On the first day of the new year, as Mickey Mouse's Steamboat Willie animation sailed into the public domain, a new video game was announced that took a dark twist on the cheerful character. 'Infestation: Origins' emerges as Nightmare Forge Games' inaugural project, encapsulating an episodic cooperative survival experience where four players join forces as pest control specialists, battling a mutant vermin that bears a grotesque resemblance to Mickey Mouse. Drawing gameplay inspiration from titles such as 'Phasmophobia' and 'Lethal Company', participants are armed with a variety of gadgets and surveillance gear to locate and assert control over the escalating pest problem, all while avoiding the aggressive, oversized rodents that patrol the game's environments.
However, the game quickly became embroiled in controversy initially due to its original title, 'Infestation 88', which sparked a backlash over perceived connections to Neo-Nazi codes, where '88' is a recognized hate symbol. The backlash prompted Nightmare Forge Games to clarify and later change the title, disavowing any such association and stating their respect for those who raised the issue, allowing them to correct their mistake. The developers emphasized their stand against Nazism and bigotry in all forms and assured that there was no deliberate inclusion of such symbolism in their game or the studio's ethos.
Criticism has also been aimed at the game's development approach, prompting concern that it may fall into the category known as shovelware. Reports from Motherboard highlighted potential warning signs, such as the utilization of pre-made assets from the Unity store and artificially generated voice acting, suggesting lower production value. Nevertheless, Nightmare Forge Games responded by acknowledging their use of purchased assets but assured that the game is receiving significant attention and development efforts. They indicated that the current artificial voiceovers are temporary, with plans to hire professional voice actors later in the development process, which would enhance the overall immersion of the game.