Oíche Mhaith (Irish for "good night" and pronounced [ee-ha whah]) is a game that had been on my list for a while. Yesterday, I discovered that it's actually a browser game developed by Terry Cavanagh - indie developer who also created other minimalistic games - and it can be played, for free, on Newgrounds (recommendation: visit the page with an ad-block as the adverts can be a bit... uncomfortable aka NSFW). The game took me by surprise, so I decided to come here and tell you folks about it.
Oíche Mhaith is described as an RPG-style game, but in reality, players have little agency and the commands are the most basic navigation keys. Later in the game, there's a puzzle that's also very simple. More than an RPG, I'd consider Oíche Mhaith a horror game. A social horror game, we might say; a subgenre that can be even scarier because of the realism surrounding it.
The aforementioned "style", then, better applies to the aesthetic, reminiscent of the RPGs you found in older consoles like GameBoy.
And, my friends, what an aesthetic! Oíche Mhaith most striking feature is the skilled design behind it. As soon as players press play, they are introduced to a colourful, bright world. But it takes less than a minute to figure out that things are not as pretty and happy as the exterior suggests. The power that the game has to suck players into its atmosphere is terrific - something that much longer games fail to do
Graphics ally with a fantastic sound design. The single track fits perfectly in this setting while also reminding me of Celtic instruments. And the sound when we move from room to room? That's pure haunting!
All this comes together to weave the game's story. Lasting approximately 20 minutes, Oíche Mhaith is the equivalent of a short animated film. Players control a blue-haired girl named Eimear [eh-mar] as she returns from an unspecified activity to be confronted by an angry mother. From there on, players have interactions filled with verbal and emotional abuse with Eimear's dysfunctional family in a series of tasks that are quite simple and mundane but illustrate a situation that could be the sad reality of many families. The theme is not an easy one, and it delivers an uncomfortable that invites some reflection.
Oíche Mhaith neither reinvent the wheel nor does anything spectacular, but it shows the power of design to bring players into a new world even when time and resources are so limited. As a writer who has difficulty writing short stories, cases like this are incredibly inspiring! Plus, it's Irish!
It's impossible to talk much about this wee game without spoiling it. In my opinion, it's worth experiencing it for yourself. If you do give it a try, come share your thoughts with us!