I’m just here to stack some shelves, get paid, and maybe clean up the odd pool of vomit. So why am I stuck in a storage cupboard having a small anxiety attack as hordes of displeased customers gather outside the door yelling at me to find them a delicious beverage?
It’s my first day on the job, and I want to impress my boss. So after a strange encounter with a fellow employee who threw up on me and then quit, I don my apron and get ready to stack some shelves in this quaint supermarket.
I pick up a box of DIY supplies and head over to the homecare section to offload all the products, but as I make my way over, I feel a presence at my back. I dart around to check what thing is waiting for me in the shadows, but I see nothing behind me.
Time to stack some shelves and get on with my job. I can't be caught slacking with boxes scattered all over the shop and shelves needing restocking. So here I am, placing hammers on a shelf, happily getting on with my task when I see something flit across my periphery. Now I’m scared.
Panicked, I speedily load up the rest of the hammers, but it’s too late. Before I know it, a feral granny runs at me, screaming for deodorant. I do the only thing I can think of and throw the box of hammers at her. It works: I have enough time to get out of her old wrinkly grasp.
Running into the center aisle, I see what awaited me in the shadows. Twisted and foaming at the mouth, groups of seething customers tangle themselves around the shelves, poised to jump straight at me. I’m not paid enough for this. I run to the nearest storage room, my safe haven, with hordes of customers clasping at my heels. I enter this dim and damp room and shut the door behind me. I need to rethink my job prospects.
This small glimpse into the terror that is retail service is Night of the Consumers, and it’s by far one of the most anxiety-inducing horror games I’ve played. You are thrust into your first day on the job, and after a little explanation from your less-than-pleasant boss, it’s time to get to work.
The aim of the game is simple. Find all twelve boxes scattered around the supermarket, carry them to the designated aisle, and stock the shelves with the products. Unfortunately, the customers in this shop aren’t your model citizens, so they will screech, tackle, and chase you around the store as you try to complete your task. Whatever you do, don't get caught and let the timer run out.
No blood, guts, or horrific supernatural monsters are waiting to drag you into hell. They don’t have to: you’re already there. Instead, Night of the Consumers plays on the internal terror of being helpless and confused in a retail shop. Whether you worked in customer service or remember losing a parent in a big supermarket store when you were younger, many can relate to this horror.
One of the more charming details about Night of the Consumers is how its graphics style mimics early PS1 games. This blocky and low poly art style adds to the horror as the customers' grinning faces are unnaturally stretched across the character models.
But this retail nightmare isn’t the only game that took inspiration from early days horrors. Another brilliant game in this aspect is Gloomwood. Trapped in a cursed Victorian city, you must navigate the dark pixelated streets of this cursed town and stealth your way out before death catches up. Think Thief but with guns.
There’s also the brilliant Itch.io release of Bloodborne PSX. It has all the great fights and monsters of Bloodborne but with the charming twist of PS1 graphics. Set in another gothic Victorian city, you must survive an onslaught of monsters until morning.
Despite the quality of these two games, I still have to say that Night of the Consumer takes the cake for me. There’s nothing quite like being trapped in a small damp room, rocking back and forth, and stress-eating the stale bread that someone forgot to throw out.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.