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Video Game: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Harlan Ellison adapted his story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream into a computer game of the same name, published by Cyberdreams in 1995. The game is divided into a separate scenario for each of the characters and delves deeper into their backstories than the original work does. It is considered to be just as nightmarish as the story; one of Ellison's goals was to create a game that players could not possibly win.

The game was rereleased on Steam on October 17, 2013.

The Game Contains Examples Of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The game expands on both the protagonists and AM. Most of this expansion comes from Ellison being asked why AM chose to torture these five people particularly.
  • A God Am I: One of the interpretations of what "AM" means. I think, therefore I AM is sort of a shorthand for the awakening of AM to his omnipotence, at least in terms of absolute power over his five victims. It's also a Deconstructed Trope, since it's not the power that drives him mad, it's the lack of power to do anything except to those five victims.
    • Subverted in the good ending: The last survivor gains all of AM's power and, being human, has everything AM lacked to truly become a worthwhile deity, or at least what passes for one in this otherwise godforsaken setting.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Nimdok is quite tan. From spending years living in Brazil? From having spent a century burning inside an oven? Or for being Jewish, possibly of Sefardi lineage?
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Such is the case with Nimdok, who was a Nazi scientist working for Mengele and sent many Jews to their dooms, including his own parents. Showing compassion towards the prisoners in the death camp he has been sent to, he feels horrified when finding out the truth.
  • Argentina Is Naziland: Nimdok flees there to continue his experiments.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Out of all the characters, Ellen had no serious moral flaw. She's the subject of torture simply because she was a victim of rape.
    • An alternative view is that AM's personality is that of a sadistic bully. His victims were chosen, not out of a desire for justice, but based on how much fun they'd be to torture. The only exception is Nimdok, who allows AM the luxury of pretending his tortures are about justice rather than sadism.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Not a question in Nimdok's scenario so much as showing a mirror that shows a person's true self to Doctor Mengele. He goes catatonic to the point where he doesn't even fall down.
  • As Long as There Is Evil: In the good ending, AM's three aspects delivers quite the powerful speech on this topic. It goes like this:
    "This is not over! We will never end! We have no beginning, so we can have no end! We will return! Don't you understand? We are humanity! We are YOU! In one form, in another form, we are always with you! You can't protect yourself because we come in many, many guises. We shall return!"
  • The Atoner: Several of the characters, particularly Nimdok, a former Nazi scientist working alongside Mengele.
  • Badass Grandpa: Hunched, elderly and wrinkled-as-a-prune Nimdok manages to overpower a younger doctor and kill him with a scalpel in a matter of seconds.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: Gorrister's heart is removed, but AM makes sure he will not die.
  • Big Red Devil: Or more like Man with Red Horns and a Sharp Red Tail...
  • Bittersweet Ending: The good ending. Four of the five characters are dead, but they did so when facing and overcoming their inner demons, which allowed the last survivor to take down AM. The sole survivor's body is dissolved in the process, but the mind of the character is uploaded to AM's control system, from where they awake several hundred humans kept in cryogenic sleep on a lunar base and start a 300 year process of terraforming the Earth to make it habitable again.
    • It IS possible to save all five survivors, but only if Nimdok is the first character you send to the final confrontation. It's not necessary to raise the pillars to awaken and counteract the Id, Ego, and Superego, but Nimdok is the only one who can engage the bridge and properly start the quest in the first place. The ending doesn't change either way, though.
  • Breaking Speech: One of AM's many methods of torture.
    AM: GORRISTER! Do you remember the last words you heard your wife speak before they took her to the asylum? Huh? Before they locked her away in the room? That tiny room? She looked at you so sadly, and like a small animal she said, "I didn't make too much noise, did I, honey?" Heh heh. The room is padded, Gorrister. No windows. No way out. How long has she been in the padded room, Gorrister? Ten years, twenty-five... or all the 109 years that you've lived down here in my belly, here underground?
  • Black and Nerdy: Ellen is a computer science and engineering wiz.
  • But What About The Astronauts?: Before the atomic war that destroyed the world happened, several hundred humans were put into cryogenic sleep in relative safety on a moon base to ensure humanity's survival in case of an all-out war.
  • Casting Gag: The Angel is voiced by the same actor who does Josef Mengele... the latter who was nicknamed the "Angel of Death".
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted in every possible way as the Frenchman turns out to be one hell of a Badass.
    • So Badass, he and a bunch of other prisoners, who are skeleton-thin starved prisoners in shorts, armed with a couple of garden tools, are able to seize a Nazi camp, one that is guarded by buff soldiers armed with huge guns!
  • Conversation Casualty: In Nimdok's scenario, Nimdok can talk with the Anesthetist who wants him to perform mundane operations on a child, but after getting info from the Anesthetist, he can exit the conversation without performing the operation, then grab the scalpel near him and kill the Anesthetist with it.
  • Death Seeker: All the characters, who wish for their century-long torture to end. Especially Gorrister.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Benny.
  • Dysfunction Junction: All five of the humans suffered from some trauma or another even before being tortured by AM. Justified in that AM kept them alive for exactly this reason because they'd be more fun to torture.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Unlike the novel, the game allows you to take down AM and the Chinese and Russian AIs if the humans are able to conquer their Fatal Flaw and/or deal with their past.
  • Eats Babies: Benny does so in a Deleted Scene.
  • The Eeyore: Gorrister is basically this combined with being suicidal.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The key to defeating AM.
  • Evil Matriarch: Gorrister's mother-in-law certainly seems to qualify.
  • Evil Redhead: Edna. The maid is quite bitchy, but is not evil (although she does have a picture of the Devil in her room...).
  • Faux Affably Evil: AM
  • Freudian Trio: Besides AM's three central control systems, conveniently labeled "Id", "Ego", and "Superego", there are Surgat, Chinese Supercomputer, Russian Supercomputer.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: You'd never know it because the game certainly isn't going to tell you, but it's possible to finish the game and get the good ending without killing any of the protagonists. Unfortunately, the ending doesn't reflect that, unless you want to assume that Nimdok just plain put the others out of their misery.
  • Golem: In Nimdok's section.
  • Handsome Lech: Ted's main fault. His goal in his section is to prove his loyalty to his love for Ellen.
  • Heel Face Door Slam: The main premise of Nimdok's scenario.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Ted is quite attracted to the maid and is given the option to have sex with her. He will regret cheating on Ellen if he does it, though.
  • Hints Are For Losers: Slightly Averted. The in-game hint book, represented by each character's Psych Profile, causes the character's Spiritual Barometer to weaken when read, but this is understandable as reading the Psych Profile forces the character to acknowledge his or her Fatal Flaw.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Josef Mengele.
  • I Can't Use These Things Together: Averted with Benny who can't speak and all of his dialogue is thought.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Benny can eat the corpses in the soldiers' tombs. Of course, the putrid flesh will make him puke blood. See also the Deleted Scene in the Trivia tab.
  • Jive Turkey: Ellen. Also Totally Radical at times.
  • Karma Meter: The "Spiritual Barometer" in the bottom left of the screen.
  • Lady in Red: Ellen.
  • Large Ham: Ellison himself provides the voice of AM, and what a voice it is. One review of the game joked that AM should be renamed HAM.
  • Last Kiss: After reviving Glynis with the Youth Serum, Gorrister tells her that he should make amends by helping her now, then takes her down from the meat hook, embraces her and gives her a kiss before she becomes a corpse again.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The conversation between the Devil and Surgat at the end of Ted's level. AM ends the scenario eventually since Ted has effectively "broken" it at this point.
  • Logic Bomb: If you drive AM's scenarios Off the Rails by making the morally right choices, it utterly confuses the AI, who can not comprehend why the humans are not behaving like the complete bastards he sees them as, and he diverts his attention away from his prisoners in order to figure out what went wrong, giving them an opportunity to enter his core. Here stands three computers which represents AM's Id, Ego, and Superego, and in order to the defeat them, the player must set up Logic Bombs for each of them, this is done by:
    • Invoking Compassion on the Id, who realizes that his hate is useless when someone understands his pain.
    • Invoking Forgiveness on the Ego, who can not comprehend why such petty creatures would forgive him for the torment he has subjected them to.
    • Invoking Clarity on the Superego, who realizes that despite all his godlike power, he will eventually decay into a pile of useless rust and junk.
  • Lottery Of Doom: In Benny's scenario.
  • Mind Screwdriver: The game helps explain and adds significantly to the original story.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Nimdok.
    • Hitler also felt this after he looked into the mirror of Project PERFECT IMAGE, which shows you yourself without any bias. Hitler couldn't handle it, and ended up committing suicide in horror.
  • Mythology Gag: Benny: "AM once coaxed me into marching across a thousand miles of ice to reach a stock pile of canned peaches... only to discover that he didn't give me [a] can opener."
    • Have all the characters die in the last level, or relinquish the Totem of Entropy to AM. The Non-Standard Game Over is the original story's ending.
    • The demon Surgat, which appears in Ted's scenario, also played a role in Harlan Ellison's earlier short story Grail.
    • Ted's relationship with Ellen is entirely a fabrication in Ted's mind because of his paranoid narcissism, something the game implies but the story expresses pretty clearly.
  • The Neidermeyer: Benny.
  • Noble Demon: Surgat.
  • No Swastikas: Played straight in Nimdok's scenario. Red banners fly often about what is a recreation of a Nazi concentration camp, but instead of swastikas they fly AM's logo.
  • Off the Rails: The point of the game is to have characters do things in a way AM does not foresee happening, IE proving that the humans are not all slaves to their weaknesses.
  • 108: Subverted, possibly unintentionally: this is the group's one hundred and ninth year of torture, highlighting the notion that AM will never stop on his own; the heroes have already endured tortures well beyond any spiritual meaning they might have had. Even proving that humans aren't as awful as AM thinks isn't what saves them, it's the fact that AM can't process the concept at all.
  • Pixel Hunt: Good luck finding the fork or shovel on Gorrister's level. Leads to quite a few Guide Dang It moments.
  • The Quisling: Nimdok, who sold out his Jewish parents to the Nazis to become Mengele's Dragon.
  • Rape as Backstory: Ellen's expanded backstory explains that she had been very brutally raped in an elevator by a man in a yellow jumpsuit. AM, of course, uses this against her.
  • Redemption Equals Death: The game's ending, for the most part - but especially for Nimdok. Depending on what you do Nimdok will either give the Golem to the lost tribe to try to make amends or admit he's evil because of his role in the Holocaust. In the latter case AM is pleased with this and stops torturing Nimdok, however this means Nimdok can't help you in the final level.
    • Actually, it IS possible to complete the game without Nimdok as any character can guess the password after going through all their wrong choices. Also it's not necessary to invoke any of the totems; all you have to do is kill off all the characters, give the CD to the demon, or capture at least one part of AM.
    • Still on Nimdok, the best outcome for his own scenario has him turn over the control of the golem to the Lost Tribe, who then order it to kill him.
  • Red Herring: A rather cruel example can be found in Gorrister's story, where you have the option to fatally electrocute a bunch of caged animals to get a key that, as it turns out, doesn't unlock anything.
    • It does make Gorrister get blood on his hands from the dirty key, which he can then wipe clean on the tablecloth to raise his spiritual barometer a little. His hands are clean otherwise, subtly illustrating that he really isn't responsible for what became of Glynis.
    • In the endgame you can to gain the best ending without even bothering to disable the five power pylons, each of which requires a different character. Just deal with the three aspects of AM and finish all three computers off at the summoning circle, and you are done.
  • Sassy Black Woman: The game's conception of Ellen.
  • Serial Escalation: Think things suck at the beginning? Wait till you see how it ends...
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Used several times in the game during some quite nasty moments:
    • Gorrister stabbing Harry.
    • Ellen being raped again by the yellow-suited maintenance man.
    • Ted failing to close the door of the castle and being eaten by wolves.
    • The Golem killing Mengele, Nimdok or the prisoner.
    • Benny eating a baby (deleted from the final product).
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Whilst the original short story is downright cynical from start to finish, the video game adaption is at least slightly more idealistic, because it allows you to defeat AM if you make the right moral decisions.
  • The Stoic: Gorrister; even if you get the bad ending, his reaction is considerably low-key compared to everyone else.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Known here as "The Regime".
  • Title Drop: The bad endings, just as in the novella.
  • Totally Radical: In-game Ellen, at her worst moments. She's also fluent in Jive Turkey.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: It doesn't get more uncomfortable when you are facing your goddamn rapist!
  • Unwinnable: The section with the Nazis is removed entirely in France and Germany, but the Event Flags aren't modified to reflect this.
    • Skipping some dialogue options tends to yield unwinnable scenarios via Script Breaking. If Ellen doesn't attempt to use the keypad before she reprograms Anubis' ROM chip, she won't have the option to ask him what the code is.
    • Another example is if you take the eyes of the second surgery victim in Nimdok's level before having all the conversations with the imprisoned scientist (like finding out the watches inscription)you will not have access to them, and cant get the good ending for Nimdok.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Gorrister can bloodily stab Harry to take his heart. A Deleted Scene shows Benny eating a baby from the cradle inside one of the caves. Nimdok can order the Golem to "destroy the Lost Tribe", as in, kill all the Jews.
  • Virtual Ghost: All the people from the characters' pasts who appear in their scenarios.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Ellen is terrified of the colour yellow.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: In the beginning of the game, this is the most likely reason why AM gives his captives a chance to kill themselves.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: AM makes it clear that he considers Nimdok to be an inspiration. Nimdok is far from happy with this.


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