On July 10, 2014, a small, mysterious game called "Do Not Believe His Lies" was uploaded to the iOS app store. Since then, over 40,000 people have downloaded the app. Nobody has beaten it. Hell, nobody quite knows what it is, either.
I downloaded the game last night, after watching a trailer where fans of the game beg other people to jump in and help them solve the riddle. You can watch it above, if you'd like. Mysterious, right? Even the name is enticing. Do Not Believe His Lies. Hmm.
After eight months of going through many different puzzles, the players of Do Not Believe His Lies are stuck. But...let's start from the beginning.
When you boot the game up for the first time, you're greeted with a few minimalist messages:
Then, the game throws you its first riddle:
The first puzzle stumped me for a while. I tried the time, AT&T, Share, Feedback. It turns out, you can only see the answer if you have your brightness on your phone all the way up. If you're viewing this on a PC or a mobile device with the brightness turned up, the answer might be more immediately visible to you. Either way: this is just the first puzzle. Nothing major. The solution is:
When you punch that in, the game automatically throws you the next puzzle:
Morse! Pretty simple. The message translates to:
So far, pretty easy. Then it gives you this riddle:
This is where I got completely lost. I turned to the Reddit community, r/dbhl , and found that people have been posting there for the last eight months, diligently solving puzzles from this game. Some puzzles took months to figure out. For this one in particular, someone actually inverted the picture, cut it into squares, and rearranged it into the text. This is what it says:
So, if you're following this, so far the messages seem to tell a story. 'The first time I saw him there, I was just a child.' When I realised that last night, I started feeling creeped out. Some other messages for solved puzzles go on to say 'He keeps showing up,' 'in my dreams,' 'I cannot escape him now.' And it just goes on like this -- puzzles that lead to fragments of text that say disturbing things.
Though I've given away the solution to some of the early puzzles, each one does increase in difficulty. One of them involves solving a QR code. One of them involves slowing down audio and then translating it. One of them involves watching creepy video. Many require cracking codes, knowing different languages, visiting specific websites and finding a hidden message, checking constellations, using chemistry, using music theory, and more. It's insane.
Right now, players are stuck on puzzle 37. It involves using a code to get to a music file that brings people to a specific image, which can then be used to get to another audio file, that can be visualized to create a barcode, which also has a secret message in it, and THAT somehow brings you to a download file, and -- well, it just goes on and on. They can't solve it, but they're trying. They have been stuck on this puzzle for about five months.
So, who the hell is making these riddles? If you follow the developer's profile on the app store, it brings you to a website owned by Polish developer Lukasz Matablewski.
"I started writing, designing and publishing my first apps on the appstore some time ago," a biography on the website says. "I do all the work on my apps by myself, from initial idea throughout the design and finishing on writing the code."
The website also says that he used to work as a system administrator at a Children's Hospital and a corporate IT specialist. He's married, has kids. He likes technology, science, politics, pop culture. And also, making ridiculously difficult iPhone games, I guess!
What's really curious about Matablewski is that he's a very prolific creator. As of this writing, he has 36 different apps listed on his webpage, such as "Sexy Girl Talk" and "Sound FX Series." Almost nothing he's made seems anything like Do Not Believe His Lies. Instead, they seem like...well, App Store fodder. Do Not Believe His Lies feels like it comes out of left field.
I contacted Matablewski over email, and he actually responded. He didn't answer any of my questions, though. He said that the less he told me, the more he could maintain the 'unknown' atmosphere to the game. He also said that the game was designed to bring people together to solve riddles. And that's exactly what they're doing.
Personally, I'm fascinated by Do Not Believe His Lies -- it's the type of riddle game you usually see in complex alternate-reality games. The type of thing that gets people hooked trying to find the answer. That said, the game also very obtuse. Most people give up way before puzzle #37. Any wrong answers you input to the game are met with ads like this one:
If you're playing the game seriously, my bet is that you're going to be inputting a looot of wrong answers -- and therefore seeing a lot of ads. Every puzzle also gives you the option to purchase a hint. The hints aren't solutions, but they do cost money. I do understand that the developer needs to make money off this game somehow, but it's hard not to walk away with the sense that it was deliberately made difficult to try to squeeze as much money away from people as possible. Maybe that's just me being cynical. And maybe it doesn't matter in the end -- the game is pretty damn good. Even though I've only played a small portion of it, the game managed to unsettle me. Now I'm eating all the mystery up.
Is the game telling me a story? Who is the person or thing that is haunting the person in the game? Who is the "we" referred to at the start? Whose lies are we not supposed to believe? Are people bashing their heads against a wall for something that's actually worth it? The only way to find out is to win, I guess.