Rage in Peace is a darling indie game released in November 2018. Its initial presentation is of a campy, side-scrolling death game, but it unravels into a beautiful story of love and loss. As an unsuspecting player just picking up a game to play with my wife, I was overwhelmed with its presentation and story.
Stage 1: Denial
Rage in Peace begins innocently enough, we’re introduced to the main characters, Timothy Malinu, and the Grim Reaper. Timothy is informed that today is the day he dies, and he takes it better than you’d expect. His only worry being that he doesn’t want to die in his office building, he wants to die at home, in bed, without much drama.
The first few levels are spent denying his own death by the many traps laid around his office building. There’s a small part of Timothy that doesn’t want to die, but for the most part, he’s okay with it. In a way he’s ready. We learn in one of the cutscenes that Timothy is in his late 20’s and potentially early 30’s. Why would someone so young be so apathetic to their own death? I mean, surely not, right?
Stage 2: Anger
Alright, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Rage in Peace is ridiculously hard.
Every screen, object, and seemingly every pixel is designed to kill you. And they aren’t predictable, the development team seemingly spent all their time creating new and exciting ways to make my blood boil. Every twist and turn is a new spin on an obstacle you just got used to. This funny emo frog screams at you and tries to kill you with its tongue, better get used to dodging tongues!
This is the same frog, go ahead and jump. Psych! It has 3 tongues of different lengths to hit you if you don’t jump at the pixel-perfect time. These fluorescent lights that have been on the ceiling the whole time have a seriously hard time staying up and also obeying the laws of gravity and acceleration.
And When Timothy gets mad, oh boy does it get harder. It becomes an endless runner style game with Timothy doing his best Sonic impression by going fast with no brakes. FUN!
Stage 3: Bargaining
I wanted it to be over.
The story was touching. The little cutscenes between each section offer a lot to the story. From the Grim Reaper and Timothy waxing poetic about why everything is trying to kill Timothy, to scenes of just Timothy and his girlfriend, it’s text over beautifully hand-drawn art.
Throughout the Rage in Peace experience, I had a mix of my wife laughing at me for messing up and dying hundreds of times, and getting bored when I wasn’t dying over and over again. I simply wanted it to be over.
Stage 4: Depression (Contains Spoilers)
The story comes to a head with a heart-wrenching cutscene. All the cutscenes painted a picture of a very loving couple planning to stay together forever. Celebrating birthdays together. Talking endlessly. Supporting each other. Planning to grow old together. And then the cutscenes show something different. The time they visited a lighthouse on a cliff.
Timothy’s girlfriend is a photographer, and she dragged Timothy to the lighthouse to take photos of the sunset over the water. Timothy wanted to be cute and take her photo because she’s always behind the camera. So he decides to do something nice for her.
She goes to the cliff edge to pose, the cliff breaks, and she plummets into the water. Without a second thought, Timothy dives in after her even though he can’t swim. He doesn’t make it. She drowns and he is pulled out of the water by strangers.
I bawled my eyes out at this. The fear of losing anyone I loved hit me, and I was deeply moved by it. Suddenly I was right there with Timothy, this wasn’t just his quest for him to die in bed at home without much drama. Hell, it wasn’t even his. It was hers. It was her wish.
His depression shows on his face and mine as well. He loses all motivation, all momentum, and gameplay slows to an understandable crawl. The heartbreak evident, the dialogue between the Grim Reaper (who at this point looks suspiciously like his lost love) becomes one sided. All seems lost.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Timothy is nearly home. With some kind words from the Grim Reaper he gets a burst of motivation.
He runs and he doesn’t stop.
He gets home, brushes his teeth, gets into his pyjamas, climbs into bed, and dies.
Without much drama.
Just like she wanted.
And it’s over.