Electron Dance
14Aug/176

At the Table of Bonbon

bonbon-fireplace

So there's this new release called Bonbon (Aetheric Games, 2017), a horror vignette set in, well, possibly my own British childhood. It's less than an hour of your time although you will have spend £1.50 or $2 to get your mitts on it.

It shows plenty more restraint than what most videogames mean by "horror" but there's one scene in particular which is a terrifying joy.

Now Bonbon is all about the unknown so, if you are spoiled, you won't really be able to get as much out of it. Please only read on if you've played or have no intention to pick it up.

Bonbon starts off in the back garden of your home. You're run through a little tutorial and then, as it's late afternoon, you're tasked by Mum to bring your balls into the house. You might notice a giant albino rat squatting in the alleyway beside the garden. Standing there, looking at you. Twitching. If you don't notice it, the game will make you fall over so you end up looking directly at it: a little bit force-cam, but not the end of the world.

bonbon-garden

The final ball is in the rat's paws. After busting through the metal gate into the garden, he drops it with a carelessness that almost seems like an invitation. Come here, little boy. It falls to the grass and rolls across the garden. Thank the stars for that because, on my first playthrough, I did not want to go anywhere near that thing. If you do get close, you can say hello to him and it turns out you know this rat-dude: his name is Bonbon.

Then we're in the house alone, playing with toys in the living room. Things are normal. The TV is on - and may I just say, for British players of an older age, it's worth watching the TV and letting nostalgia rush over you. It would have been great to have had full commercials to watch, but failing that I'll take a montage. It's putting toys away time again. Controlling the toddler is a little awkward as you cannot carry anything and you're forced to move toys across the room through a series of small throws; thankfully you don't have to tidy up too many toys.

It's too quiet. There's no silhouette of Bonbon through the window or the front door. Am I safe?

bonbon-living-room

Of course, Bonbon turns up and he is holding the last tiny doll in his grasp. And it's no fun getting near Bonbon because he seems to get... excited... the closer you get.

After this it is teatime, with your birthday cake! Yay. Cake. Mum goes to answer the phone and then... Bonbon joins you at the table.

This sequence is all sorts of holy shit dreadful.

You cannot move. Although you're not in one of those high chair prisons, the game keeps you confined. Bonbon is right there, horribly close. And what does he want? What's going to happen?

You soon figure out that Bonbon wants the cake. But the more cake you give him, the more ravenous he becomes. He starts thumping the table and here it becomes genuinely frightening. There's an urge to stop giving him cake because he's getting worse.

I didn't know what to do. I just wanted to get away but the game wouldn't let me. I'm stuck in the damn chair, inches from a giant, slavering rat, demanding cake.

bonbon-cake

Bloody Hell, this bit. At one point I talked to Mr. Chatterbox who was also on the table because it was the only escape from the tension. I was reminded of how children sometimes focus away from a source of tension. Yep, made perfect sense to me. Hello, Mr. Chatterbox.

Finally, Bonbon will devour the remainder of the cake because you can't deliver it to him - it's too far.

Oh, the relief. Because then I'm in bed listening to Daddy telling me a bedtime story on a cassette tape.

Now there are more clever little tricks to come. The bedroom floor covered in millions of tiny people toys that all stare at you. Wobbly Dog being dismembered. The confused, unresponsive controls during the endgame sequence. That dark, terrifying space on the left side of the bed - what kind of evil parents put a bed in the middle of the room without a safe wall on either side? You evil fuckers.

There's also a little jankiness. The long waits in total darkness may confuse some players more than they should. The physics is a little over-sensitive at times, and Bonbon's orange ball, for some reason, bounced seven miles into the air then landed next door on one playthrough.

But that table scene is the heart of Bonbon. It will haunt me for some time.

Bonbon is available from itch.io. The developer provided Electron Dance with a preview copy.

Download my FREE eBook on the collapse of indie game prices an accessible and comprehensive explanation of what has happened to the market.

Sign up for the monthly Electron Dance Newsletter and follow on Twitter!

Electron Dance Highlights

Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. “what kind of evil parents put a bed in the middle of the room without a safe wall on either side?”

    In my case, the same kind who thought it acceptable to hang a portrait at the foot of my bed of some beardy lunatic with a halo touching HIS OWN FUCKING HEART in a hole in his chest and staring at me all night. Those eyes. Staring. Those lips. Moving.

    I need to play Bonbon now.

  2. I tried to skip the spoilers, because this one looks like I have to play it on my own.
    But I found another sci-fi-horror game recently in the Valve “New published” list, which in my way touches me. It’s called “Noise” and full with 1980ies Soviet realities like broadcastings, posters, dialogues. And even if the voice actors acting is way too far from Stanislavskis methods, but the whole atmosphere is pretty imressing and touching. For me. I have perhaps even found a poster on a wall of an abandon house somewhere in the phenomen area, where is a Soviet dissident singer, whose photo was taken by my father. Alas, he is became an Invisible Viewer since ca. 5 years, but I think, he is pretty gidding about it.

    P.S. And OMG you have an article about SimCopter
    http://www.electrondance.com/a-girl-and-her-chopper-on-goals-and-sandboxes/#more-8649
    Why oh why the comments are locked. I have the feeling our game library and video games bio has astonishing similiarities :D

  3. Kfix
    If you do end up playing it, let me know what you think. I’m not sure how effective it will be if a number of the surprises have already been spoiled.

    merzmensch
    Some of the reviews of Noise didn’t seem that positive, but I guess it offers a sense of place that you like?

    Emilie Reed wrote that SimCopter article, as I never played SimCopter! I’m afraid I can’t claim that I have any experience with SimCopter. The comments are closed automatically on old posts because they attract a lot of spam. I’m endlessly cleaning it up, otherwise…

  4. It’s OK, though, if you have something to say about it you can just go off-topic on another comment’s posts! Joel won’t mind!

  5. @Matt thank you! :)
    @Joel Indeed, the graphics and technics of the game are pretty oldskool (here: euphemism for B-quality). Other Made in Russia hames like “35mm” are technically and storyline related way better. But: here is that nostalgia bonus, which brings me up to my memories.

    Again, the best – THE BEST – Russia related game is imho still Metro series. So many intertextual relations, so many cultural allusions, awesome dialogues. One need to play it in Russian with subtitles. But actually one need to have all that context of Russian literature, culture, history, Moscow knowledge in order to enjoy the whole beauty (if one doesn’t have this theasurus, no problems: the gameplay and story is still highly enjoyable). For example: you are crawling through a tonnel and hear somebody whistling. And only if you know, that this song is an old song of 1920ies, a favourite by criminal elements and mafia people, you will take especially much attention and you will know what awaits you around the corner. But I’m offtopic in my offtopic comment, so:

    “Noise” has for me this beauty of decay, this anticipation of soon collaps of the Soviet system. So all the bugs, bad textures and even unsatisfying controlls make this experience authentical. :-)

  6. All hail the off-topic king.

    Merzmensch – maybe I’ll give Noise a spin at some point. It’s curious, however, that we are often ignorant of cultural/historical signifiers outside of our own national bubbles. Like any game that intends to be successful in the West has to think about how it looks and appeals there. We all like a little bit of “soviet decay porn” but I wonder how invested players are when it gets much more relevant/real?

    That’s how you do off-topic, boys.


Leave a comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

No trackbacks yet.