OFF is a French game made using RPG Maker 2003 (I think) by a fellow who goes by the online moniker Mortis-Ghost. It was later translated into English and is available somewhere on the interwebs. The game tells the story of The Batter as he sets off on an absolutely gonzo journey to “purify the land” of the phantoms that haunt the world. His guide during his journey is a talking cat that resembles the Cheshire Cat, a guy named Zacharie, and the player themself. He visits strange worlds, meets interesting characters, and soon discovers that not everything is what it seems. What is the purpose of his journey?
I first came across OFF while watching Extra Credit’s Halloween episode and I knew I had to play it. It was featured in a “Games You May Not Have Tried,” this time using especially dark and weird and crazy games. OFF, presented in a list of games that seems to belong strictly in a sub-sub-sub genre of games, and described as, “If a French version of David Lynch remade Earthbound and gave it a fight soundtrack weirdly reminiscent of Soul Coughing, then you might have something like OFF.” Well, I was sold. Right then and there. I would have paid money if it wasn’t free (Daggers!). So I began my sacred journey to finding and downloading OFF (which took about five minutes. A simple Google search handled that problem. Though a word for Mac users, downloading the app “WineBottler” might be necessary). So I found it, I played it, and in a couple hours, I finished it. Well.
I tend to be a bit skeptical when I’m told something is weird. Often when I’m told something is weird, or violent, or any other adjective, I find myself building expectations before I’ve managed to decide for myself, and it kills the experience that way. Any other articles on OFF will talk about how weird it is, and then confirm their sincerity by what they perceive as weird. “Seriously you guys, it’s really weird. Know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Yes, OFF is weird, but it’s only weird because it’s different. It’s actually opposite of weird. Once the game is finished, it’s so un-weird that it’s annoying that anyone will think of it as weird. The characters, settings, and themes all come together in the end and create a compelling experience. Why would anyone call it weird?
The game is very aware that it is an RPG. It’s characters often break the fourth wall, addressing the player directly and sometimes providing commentary on video game tropes, specifically RPGs. The story is told in such a way that leaves the player with much to think about once it’s over. Think of Pulp Ficton, after watching that film I spent hours thinking about the sequence of the story, what it meant and how I felt about it. OFF left me with a similar feeling where I sat and contemplated the game as a whole and made conclusions to what the game was trying to say.
That’s what makes the game so impressive, I think. Looking at Mortis Ghosts work online, it seems to me that OFF must have started out as a hobby. He was just goofing around, drawing these characters, and decided it would be cool to have a baseball player fighting ghosts resulting in a bloody mess. A Google search for OFF will lead to dozens of drawings depicting The Batter as a sort of DIY anime character, sketching’s in a notebook I can imagine that once the game took off and Mortis Ghost worked through the story and incorporated more themes, they took shape into what it eventually came to be, and we’re left with a work of art.
Of course, that’s just my attitude. The game is not very much fun to play, but engaging. It’s not a casual game, but it’s short. It’s possible to replay, but there’s no replay value. I suppose what makes something weird is when it’s hard to explain.
I say give OFF a shot. At the very least it’ll show you the different things games can do.
Also, it’s French. French things are always cool.