In every group of friends there are divisions. No matter how close everyone is, some are just a little closer than others. You have a best friend among the group of close ones. There’s the couple that goes beyond friendship, developing something romantic. With those bonds inherently come exclusion. It may not be intentional, or mean spirited, but to those left out, they can’t help but feel hallow.

In We Know the Devil there is no protagonist. Just three friends stuck at a religious summer camp, and the looming fear of the literal devil’s arrival. How you interact with the story is limited to deciding who to pair off when the sparse choices come into play. Based on your decisions, relationships will develop between the three teens, but two will become especially close, leaving the other neglected.

The touching results between two close friends bonding or a budding romance is what matters most. Conversely there is the unintentionally spurned friend, and the growing resentment held for what the others posses. This all manifests as a fantastical narrative on the surface, but a coming of age one beneath. Three kids in an abandoned, woodlands lodge with the goal of meeting and destroying the devil. What that devil is though is how the theme of exclusionary bonds is sold.After School Special

The subtle touch of when you make choices and the third-wheel disappears from the scene, even if they are still in the same room, is effective. When excluded, it’s not always the case of being away from friends, but being invisible while surrounded by them.

Note that this is indeed a piece of horror, and things may not work out so well for the outside or even the insiders. The devil’s arrival is inevitable, and the resulting tension is handled brilliantly. This is all accented by a fantastic, 80’s synth soundtrack. Having recently watched It Follows, the similar musical styles and how they convey a sense of dread, acceptance of the unknown, and developing relationships are difficult to go unrecognized. I can’t help but see a little of It Follows in We Know the Devil. Which is quite high praise considering how terrific a piece of horror the film is.

The visual cohesion is quite unique as well. While the core trio are anime influenced, the backgrounds are blurry polaroids taken in the woods near the developer’s home. The black and white, animated character designs don’t clash with the colored, realistic backgrounds. They only add to the looming fear of what unknowns may lurk within the woods, observing the youths.

There’s a reflective nature about the trio. Initially, I disliked Neptune because she comes off as negative and mean-spirited. The truth is she distracts from her low self-esteem with an abundance of false confidence. She doesn’t know how to act around her friends in a way which shows how much she actually looks out them. She hides herself for fear of shaking up the comfortable, yet imperfect, relationship the trio share. When I arrived at the ending which excludes her, I saw a bit of myself in Neptune. When it comes down to it, Neptune always backed the two people she could almost share herself with, even though her actions made the others exclude her.Jupiter is

What might be the most impressive feat of all is how my favorite scene this year comes from a genre not boasting high fidelity graphics or realistic animations. The characters are static, and the screen practically blank. What sells it is the dialogue. Words I could hear myself saying to a significant other during such a moment. A brief, yet incredibly intimate scene is literally just two colorless drawings of anime styled characters laid over a jet black background.

Such authenticity compels the player to want to save each all the teens, but it’s not easy. There’s a early scene where the camp counselor is telling all the campers about a friend he tried to help, but ultimately this friend went down a direct path. Action has consequence, and no matter how much you try to balance your picks someone will be left out.

There’s something I particularly like about coming of age stories. Despite how often high school students are cast in them, I find the truth of such introspective revelations tend to come later in life.We Know the Devil has no ending where Jupiter, Venus, and Neptune all accept themselves, each other, and their places within their world in a tidy manner. Not that there’s any sequel baiting, but there’s a recognition of how we as human beings never truly fighting with how we’d like to be perceived and how who we truly are.

We Know the Devil is what I love about the medium of games. It says what I’m incapable of. What I can only repeat second hand by writing a positive review and telling you to go experience it for yourself. It only takes an hour or so per playthrough, but manages to say more than many three hour films or 20 hour games. At the same time, it wouldn’t work nearly as well in any other medium, despite its genre or presentation. You have to be the one making the choices. Putting yourself into their young lives. Finding friendship and love. Learning it’s natural not to be truly comfortable with who you are. Most importantly, knowing that no matter what, you’re going to hurt others even when you don’t mean to.

  • Harv

    “Action has consequence, and no matter how much you try to balance your picks someone will be left out.” Did you actually go through all the endings? If you have not, please do. You owe it to yourself.