This subtle desert horror fiction will haunt you


At first, CHYRZA is gently-transfixing because of everything it allows: Using the keyboard you traverse a slow meditation across an enormous desert, silhouetted by structures you naturally investigate. These towers of dark blood-colored marble have floating stairs, or pendant-like elevators moving slowly in space, and you worry about falling. You worry about your movements and your timing.

But you need not. The things that you think are impossible are possible; you plummet harmlessly toward the sand, and you can, sometimes, traverse air. The world of ruins, lit by the iridescent light of an uncanny, sulfur-colored moon, becomes a sort of idle playground, and you naturally find yourself collecting little green crystals along the way. Each one is a fragment of a strange memoir, murmured by a wood-smooth but sepulchral voice against the desert air. Once you've heard a little of the voice's story—it concerns the stark, angular pyramid that contrasts oddly against the soft sand hillocks of the skyline— you start to fear the ending.

The last game we played by CHYRZA's developer, Kitty Horrorshow, was Hornets, an elegantly-written text game about the aftermath of some dread ritual, where you see the blood-slick bodies of oddly docile giant hornets as you trawl a beautiful ruined city. That same juxtaposition of beautiful, near-religious mystery against the slow dread of unknown darkness is also present in CHYRZA, and brings you to a genuinely-jarring conclusion.


CHYRZA is not a new work; Kitty Horrorshow recommended I try it after I declared on Twitter that Offworld likes to fly in the face of traditional video game websites by refusing to discover and rediscover things just because they are not brand-new. Fittingly, CHYRZA flies in the face of traditional video games—like a hot underworld chant, it creeps up on you slowly. It even comes with a WARNING readme file, lest it make its way into your world without your knowledge. I played it on a low-spec laptop and felt the keys begin to burn hot as I approached the (short) game's climax. It was awesome.

CHYRZA, Hornets and numerous other Kitty Horrorshow games are available on her storefront for free or pay-what-you-want.