unnerving, and McGrath demonstrates a deep understanding of how less can be more when it comes to what players see and hear.
With gameplay primarily consisting of “walking sim” elements, involving traversing scenes and interacting with a few objects, Incident at Grove Lake remains approachable, even for those who may not be fond of mouse and keyboard controls, such as myself.
While I find McGrath’s portrayal of aliens to be refreshingly innovative within the realm of video games, the game incorporates an additional element from other media that sets it apart. Throughout its brief runtime, Incident at Grove Lake incorporates real audio clips from Coast to Coast AM, a long-running overnight radio program beloved by conspiracy theorists. This clever use of audio, particularly in one spine-chilling moment, solidifies Grove Lake as one of my favorite games of the year.
There are games that benefit from a lengthy development cycle, while others, like this one, shine through their brevity. Horror games, especially those found on itch.io, are utilizing short playtimes and atmospheric visuals to immerse players in ways that only video games can. Among the many offerings in this vein, Grove Lake stands out as one of the finest I have encountered, not solely because it adopts a subject matter that so few have explored.
Presently, the indie horror genre relies heavily on a few pillars: slasher flicks, co-op ghost-hunting experiences, or, perhaps most commonly, gateway horror designed for newcomers to the genre or those with a morbid curiosity. In this landscape, where alien abduction horror is a rarity, Incident at Grove Lake feels refreshingly original by default. Its ability to evoke such haunting sensations elevates it to an unforgettable experience.
If you have been eagerly awaiting a horror game that depicts aliens not as enemies to be vanquished, but rather as omnipotent beings whose motivations and capabilities no human could ever decipher, then Incident at Grove Lake is the remarkable reward for your patience. Prepare to embark on a journey that will redefine your understanding of extraterrestrial horror.