It's a short journey, if that helps.
A Mother's Inferno, a PC/Mac title at E3's IndieCade from Denmark's National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment, examines the five stages of loss as represented by train compartments filled with all manner of angry, illusive and violent demons.
It's first-person, told from the perspective of a mother whose son is suddenly and violently possessed, thrown around their train compartment, and stolen into the leftover nightmarish world. As a red-stained landscape looms outside the train's windows, the mother attempts to reclaim her son, battling evil spirits with just a shard of glass and, we assume, her love.
With "Hell on a train" as its setting, A Mother's Inferno utilizes an extreme creative palate composed of shadows, strobe-light jumps and disturbing character designs, all wrapped in a simplicity that makes the game cohesive rather than overwhelming. The controls are presented in flashes of delirium, seamlessly integrated into the already frenetic environment, and the one demon with the capability of communication has words written clearly over his body. The rest of the world is dark without disappearing, clearly defined even when blurred and full of delicious details, such as the mother's stark reflection in the train windows.
I'd call A Mother's Inferno "short and sweet," but unless the definition of "sweet" has broadened to include flailing chicken spirits, gouging out your own eyes and rowdy demon sex, the game only fits half of that description. The entire thing can be finished in 45 minutes – an hour if you count the time spent convincing yourself that the shadow through the next train door doesn't look that horrifying. Its length speaks to its development time – one month, by students at DADIU – just as its quality returns the favor to the team's talent.
A Mother's Inferno makes a psychological trip into a true game in five quick environments, establishing a story, teaching mechanics and engaging the player in satisfying fights, complete with a terrifying boss battle. Contemplating if the entire journey was indeed real, rather than the rambling hallucination of a mother's diseased mind, can add another layer of intrigue to A Mother's Inferno, though it is unnecessary when the game stands so vividly on its own.
A Mother's Inferno is free to play via DADIU, in a browser or for download on PC or Mac.