Venture to Vile by Montreal indie studio Cut to Bits

Fight ‘the Vile’ to save your town in this emo-Victorian game with a gentlemanly fashion sense

We spoke with the co-founder/studio manager of Montreal’s Cut to Bits about their new game Venture to the Vile.

Venture to the Vile is a spooky 2.5D Metroidvania set in the foggy town of Rainybrook, which has been corrupted by a mysterious entity known as the Vile. Using your Wolverine-esque claw to defend, or your whip-like tentacle-arm to grapple, you alone possess the abilities to save your town.

Developed in Montreal by indie studio Cut to Bits, Venture to the Vile’s gentlemanly fashion sense layers perfectly atop its broody, emo-Victorian environments. This world is refined and creepy without being overly serious — carefully balancing whimsical with eerie, while existing on the edges of horror. You’ll play through an intriguing and alluring world full of mythical beasts and friendly, animal-masked NPCs that could be something straight out of an Edward Gorey and Neil Gaiman crossover novel. You work with Dr. Crow, a scientist who is a little bit odd, to uncover the mysterious plight that’s taken over your quaint town.

This game falls into the Metroidvania genre so your perfectly timed attacks, parries and double-jump skills are key. A demo version is available now: in it, explore a tomb-like mausoleum, as a ghostly choir chants moodily in the background. You must parkour around stacks of ruined pews and debris, solve environmental puzzles, light candles for the destitute and destroy undead-skeletons and flying beasts.

Venture to the Vile, by Montreal studio Cut to Bits

We spoke with Cut to Bits’ studio manager and co-founder Masao Kobayashi about Venture to the Vile — their first title — and he assures us the story is one of the game’s hidden gems: “We have so much narrative, not just in the main storyline but all the side quests and NPC stories. Our game has tons of world building and lore that doesn’t really come across in a 90-second trailer or a 10-minute demo.”

There is so much lore behind this game that in fact the studio Kickstarted a collaboration with Lethal Comics for the comic book crossover, which was created with Karl Kershl and Andy Belanger.

Cut to Bits was founded in Montreal by a team of AAA veterans who have worked on titles like GTA, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and BioShock. But a career at AAA doesn’t always predispose a team to making or scoping indie games. “Initially we were planning a 1.5-year timeline for the game and we’re still working on it four years later,” Kobayashi jokes. “We were so naive, which is pretty funny since most of us have been making games for well over a decade.”

Making indie games 101

“I think any experience making games is going to make game dev easier than if you don’t have experience,” offers Kobayashi. “That being said, indie is very different from AAA. You’re on your own so you have to solve your own problems, and also keep yourself motivated and productive. You have to be self-motivated and someone that can figure things out on your own.

“I think the hardest part of indie is taking time off. When you have a stake in the company, in a small team that rely on each other and working on your own project, it can be really easy to get caught up and not take any time off.”

Even in video games, the DIY-crunch is ever-present, and folks have to remember to take care of themselves. Kobayashi confirms: “Burnout is real even if you’re working for yourself, on a project you love, with a great team. Take time to refresh and step away from the project. It’s really necessary.” 

Another perk of being indie has allowed Cut to Bits to act meaningfully on their core values. “We have implemented a hiring policy that allows for more diverse candidates to surface and we have an inclusive and welcoming work environment. I always felt like I didn’t belong in AAA for a lot of reasons, so I’m glad that we’re able to provide a positive work environment regardless of who you are.”

Overall, the team at Cut to Bits has succeeded in creating an engaging gaming experience with an incredible attention to detail: Venture to the Vile balances a mesmerizing art style, a haunting soundtrack and challenging yet fun gameplay with a unique and compelling story. 

The demo version of Venture to the Vile is available on Steam now. A full release is scheduled for 2024.

This article was originally published in the November issue of Cult MTL.

For more Montreal arts coverage, please visit the Arts & Life section.