What if playing a videogame could kill you in real life? It’s an intriguing premise if you’ve never seen a movie about a videogame before. Unfortunately, it’s well-worn territory thanks to films like Brainscan, Stay Alive, The Call Up, and a number of others. In Choose or Die, a new horror film on Netflix, an evil text adventure from the 1980s starts killing people in horrible if slightly boring ways when players dig it out of the bargain bin and start playing it.

Choose or Die begins with a mom and her son screaming at each other while a sad dad, played by Eddie Marsan (who is somehow constantly being cast as an American despite not doing a particularly believable American accent) retreats to his room to play a retro text adventure called CURS>R. The game is blatantly magic and immediately begins changing Eddie Marsdan’s reality based on his choices in the adventure. When he chooses to have a drink in the game, a drink appears in real life. When he puts his beer bottle down on his desk, the game’s text immediately reflects that. Huh, that’s odd, thinks Eddie Marsan upon witnessing actual magic. Then the game stops being cute and starts doing horrible things to Eddie’s annoying family members.

My first issue with the game of CURS>R is that it’s not much of a text adventure, more of a Would You Rather-esque series of horrible choices. Would you rather your asshole wife lose her ears or your asshole son lose his tongue? Eddie Marsan has to choose an option, or die—although that’s not even true because he doesn’t choose and he doesn’t die. The game chooses for him and his family suffers the consequences.

(Image credit: Stigma Films, Netflix)

The other unrealistic part of CURS>R (apart from it causing Eddie Marsan’s family to begin mutilating each other) is that it doesn’t really feel like a game from the 1980s. For an evil text adventure, it’s far more helpful than real ’80s games like Zork or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. CURS>R plainly lays out your options, giving you a clear choice, when in reality early text adventures were never that helpful. Figuring out what you could do in a game usually involved typing command after command until you stumbled onto the right one. Hell, there was a D&D-like text adventure called Swordthrust for the Apple II where you couldn’t even “drink potion” or “swallow potion.” The actual acceptable command was “imbibe potion.” Now that’s an evil text adventure.

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