HPS1 Summer of Shivers: THERE SWINGS A SKULL

“THERE SWINGS A SKULL” by Quinn K., Conor Walsh & Leaf Let.

Not only by the evocative title, but also by the content warnings appearing right at the beginning (“Climate-apocalypse, immolation, dehydration, smoking, hanging”) it quickly becomes clear that “THERE SWINGS A SKULL” is not a feel-good game, but rather a ludic punch in the face. Here, the climate crisis has long since ceased to be a threatening scenario and has already become a feverish nightmare. To visualize this everyday horror, the team behind the terrific jam submission took the artistic liberty of blatantly exaggerating the realistic effects of climate change (such as severe droughts and constantly new heat records): Here, people can literally be pulverized by the sun.

Despite this incredible danger, not much seems to have changed in the system in the city where Anatoli, a train ticket salesman, lives with his husband Pyotr. Every day Anatoli goes about his job, chats with his colleague Dolores, listens to the mayor’s public service announcements, watches the weather forecast and, after a quick chat with Pyotr, goes to bed after a long day’s work. Only slowly do the effects on the body and psyche become noticeable – a little more with each passing day, until eventually everything is on fire.

Responsible for this are especially the grandiose written dialogues, the environmental storytelling as well as the rare but effectively used cutscenes. The tombstone inscriptions are at least as telling as the choice of location for the rope on which people hang themselves to escape this hell. The change in tone in an otherwise routine conversation can be as startling as the increasingly stark subjects in a sketchbook of someone we thought we knew. In this way, “THERE SWINGS A SKULL” succeeds in exposing the fragility of the everyday as a central object of anxiety. I am deeply impressed. [PLAY]