Pathologic Is the Twin Peaks of Survival Horror Games

At a glance, Twin Peaks looks like a by-the-numbers murder mystery. There’s the beloved dead girl, the small town full of suspects, and the detective who’s determined to crack the case. It’s a story that’s been told time and time again with little variation.

But the show is far, far weirder than it initially appears to be. Twin Peaks exists in a world where women talk to logs and people break into dance for no discernible reason. The pie is delicious, and the coffee is damn fine (unless there’s a fish in the percolator). During the day, people invent silent drape-runners, and at night, they dream about dwarves who speak backwards.

twin peaks let's rock

Pathologic, a 2006 survival game by Russian studio Ice-Pick Lodge, is unfortunately short on dancing dwarves, but it’s got eccentricity to spare. There’s plenty of death and despair — it is set in a plague-ridden town, after all — but the tragic frequently takes a backseat to the bizarre. Children hold somber funerals for patchwork dolls, and paintings of humanoid spiders hang from the walls. Alien creatures wander the streets, happily trading organs for plants.

These strange, surreal towns are an inseparable part of the stories they’re trying to tell. Nothing that happens in Twin Peaks or Pathologic feels ordinary — they operate on an entirely different plane of existence. Even a simple stroll down the street feels like something out of a terrifying dream.

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When your setting is strange enough, the bones of your story no longer matter. Even the most tired cliches can be twisted into something completely bizarre. Pathologic plays tropes straight as often as it subverts them, but it never feels anything but original.

If you like Twin Peaks because of its goofy characters and quotable dialogue, Pathologic might not be your thing. It’s an amazing experience, but it’s not a fun game, and it probably won’t leave you with a smile on your face.

But if you love Twin Peaks for its unwavering weirdness, then Pathologic — or its remake — is a game you need to play. It may look normal on the surface, but it’s a title that fully embraces the power of the strange.

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