I don't even know if Wraughk Audio Design's Deep Sea is intended to be scary, but it's more effective at generating real fear than any game I've ever seen. And it does so with no graphics at all.

The Independent Propeller Award finalist is daunting from the outset: first, the player is helped into the gas mask contraption seen above, with blacked out eyes. Then, noise-canceling headphones are lowered onto your face, and your hand is guided to a flight-stick style joystick.

The game is simple: you use recorded audio direction from an AI character, and directional audio cues, to locate enemies underwater, then "ping" them with your sonar to target them. You'll get feedback from the AI commander character when you ping: things like "It's far to the left," essentially. And that's it!

What makes it terrifying is the combination of instant claustrophobia due to the oppressive mask, and the helplessness of total sensory deprivation. Being scared to death actually makes the game harder, as it tracks your breathing and plays exaggerated "breathing" sound effects over the audio, drowning out commands. I've never considered myself a claustrophobic person, but panic set in immediately upon playing this game.

This seems like one of those games best suited for a proof of concept, or an experience to be had at events. I doubt Wraughk is going to be selling blackout gas masks to anyone. I hope that doesn't happen.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

Battleblock Theater preview: Uncooperation