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.
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?
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.
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.