Joonas Rikkonen wants to scare you. But he doesn’t have access to the traditional tools of fear. He doesn’t work for a big development studio, he can’t use a top-end game engine, and he won’t use liberal jump cuts and scripted frights.
His SCP Containment Breach is an indie title made in the low-end Blitz3D engine that casts a cheap-looking creature reportedly made of asbestos and dreamt up by the collective minds of the internet as your antagonist. Despite these restrictions, it somehow manages to be scarier than most recent big-budget horror games combined.
Rikkonen’s indie casts players as an unnamed character trapped inside a facility operated by the shadowy figures behind the SCP Foundation. Out in the safe confines of the real world, the SCP Foundation is a wiki hub that provides a space for anonymous contributors to dream up and flesh out a host of scary stories. Shrouded by the darkness of the internet, the Foundation is a macabre, ultra-secret group tasking themselves with collecting, cataloguing, and protecting humanity from the worst and weirdest things this world – and others – have to offer.
Containment Breach mainly concerns itself with one of the more directly dangerous of these entities. SCP-173 – all SCP entries are given a numerical code on their wiki page – is an unearthly concoction of metal and asbestos that has been given horrible life. According to its heavily-censored description, it’s intensely hostile and will kill anyone within its radius. It kills by snapping its victim’s neck, but it’s the way it moves that makes it more unsettling – and more of an ideal subject for a horror game. SCP-173 cannot move when under direct observation, but when out of view, it can lurch forward with terrifying speed.
Casting the player as an unlucky figure trapped in the same facility as the now-escaped SCP-173, Rikkonen’s game takes the monster’s physiological quirk into account, adding in one of its own: the player has to blink regularly. This offers the monster opportunity to make up the distance between it and the player in a thumping heartbeat; once within neck-snapping range, it’s a creepy face-to-face shot with the beast and then game over.
Many factors should count against Containment Breach. The game’s world is a randomly generated mess of corridors and doorways, and the Blitz3D engine is grey and grotty in comparison with other preferred indie engines like Unity. SCP-173 itself is almost comical out of context, a white bobblehead with a red smudge for a face. But those on-paper problems coalesce to produce an inordinately tense, lo-fi horror experience. Awaiting SCP-173’s arrival elicits in darkened hallways an indordinate amount of tension. Once the thing does eventually appear, the player is frozen to the spot, forced to make a snap decision before the blink meter runs down and the red, featureless face is rendered huge in the monitor.
Like the recently-released Slender, Containment Breach is characterised by tension and inaction over direct intervention. We spoke to Joonas Rikkonen to find out what inspired the game, why he chose to focus on SCP-173, and why he loves scaring people.