During the pandemic, we’ve been seeing a rise in Malaysian-made games to help keep things interesting for us at home, and it’s only the beginning.
But one game that seems to have fallen under the radar of larger titles is Twelve Floors. It was launched in July 2021 by a group of local developers from the studio Station R Games. The developer who kickstarted it is Ray Low, a mechatronics engineering student who hails from Rawang.
Ray’s passion for developing games all began after he participated in a local hackathon. He saw teams working on solutions that involved gamification, which interested him in creating a world of his own.
Later, he started experimenting with Unity, a cross-platform game engine used to develop video games for web plugins, desktop platforms, consoles, and mobile devices.
His first few creations were mobile games, but he felt they weren’t up to his standards. So he tried something different and wrote a short story to create a game out of. Several months later, his brainchild, Twelve Floors, was born.
Exploring a piece of Ray’s mind
For Ray, Twelve Floors is a game with personal meaning to him, as he shared that he lacked confidence and character for many years, and at one point felt that his identity was slipping away too.
He added, “Connecting and communicating with people has always been my weakness, but I hope this will turn into one of my strengths along this journey.” In a way then, this game reflects part of Ray’s own journey, though he didn’t explicitly state in what way.
Upon reading his story and looking more into the game, I was intrigued by the horror-esque theme of Twelve Floors and its design. I immediately made a purchase, which cost me US$3 or around RM12.70, which I found very reasonable to support a new game developer.
My first impression of the game was a lot like an anime I watched, Angels of Death, where the main character wakes up in an unfamiliar place with very little memory of how she got there and has to fight her way out. It was based on an indie game of the same name.
To be fair, this premise is quite common in most horror games. One thing that did catch me off-guard, however, was when I began the game, entered a door next to the elevator, and was immediately brought to the game credits.
I thought it was a glitch but it turns out that other gamers went through the same thing too, so it was likely a “gotcha!” gimmick from the developers, which added some personality to the game.
The entire theme of the game is quite dark, and some examples of disturbing scenes you’d come across include severed human heads hanging from ropes. If you’re squeamish about such scenes and prefer trigger warnings before making a purchase, you could probably reach out to the team first.
Due to the art style, however, they weren’t too graphic, and I oddly found them cute. Perhaps I have a morbid side to me.
For a game this simple-looking, it was a treat to hear that there was voice-acting, carried out by Malaysians, no less. The character designs don’t quite stand out, but the hand-drawn environments were quite beautifully rendered.
Feeling lost and seeking answers
Despite being a game with an emphasis on story, I had to say that I felt quite lost most of the time. To figure out my own story, I had to interact with other children whose relationships with me were unclear. One thing they all had in common was dead parents, including my own playable character, Curtis, at least according to the other characters.
After Curtis first wakes up, he’ll find four tapes that he can’t watch yet until he defeats the bosses in the game. You can slash vials with sparkly liquid in them that grant you extra lives.
The main part of the games are those big fights you’ll uncover on different floors, like fighting a helicopter that drops bombs, fighting a bulldog, fighting even one of your friends, and what seems like a claw machine game where you have to save frogs. Once you’ve completed these four main challenges, you’ll be able to play the mystery tapes.
In all honesty, these felt like a fever dream and I’ll admit that it was hard for me to see the connection between these fights and the overall big picture of the story, at least during them. That being said, they were still exciting to engage in because I personally enjoy battles like these.
The big reveal
I had an inkling that those tapes were related to the “dead parents” that the characters kept referring to in the game, and of course, I was dying (no pun intended) to know what had happened to my dad, and what role I played in it.
It was only when I watched these tapes that I realised how everything was tied together in the game, especially regarding the main battles that earlier felt like a fever dream. Without spoiling too much, they represented key elements of the conflict each character had with their parents. Later on, a major plot twist involving Curtis’ own experience was also revealed.
Overall, I do think that it was a well-developed game in terms of its graphics, storyline, interactivity, etc. for the studio’s first game. The in-game world was also complex enough with all the different floors that made it a thought-provoking challenge.
The only hiccup I’d say I experienced throughout was that sometimes, Curtis becomes immobile and I can only move him using the slash button, and I’d have to quit and re-enter the game every time this hiccup occurs.
While the game left me at a point of suspense regarding Curtis and his father’s fate, I still felt some sort of closure for most of the questions I had while playing the game, which I was happy about.
This short and simple game is just the start for Station R Games, and I certainly see potential in the team’s future creations. While confusing at first, everything unfolded in a satisfying way, and the team could leverage their story-telling skills for other games too.
At the moment, Station R Games is already working on a new game called Night at the Clownville which sounds like another horror game, though it’s taking a different turn from Twelve Floor’s design and mechanics. It is a first-person shooter (FPS) survival game, so it’ll be interesting to see what it brings to the table in terms of story.