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Cosmic horror game Rotten Flesh is a dog-owner’s worst nightmare

Voice-activated horror game arrives on Steam today

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Cosmic horror game Rotten Flesh takes the creeping survival horrors of Amnesia, Outlast, and Silent Hill and gives it a compelling twist: You’re searching for your lost dog, Roy, and the only way to track him down is to call his name. But Roy’s not the only creature who can hear you as you beckon him to return. Terrifying, flesh-eating monsters roam the sewers where Roy has escaped, and they can track you by your shouts of “Roy!” too.

Developer Steelkrill Studio — which consists of a single person — reinforces Rotten Flesh’s clever pitch by letting players use their actual voice to call their dog. The game supports microphone controls, meaning you have to shout “Roy!” to call for your furry friend.

Rotten Flesh looks like a nightmare for dog owners like me, who adopted a dog that has zero recall ability. If he (Teddy) were to ever escape, there’s a non-zero chance he’d run gleefully to his own death and never return, no matter how many times I shouted his name.

A dark tunnel in Rotten Flesh, featuring long-armed doll-like creatures sitting in chairs
Yep, it’s dark down here.
Image: Steelkrill Studios

Ryan, who runs Steelkrill, isn’t a dog owner, however. The Malta-based indie dev, who studied game development while working in a factory, told me in an email, “I love dogs and used to have a chihuahua that I dearly loved when I was younger but today I have a cat named Biscuit and she’s the best sidekick ever.”

Rotten Flesh, Ryan says, is based on his love of classic horror films and video games: The Thing, Event Horizon, Silent Hill 2, Alone in the Dark, etc. His new game — Ryan’s fourth survival horror effort — is styled after games released on the original PlayStation. “These low-res poly games creeped me out way more than modern games do, so I wanted to try something like that which was what got me in creating Rotten Flesh,” he said. “I just feel right at home when making a [horror] game. I also just love also seeing people’s reactions to them.”

Part of the inspiration for implementing voice controls came from a previous game of Ryan’s, The Backrooms 1998, a found-footage survival horror game that can detect players’ jump scare-induced screams. “I always liked the microphone usage in games such as in Alien Isolation,” Ryan said. “I think I was requested by someone to add it to Trenches [another Steelkrill release] as an update, which then I implemented it on my second game The Backrooms 1998 where the monster can hear your voice.”

A first-person view of a severed human leg on a table with the prompt “Grab” from the game Rotten Flesh
Equip severed leg?
Image: Steelkrill Studios

“For Rotten Flesh I wanted to take it to next level by making the game hear your voice — and then reply back to you if you are close to your dog [...] so you have to make a difficult decision between shouting for your dog [...] or silently trying to not alert the enemy.”

Rotten Flesh’s game mechanics and aesthetics will look familiar to anyone who’s played an Amnesia or Silent Hill game. Players have limited ammunition, the ability to hide under objects as monsters prowl, and little more than their wits to help them survive. They can also exploit the enemy’s weakness — a taste for flesh, from which the game draws its name — by throwing decapitated heads or dismembered limbs as a means of distraction.

Players with a strong constitution can now venture into Rotten Flesh’s cramped, claustrophobic underground corridors. And if you don’t want to actually shout “Roy!” over and over, you can also just press your keyboard’s space bar and let the game do the shouting for you.

Rotten Flesh is available now on Windows PC via Steam.

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