As the faithful servants of Gamershell, we always have a special place in our (black) hearts for those games that dwell in the darkness. When we saw Psychotoxic, we knew we had to delve into its dark mysteries as soon as possible. Luckily, we were able to conjure up a specter of Tim Bruns, a member of the development team, to answer a few questions for us.
GH: How about a little background to start off? Who are you and what is your position on the project and what are some of the games the other team members have worked on in the past?
Bruns: Hi, I’m Tim Bruns, I work as the Managing and Art Director of NuClearVision. I started my gaming career nearly 20 years ago on the good old cbm64 (and later on the Amiga) with some unknown freeware games. Back in those days, I was a coder but nowadays I have switched to handling 3d applications. Besides Psychotoxic, we also worked on a 2D side-scrolling platformer known as Codename Gordon for Valve Software (freely available via Steam). Our team members are rather new to the gaming industry – most of them have worked on German edutainment games or were working for motion capture companies.
GH: For those poor, ignorant souls that are just now hearing about Psychotoxic, could you give us some basic background on the story and gameplay to bring them up to speed?
Bruns: The four horsemen are mystical figures mentioned in the bible. Their appearance heralds the beginning of the end of the world. Each of the riders symbolizes a catastrophe for mankind. Our game starts after three horsemen have already appeared, but the ignorance of mankind means that no one noticed. The Second World War was the third rider and now there’s only one more to come before the end of the world. No one really did understand that the riders are not four dudes on differently colored horses; instead, they are metaphors for really disastrous happenings.
In the beginning of the 21st century a mysterious machine was discovered under the subway system of New York, but no one realized this machine to be the last rider except the evil sect leader Aaron Crowley (who believes to be the reincarnation of the Satanist Aleister Crowley). With his knowledge of the final horseman he hoped to create a new earth dominated by evil. This “evil horseman machine” started to infect the minds of people on Earth, that’s why the game is called Psychotoxic.
We’ve always wanted a straightforward gameplay with non-stop action and that's what the game feels like.
GH: Angels, the final battle between good and evil, horsemen of the apocalypse... sounds like someone has some leftover issues from a Catholic upbringing! What was the inspiration for Psychotoxic’s religious settings and imagery?
Bruns: The Catholic Church invented a lot of crazy horror stories to drive the nonbelievers to the churches in the last millenniums. These ideas are a good breeding ground for mystery stories. The success of Dan Brown’s books (The Da Vinci Code) shows pretty well, that people really like stories based on religious themes.
GH: The site mentions nineteen weapons and given the game’s setting, my imagination is running wild. Any chance that some of those might be of the magical/religious variety? It’d be pretty sweet to lay waste to the enemies with a flaming sword or plague of locusts! Got anything like that planned that you can reveal?
Bruns: You’ll soon discover that the threat behind all the happenings in New York is connected to something much older than catholic horror stories. And that the angel sent to fight for humanity has quite more modern techniques to fight against the evil threat.
As the game is divided into real world and dream levels, the weapons look quite different. We don't have a flaming sword, but an udder gun ripped out of the body of a crazy cow and we don't have any kind of plagues, but a smell seeking pit-bull trap.
GH: You’ve made the somewhat controversial choice to forgo multiplayer and concentrate on single player. Explain what will make Psychotoxic so utterly compelling that it will stand apart from games like Half-Life 2 or Halo 2 that offer rich single-player experiences and multiplayer.
Bruns: Psychotoxic was always meant to be a story that has to be told – so we only concentrated on the single player experience. Doing multiplayer means to create an additional game (with the setting of the single player – if there is one). The psycho story is a quite personal story enabling the gamer to fall in love with our heroine while playing her (controversial, but interesting) – such experiences can't happen in multiplayer matches.
GH: So... pink bunnies and cows that have guns for udders. What can you tell us about these somewhat... unusual enemies? Where will we encounter them and what sort of madness can we expect from them?
Bruns: Our angel Angie has the ability to jump into people’s minds. She travels through their most intimate thoughts and mixes them up with her personal feelings. These are the locations where you are going to meet our unusual enemies. But I'm not going to spoil the little surprises of our enemies.
GH: You’ve got a descendant of Aleister Crowley and one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in there as enemies. That’s a pretty impressive line-up. Will we be encountering these folks as boss characters? What can we expect from them if/when we do?
Bruns: You got it – both of them will be boss characters of course. You’ll meet them in the craziest parts of the game.
GH: Despite the cyberpunk gothic atmosphere, Psychotoxic seems to have a pronounced and rather warped sense of humor. Besides the things we’ve already asked about (i.e. pink bunnies) how will that sense of humor be expressed in the game?
Bruns: We’ve put a lot of detail work into hidden jokes (cookie bears with chainsaws i.e.) and quoted a lot of movies, comics and books that inspired us. Overall we never take things too serious and usually instantly implemented every gag that came to our mind (I don't know the English expression for it, but in cars people like to place some kind of "fragrance" trees on their rear mirrors - so did the pilots of the air force one in the game).
But don't take me wrong - Psychotoxic is still a dark game :)
GH: Is there any incentive to play through Psychotoxic multiple times? Any juicy secrets, multiple endings, secret levels or easter eggs hidden in there to entice us to delve into the nightmare after we finish it the first time?
Bruns: Easter eggs are the parts of games we love since Warren Robinett invented them in 1978 ... and so we just followed his tradition.
GH: Our site is Gamershell. This game includes many servants of Hell. Given our deep and enduring connection to the Dark Lord’s realm, what can you tell us here at Gamershell about your fine game that you haven’t seen fit to tell anyone else?
Bruns: Yes, people are used to pronouncing the name of Angie's counterpart wrong. Aleister Crowley didn't like that back when he was active and wrote the following lines to avoid it (but I guess he failed):
My name is Aleister Crowley
I'm a master of Magick unholy
Of philtres and pentacles
Of basil, nepenthe, and moly.