”Welcome to Hell,” says Pinhead, the prickle-pated leader of Hellraiser’s demonic Cenobites. But no, this is not a scene from the upcoming movie Hellraiser IV: Bloodline. It’s from Hellraiser: Virtual Hell, a CD-ROM game now in production and slated for early-‘96 release. And it’s a Hellraiser without any input from Clive Barker, the film series’ creator, who licensed the rights to the name and logo. ”We see that as a challenge, not a problem,” says Doug Barnett, who designed the CD-ROM for Magnet Interactive Studios. ”We’re not translating a book or movie. We’re creating our own version of Hell. You build an interactive experience, so you don’t merely emulate the movie’s plot.”
Instead, Barnett says, the game will be true to the spirit of the Hellraiser movies, which depict a netherworld populated by freakish, bloodthirsty beings. On the CD-ROM, there are new monsters, including Pinball, who flings steel spheres at players. Here’s how the game works: As a facsimile of your computer monitor morphs into Pinhead, the Cenobite opens his hook-spewing maw and your partner gets sucked in, trapped in a red-misted, sulfurous Hades. ”It’s up to you to free him and yourself from eternal damnation,” says Barnett.
Doug Bradley, who plays Pinhead in the movies as well as the game, sees his role in Virtual Hell as a kind of perverse cheerleader. ”I say things to the player like I’m delighted that they’ve fallen for a trap I’ve laid, or issue a warning not to get too carried away after they’re slightly successful,” says Bradley, who shot his sequences in front of a green screen in ”total isolation” on a day off from filming Hellraiser IV. ”I’d like to see the finished product so I could understand why I was doing a weird bit that at the time seemed so ridiculous.”
To raise the vilest hell imaginable, Magnet is incorporating the latest computer technology into Virtual Hell. ”You’ll need a Pentium chip to use the game,” says designer-producer Vijay Lakshman. ”Characters will look real, not like objects pasted on the screen.” Something that Lakshman calls ”binaural phase-shifted sound” will make Pinhead’s laugh appear to come from behind or above players who wear a set of headphones. The game will also offer a ”Doom-like engine” that allows 360-degree rotation but with one extra twist. ”(In) the walls and corridors are dynamic objects that can be manipulated by the player,” says Barnett. ”Machines will try to get you as well as people.”
”This could be fun,” says Clive Barker, who is developing a game of his own called Ectosphere. But, the horror maven adds, ”I don’t like the way death is taken so casually in many of these games.”
Magnet hopes to add Bradley’s Pinhead bloopers to the closing credits of Virtual Hell. That, says Lakshman, is ”to humanize the thing. It’s very inhuman right now.”