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A horror trilobite- The Uninvited, Macventure series

A horror trilobite- The Uninvited, Macventure series

If Alone in the Dark is the grandfather of modern survival horror, then The Uninvited would be AITD’s grandfather. Developed in 1986(a full 6 years before AITD) by Mindscape for MAC and ported to MS-DOS Apple II and NES later. It is a first-person perspective horror game, as opposed to side-scrolling that were popular among most point and clicks at the time. The Uninvited is one of the earliest examples of horror games that lacked any kind of arcade power fantasy that characterized most other examples of retro-horror games. I got it on Steam and it came with both the original black and white MAC release and the colored Apple II. As far as I know, those are the only two differences. You are an unnamed protagonist who gets into a car crash in front of a derelict mansion. You awaken to find your car on fire and your little brother missing, you get out of the car and into the house in the hopes of dining your sibling. That is the entirety of the plot as it directly concerns you. You do get indirectly caught up in a larger story about two warlocks, but it is never elaborated on too much and mostly serves as a reason for all the ghoulishness of the mansion the grounds it takes place on. Being an adventure game in the 80’s this game is fucking brutal and will kill you endlessly in incredibly contrived with little provocation. You can actually die seconds after the game begins if you do not immediately escape your burning car. Most of the death’s themselves are fun with some unsettling imagery and interesting text to accompany it.

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The Uninvited also has a sort of timer in the background that slowly counts down over the course of the game. You are made aware of it when your protagonist makes increasingly desperate observations about evil seeping into his soul. This is not scripted and is constantly running and if you do not complete the game fast enough, you will become possessed and get a game over state. While obviously frustrating, it does add a nice bit of creeping tension and if you know what you are doing it should not bother you to much. I put a lot of emphasis on IF because this game has a couple dozen puzzles and all of them are completely lacking any kind of terrestrial logic. This is an adventure game from the 80’s so that is not too surprising. Seriously this game has the most mind-fuckingly absurd puzzle solutions I have ever seen. I will give you one example. In the kitchen there is an imp with a key that will quickly scroll across the screen. In order to get the key, you need to smash a cookie jar, take the cookie and set it on the kitchen floor so the imp stops to eat the cookie. To smash the cookie jar you need a battleax. To get the battle ax you need to solve a puzzle distracting a hell-hound to get inside a building regarding ds;goirhjaerlgfdjh[eroigasd;lfgkjrteoisgh. It just keeps folding inwards on itself for what feels like an eternity. While most of the puzzles are not that elaborate, they all follow that same kind of splatter-shot mad-libs style of random madness.

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Due to the timer, the longer you take to complete the puzzles, the less likely you are to beat the game before being completely possessed. In fact, if you don’t have the puzzles memorized and more or less know exactly what to do, you will run out of time. This is a game that is meant to played until you die, memorizing and writing down puzzle solutions along the way, until you have the whole thing down to an art then run through and complete the game. OR, you can be like me and skip that first chunk and just look up a walkthrough.

…These old adventure games were fucking insane and I have no regrets using a walkthrough.

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Despite all of this, I truly enjoyed The Uninvited. I find it charming, compelling and downright creepy. Being in the first person helps give a greater sense of immersion than the kind of perspective you would see in a Sierra adventure game. The artwork is well done and shows off quite a bit of detail, especially for a computer game from the mid 80’s. There is no soundtrack, but it has a nice assortment of sounds for various moments that add to the atmosphere. Apart from fiendish things that want to kill you and the cookie key demon mentioned earlier, the game is almost entirely empty. This combined with the lack of music and large non-linear area gives off a real sense of loneliness. I found the UI of The Uninvited particularly charming and was probably my favorite aspect of The Uninvited apart from the art. It is astonishingly customizable, you can change the size of most aspects of it and move it around to align your fung shui. You have an inventory that you can freely move items around with items taking up realistic proportions (a battleax for example takes up more space than a cookie) Most of your interaction is done with mouse clicks aside from a few moments where you need to type in a magic incantation or something similar. You are able to interact, observe, open or use just about anything you come across in the house with varying results. Items can be used on one another or combined to make something else. A lot of the protagonists’ observations are humorous or insightful without being drab descriptions. The game is not above poking fun at you for goofball mistakes either. An example being, you need to click on a door and select open before being able to walk through you will get a text scroll describing you walking into a closed door. The game ends rather abruptly, with you walking into a room to find your little brother possessed, you exorcise the demon and then everything ends happily with the house purified of it’s evil.

 

Being such an early example of pure horror puzzle solving this game is obviously influential on the genre and a recommended play for people interested in the history of horror games or retro-adventure game aficionados in general. I really, really wanted to like this game more than I did. I feel like the bedrock for a truly solid and great horror adventure game that is held back by conventions of its time. I am referring specifically to the buggery madness of its puzzles. And the maze section, which I almost completely forgot. I think I repressed the existence of it. Seriously fuck mazes. One of the worst things you can add to a video game. A maze in a video game is like a well directed porno that decides to randomly decides it needs to chuck a pie pan full of dog shit at the woman for no discernible reason.

 

Still, the game can is not very long, with a walkthrough I beat it under an hour. The game can be bought on Steam for 5$ and is remastered to run on modern a OS.

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Penumbra Overture: a strong opener

Penumbra overture: Frictional’s humble beginnings.

Frictional games may be big fish in a small indie pond these days (rightfully so) but once upon a time they were a small humble outfit struggling with the rest of the unknowns. Their first effort in the horror genre is “Penumbra: Overture” the first of a trilogy of games that helped lay the foundation for Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the first person wander around in the dark stubbing your toe on tables looking for batteries/whale oil/tinderboxes/flares can’t fight piss your pants and die instead style of horror in general. This was Fritctional’s debut of their proprietary HPL engine which boasted a very robust and powerful physics engine. Seriously this game was years ahead of its time regarding physics. Released in 2007 a mere three years after Half Life 2 introduced the first fully functioning physics engine the HPL engine already had the ability to have let’s say a physics object like a desk, that could be manually pulled open, to contain a physics object that could be manually pulled out. A physics object made up of multiple parts containing physics objects. As a reference, Skyrim came out in 2011 and would have a fucking aneurism half the time if you tried to stick an apple or two inside a bucket. If you had not guessed, the ‘HPL’ in the engine name stands for H.P. Lovecraft, that loveable racist rapscallion horror writer responsible for an entire sub-genre of the spooopy stuff. So, it should come as know surprise that Penumbra broad strokes involve well-to-do intellectual types accidently unearthing something far beyond their realm of comprehension and being subsequently murdered/driven to madness/suicide as a result. Which is where you come in. you play as a man named Phillip who receives a mysterious letter from his supposedly dead father that clues him in onto some mysterious happenings in a mysterious part of Greenland where his was getting down and dirty with some mysterious shit. In true horror fashion, things go swimmingly for all of five minutes before Phillip is forced to take shelter in an abandoned mine whose entrance immediately collapses forcing him to move deeper into the mine in search of an exit. Here the story proper begins to unfold as you explore and puzzle your way deeper and deeper coming across various clues and diaries detailing everything that has been going in the mines almost century long history. While the game-play might feel a little played in 2018 it was remarkably groundbreaking for 2007. You have to solve traditional inventory adventure game style puzzles. A few physics puzzles and avoiding/combating various hostile entities in the game. This is the only Frictional game that has an actual combat system and on one hand I can understand why they phased it out of later games and on the other hand, with just a little bit of polish it could have been something compelling. Physics are applied even to the improvised weaponry you can wield where you to hold the mouse button down and drag the weapon in the direction you want to swing. It is ohh so very clunky and you are actively discouraged from using it. I still kind of enjoyed it though. It was frustrating and cumbersome but when it worked I got that high stakes desperate flailing against overwhelming odds type of melee combat that only games like Condemned and ZombiU have been able to successfully pull off. Almost every interactable object behaves in a realistic way. You have to grab and manually pull open doors with the mouse, pull levers and grab objects to take and move around. Everything has a real weight to it. Enemies have decent enough A.I with light and sound playing a big part in whether or not a giant spider or the reanimated corpse of a dog will see you and make a meat platter out of your viscera. This also had a primitive version of the sanity effect later seen in Amnesia where if you look directly at an enemy for to long your vision will get all goofy and the chances of them finding you are increased. Most enemies only patrol a certain of any given part of the mine but will hound you relentlessly if you get caught. At this point you can hold your hammer up and start swinging so that they get a sense of accomplishment when they eat you, or you can run. The dogs will catch up to you, so you usually have to get lucky enough to reach an exit door or put doors and boxes/barrels in between to slow them down. A number of areas have scripted chase sequences where you have to outrun mobs of giant spiders, giant in the size of a medium type. Later you get harassed by a giant worm that is much harder to get away from and even requires a few minor platforming spots and physics puzzles to get away from. Other than the above-mentioned monsters you encounter no friendly NPCs, at least not ones that are modeled and animated. There is the one. The big one. RED. The BEST character in the game and a show stealer every time his voice pops up. You get a radio a little way into the game where you begin getting transmissions from a man named ‘Red’ who has been surviving in t he caves for an untold number of years and claims to have knowledge for you to escape to safety if you follow his directions. The man is half insane from cabin fever, lonely, heartbroken with a wicked sense of humor. I found him much more compelling than the player character and the ending sequence where you finally get to ‘meet’ him was the best part of the entire game and actually pulled on my heartstrings. My withered, under-utilized heartstrings. The puzzles are pretty straightforward and logical, the chase sequences while not even coming close to being as good as the ones in Outlast were interesting enough and the writing chops are up to snuff. This was also the game responsible for pioneering the whole “pitch black is good atmosphere” style later seen in Amnesia and especially in Outlast. So get used to scrounging for batteries while you make your way deeper into the mines. The game has good enough pacing, but I feel it starts to falter a bit towards the end when it feels like they start running out of ideas but still felt they needed to up the stakes in the third act regardless. One egregious example is you need a crowbar. Simple enough right? Wrong. You go through a door and find yourself in a massive open frozen lake that was in way shown to have any part of any other part of the mine in any way and sticks out like a sore thumb. You then have to jump your way to it across several broken pieces of ice that wobble and sink. I died more times here than in any part of the game. Like three times as many. Most of my time dying was spent falling into the icy water. It was horseshit and felt shoehorned into the game at nearly the last minute.

Despite being a little rough around the edges and lacking the mirror sheen polish of later games like Amnesia and Soma, Penumbra Overture is one hell of a debut that shows that Frictional knows what the hell they are doing when it comes to survival horror that is only one step removed from being a first-person adventure game.

You can get it on Steam in a pack with the other two Penumbra games (Requiem and Black Plague) for only 10$.

That is one hell of a deal I would advise not to pass up.

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METRO-2033

METRO-2033 is a survival horror FPS game Devloped by 4A games and originally published by THQ(before they went bankrupt) It is available for all the major gaming platforms.  METRO is based off of the Dmitry Glukhovsky novel of the same title.

Judging by that dudes name, and the fact that 4A is made up of a bunch of guys whos previous work was the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series; can you guess what kind of game this is?

That is right! A post-apocalyptic Russia after a nuclear war!

*None of this is bad mind you, I am not knocking. This game is fucking incredible.*

It feels like those fellows could not quite shake the S.T.A.L.K.E.R because there are quite a lot of overlap between the two games besides the above mentioned.

Both games have different factions vying for space and resources. Both have horrible mutants as a result of all the nuclear shenanigans. Both have a thick juicy horror atmosphere. *Although in Metro’s case it is basically all horror all the time.  And both games have ‘anomalies’ that usually act as little more than glowing orbs of lightning and death.

METRO 2033 is such an interesting game to me because it is a perfect showcase of how context can give design concepts or game-play mechanics completely different(and better) meaning. METRO 2033’s level design is ridiculously linear and utlizes a lot of modern FPS ideas that I normally despise. Most missions have you being accompanied by an A.I leader of sorts, Turret sections, you move at a snails pace, breakneck narrative pacing, weapon carry limit, usage of cover and ridiculously linear level design. Why I enjoy it in METRO and hate in say those bland ass Modern Military Shooters like COD, BF, Medal of Honor is the context.

After nuclear hellfire rains down upon all the known world (which consists entirely of the city of Moscow in METRO 2033) the remnants of humanity retreat into the METRO systems to eek out a living. The surface world has become toxic to breathe and is now the domain of all manner of horrific creatures.  You control a chap by the name of Artyom who is tasked with travelling the Metro to deliver some dog tags to some military blokes at the “capitol” station called Polis. Most of the game takes place in these incredibly claustrophobic environments. Even when the walls are not actually closing in on you from all sides due to about half the time you are skulking around half abandoned tunnels trying not to get torn to bits by hideous mutant animals. The world is derelict, dilapidated, decrepit and all sorts of words to describe general neglect and ruin. At first you might feel METRO is abysmally depressing  simply for the sake of it, but it manages to contrast it with more tender moments of genuine humanity. The picture painted here is not one of boundless misery, but the spark of humanity persevering despite astronomically overwhelming odds. People die violent deaths both senselessly and valiantly. You occasionally see wounded people on the verge of death wallowing in agony. Which would be grim to the point of being to the impact of it all if they were not juxtaposed with safe areas where people do their best to survive and even prosper. You find kids playing merrily in alleys while adults sit in makeshift bars getting liquored up and playing cards. Any horror game worth it’s salt needs these moments of respite in order for you to better appreciate the terror and suffering you experience all the other times.

Metro is a very dark game. The good kind of dark like DooM 3 or a Silent Hill where the darkness is not an endless block of opaque like in Outlast(or, Satan forbid, the dozens of shovelware inspired by it)  but rather something that serves to heighten the foreboding shadows and always leaving you with that tense feeling that every-time you glimpse something just beyond the reach of your flashlight you can’t tell if it moved or was it the light playing tricks on you. You have both a flashlight and a lighter to illuminate your surroundings. The flashlight has greater reach and can be used as a weaponize against certain foes but needs to be recharged occasionally with a portable crank-battery generator device thingy you have. The lighter has an endless supply and can burn away thick tangles of spider-webs but only illuminates an area that extends to the end of your boots.

Artyom is a humble Russian survivor not a battle hardened space marine capable of carrying 80 guns and grunting when a shotgun blast hits him in the face so dont be surprised when you get swiss cheesed by enemy humans or end up in the bellies of a half dozen mutants. Stealth and tactical approaches are the name of the gun-play game here.

You can only carry like 3 guns and a small handful of throw able objects. Ammo is limited for all of them so it is in your best interest to make every shot count. Combat is split between humans and mutants. with most human encounters you are capable of sneaking by, but almost all mutant encounters you have no choice but to fight.

While the stealth is not perfect in METRO it was interesting and compelling to be the thing that made me want to try it in the first place. Light sources can be turned off by unscrewing the light bulb, shooting it, throwing a knife at the bulb, or in some cases finding a switch and cutting off power to an entire section of an area; rendering it in darkness.

Gun-play is of the very modern sense where Aiming down sights is the only way you are going to hit anything more than three feet in front of you. Most weapons kick like mules so don’t except to fan the hammer with much success. Normally I hate that kind of shit but in a horror context It makes perfect sense and I love it. Even when you are wielding a 4X barreled shotgun you never truly get to tap into that power fantasy mindset. Mutants are ruthless and will close the distance between you and it before expanding the difference between your head and the shoulders it was attached to if you do not make every shot count. That kind of tension in ammo scarcity combined with how quickly you can lose control fo a situation in combat is one of the things that made me fall in love with this game.

*Also any game that allows knife throwing as a stealth kill is always fun. Seriously I never used any of the other throw able items during my entire play-through.

You come across a variety of guns from typical weapons like revolvers and smgs to more jury rigged affairs like pneumatic ball launchers and even a flamethrower. Also a quad-barreled shotgun. A double barreled shotgun is the Satan’s gift to humanity and

While health regeneration is technically a thing in METRO don’t be expecting it to be of any use in a firefight. It is not the “crouch behind that chest-high wall and wipe the ketchup off your face” like in COD. 99% of your health recovery in combat from little health syringe thingies you carry around. Health Regen is just to slow to be of any real use in that sense. Which is a good thing. Using one plays a little animation of you stabbing yourself in the arm with one like a veteran dope junkie leaving you vulnerable for a few moments. It is a nice touch that adds to the tensions and reinforces a tactical mindset in regards to combat.

METRO by and large is a game grounded in realism with only the occasional dives into more supernatural territory with certain areas of the metro and topside that are considered haunted. This usually manifests of hallucinations and ghosts never become an actual threat for you to shoot at.That would be silly. There are also a handful of scripted encounters with Dark Ones that veer into psychedelic horror territory but these serve to break up the rhythm of stalking the tunnels and interacting with others characters.

METRO 2033 is available on most consoles and PC, although I personally prefer the redux version on current gen consoles(PS4!) and I would consider it a must-play for horror FPS fans and people who enjoy depressed Russian fiction in general.

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Distraint Deluxe Edition-huff some drugs, eat the elephant.

Distraint Deluxe Edition is a psychological horror game, which means lots of metaphors in the form of grotesque imagery, a comfortable descent into disarray and your protagonist having a harder and harder time telling the difference between what is real and what is in his head. The kind of stuff I love. Psychological horror for me has always been a fitting type for point and click adventure games because you have to rely on logic (or lack thereof) to solve your problems rather than just shoot whatever is in your way. You play a dude named price trying to move up in the ranks of some real-estate firm and wrestles with the moral implications of his ambitions. It is a 2D sidescroller with you moving about various rooms of a level solving puzzles and interacting with characters to further the plot. The game was developed by one guy named Jesse Makkonen and Kudos to him for pulling a competent and enjoyable horror game. At least once a year we get a game made by an entire team of people with AAA money behind them who can’t even fill a bucket of piss properly with dumping it over onto everybody’s shoes. All the assets are hand drawn which a slant towards that small body big head style we see in a lot of indie games, but I give it a pass here because the exaggerated head size really helps sell the unsettling expressions of some characters (the three business men he is trying to partner with are a prime example)

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The game has this washed out feel to its color palette which contrasts sharply with the bright colorful lighting. Combined with the over-the-top character expressions you get an atmosphere where everything feels a little off and you can never truly get comfortable. It is kind of like sitting a chair where one leg is just little bit shorter than the other three. The bulk of the actual levels consist of Price going to various people’s homes and telling them they will shortly be homeless which are then broken up by interludes of him at home slowly falling apart in the head. Distraint has a nice vein of dark humor going through it and thank Satan it does, or this would one of the most bleak and depressing games I have played in a long time. Distraint by and large plays the subtle game with most of the horror coming from Prices own awful choices and the rippling effect it has on the peoples who houses he just basicallyre-possessed. These are juxtaposed against the occasional moments where things go completely off the rails into gore-drenched bonkers territory. At one-point price gets chased around by a giant decomposing elephant while blood splatters everywhere and another where his imagines his parents stand in his kitchen hacking the elephant to pieces and telling him they are going to feed it to him.

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Everything starts out hunky dory with you being sent to an apartment building to inform an old widow she is being evicted from her home. It is in this first level where Price’s moral crisis and driving force of his character arc begin. You also visit a lonely man living in a log cabin whose home is in the direct path of a proposed highway and a neer-do-well junkie living in squalid apartment complex. The one went straight up psychedelic with Price having to huff fumes from various chemical labs in order to solve most of the puzzles. The UI is almost non-existent in Distraint something I have grown quite fond of after Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth showed how immersive a minimalist UI can be. Puzzles are simple and logical enough, no moon logic where you need three feet of floss and the approval of your mother in law to unlock a door. The majority of the puzzles are your standard horror inventory puzzles, occasionally combining them or need multiple separate items a few times. A lot of the environment can be examined, usually with a humorous observation b y price.

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Despite moments of gallows humor and occasional levity Distraint is truly a bleak game and depressing game. Despite that, it is cleverly written and well-paced with plenty of somber moments that contrast nicely with the scenes of shocking psychosis and gore.

For what it is worth is does well, the game is quite short, I beat it in under three hours.

 

Distraint is available on steam for about 5$ so if even if you are a weirdo who does not enjoy being taken on auteurs wild ride you not going to be set back much.

 

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Outlast Review-Blood,Darkness and poorly rendered dicks.

So Outlast is a good game. Which is surprising because I am not really into the whole first-person pacifist faffing about in the dark looking for batteries type of game-play. It is genre that is easily replicated but rarely pulled off with any degree of competence. The only two of this genre of this that have received near universal acclaim  are Outlast and Amnesia the Dark Descent.

You can choose from a number of difficulties that change how aware enemies are and the damage they can do or even how many batteries you can hold

(here is a hint:not much)

Outlast is a First Person horror game by Red Barrels and is the Studios first offering. Not a bad way to break onto the scene. You control a freelance journalist named Miles Upshur as he investigates an Asylum know as Mount Massive. You are led here by a man named  Waylon Park who tips you off to inhuman experiments done to the inmates by Mount Massive owners, the Murkoff corporation. This is a pretty basic plot framing. Unethical corporation does screwed up things for reasons at reliably spooky setting, things predictably go careening off the fucking rails into a stygian pit of nightmares.

 

 

I really enjoy Miles Upshur character motivations. He is of the journalist stock who is not afraid to get his hands dirty in order to acquire truth. While Miles himself does not exactly radiate personality nor does he have the kind of character arc to rival the gateway arch of St.Louis. His character arc is more of free fall that starts with journalistic integrity and balls of brass and ends with journalistic integrity and “holy shit some guy wearing nothing but a apron cut my finger off with a pair of rusty hedge trimmers, I need to get the fuck out of here!”

It is his motivation and the archetype he represents that are compelling to me. He is the fearless truth seeker who will happily pray the price needed to bring truth from the dark into the light of the public eye. All of this gives plausible context for a variety of game-play mechanics. Almost every game post System Shock two has piles of information dumped around for your viewing/hearing pleasure. In most games this serves as a way of giving exposition and world building without directly breaking the pace of a game. In Outlast it is more or less why Miles came here in the first place. He needs that evidence yo. His primary means of collecting information and one half of the games core mechanic is his camcorder. Throughout the game he will write down observations based on the nearly endless parade of atrocities and macabre silly buggers in Mount Massive. This serves the twofold purpose of giving you insight into Miles state of mind and reinforcing the central motivation of collecting evidence so he can hopefully win that Nobel Peace Prize and do the talk show circuit when he escapes.

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The camcorder is night-vision equipped and thank Satan for that because Mount Massive is so poorly lit it makes DooM 3 look like it took place inside a lit florescent tube. The night-vision consumes batteries and you will be scrounging around throughout the game to keep a well stocked supply of them. They drain pretty quickly which can be a bit annoying in some of the larger more open areas so get used to flicking that light on and off every couple of seconds to save juice. In It’s defense it does make for some gloriously organic jump-scares when you are wandering in the dark, your batteries die so you pop in a new one and turn it on to find some maniac right in your face. Whereas it’s stablemate Amnesia T.D.D you make a trade-off between vision and concealment, in Outlast the night vision allows you to stay cloaked in the darkness.

I am going to make a few comparisons here between  Outlast in Amnesia so bear with me. While both games share the same horror subgenre, they deviate in quite a few ways that allows for both of them do make two different compelling play types. Amnesia has more focus on puzzle solving and slow building creeping dread by way of a sanity mechanic. Outlast is much more linear with puzzles being little more than grab this thing take it to this place or bob this, pull this, and twist this. SO while Outlast lacks depth in certain areas, the pacing has a much tighter focus. As much as I love adventure game inspired puzzling and non-linear exploration, I found myself really enjoying how fast paced Outlast could be. It has stealth elements so there are parts where you do the thing where you are in the dark stubbing your toe on every coffee table hoping some psycho the size of a truck bed does not spot you. For every one of these though Outlast throws in these high-tension chase sections where you are running down hallways jumping hospital beds, ducking under debris and shoving dressers in front of doors while maniacs try to bury there fist in your face.

As you explore the dilapidated Mount Massive you come across a number of colorful characters and most of them want you dead.

The first face you meet is a man named Chris Walker. He is basically the mascot for Outlast and that semi-truck sized motherfucker you see on the box art. His pursuit of you is relentless and Chris crops more often than any other variant. No spoilers, but by the end you piece together that Chris’s motivation might not be as horrible as his tactics.

The major character you encounter is Father Martin and is the closest thing to a friendly NPC this game has. He stabs you in the neck with a sedative and sticks you in a prison cell. This is what passes for friendly at Mount Massive so learn some gratitude. While friendly, his motives are all together sinister.

The Twins are kind of like acolytes to Father Martin. You first encounter them in the prison cell block and while not immediately hostile, they openly talk about cutting out your tongue and liver…then eating it. Also they are naked as they day they were born and yes they have visible penises. While they do not appear as often as Walker, they show their creepy ass faces plenty. Their demeanor is the polar oppisite of Walkers, whereas he is a audacious mountain of muscle and rage, The Twins never run, are completely silent, and speak in calm, choppy sentences with a hint of dry sarcasm. It is an altogether more unsettling experience.

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Richard Trager is by far my favorite character in this game and he should have been either the primary antagonist, or the playable character. He really only appears in a single section of Mount Massive that he has carved out for himself. Unlike the other people who are all nuttier than squirrel shit, Trager seems to at least have some grasp on reality. He tricks you into coming to his level by hopping into a dumbwaiter before strapping you into a wheelchair and taking you back to his place. He has a morbid, sarcastic sense of humor and has probably the best dialogue of any character in the game. Seriously he refers to you as his ‘buddy’ and tells you about how he cut out a guys tongue because he was, and I quote, “tired of licking his own stamps”.  Trager is a lanky fellow who wears nothing but an apron. He also cuts your fingers off with a big pair of scissors. I found everything about Trager delightfully wicked.

Other minor characters include followers of father martin(some hostile, others not) and random inmates. You come across some so broken mentally they do little more than  wander aimlessly, curl up in the fetal position, or stand and stare blankly at nothing. It is kind of sad.

While only seen in glimpses or from a security monitor, the Walrider is the primary antagonist in Outlast and serves as the final obstacle you must escape from. A swarm of nanites that is source of the inmates madness and misery.

The areas in Outlast are split up between you wandering dark empty(ish) areas and either being chased by somebody or hiding from somebody. The quieter moments provide a nice respite from violent harassment. The environments manage to stay fresh enough throughout the various sections of Mount Massive to keep things from becoming to repetitive while maintaining the a consistent atmosphere (an atmosphere of psychosis and dismemberment).

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Since Outlast has no real puzzles or combat all it’s eggs are in the movement basket when it comes to interacting with the environment. You can climb, run, jump, walk along edges, mantle, and slide between tight places. Most of the levels reflect this mechanics. Which is great, but towards the end of the game I started noticing how things were placed in a given area and realized some maniac is going to be chasing me back through this area before too long.

Even though Outlast plays the near total darkness of a lot of it’s environments as a core tenet of the player experience it is almost a shame it was not at least slightly more lit. Because there are a few moments where the lighting in the game can be down artistic. A section of the game has you out in a huge courtyard during a storm and every time lightning flashes it illuminates the area in a way that only a flash of light in the night can do. It is not like Outlast is hiding and kind of shoddy texture work in the blackness. I was stunned when I found out the game was made in the Unreal Three engine, it is that detailed.

Audacity is the word that kept popping up in my head while playing Outlast. While other horror games like Silent Hill prefer a subtle, grim atmosphere Outlast’s seems to be a mood geared towards violence and aggression. Whenever the inmates don’t seem like somebody kicked the shit out of them mentally, they look it physically. You regularly encounter  corpses(well parts of corpses) that are torn to shreds or hanging from various fixtures. Most of these are from Walker, the rest are usually the Walrider. It does not take to long to notice Mount Massive is falling apart, but not from neglect. Everyone seems hell bent on either tearing their way out or violently containing everyone else. It all comes together to give off this sense of hostility even when you do find a moments respite.

HEY, do you like atonal dissonant string and horn sections that make your neck hairs stand on end and fucking dare to stay calm and relaxed? Well then you will love the OST for Outlast.  One of the best design tricks Outlast has at it’s disposal is the OST. Every character you encounter has their own theme that plays when you are being pursued by them. IT allows you, even in the dark, to have a clear indicator of who or what is hauling ass in your direction. Beyond that the soundtrack is just a wonderful collection of tense foreboding instrumental tracks. The only one I am not afraid of is the death theme. It is thee most abrasive collection of sounds I ever heard in my life and the more I died, the more grating it became. So success I guess?

 

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The Consuming Shadow-Minimalism Maximized

*This review originally appeared on horror-writers.com*

 

 

The Consuming Shadow- Minimalism Maximized.
The Consuming Shadow is a 2D rogue-like survival horror game by Yahtzee Crowshaw. In you play as a character known only as “The Scholar” who is tasked with stopping an invading “Lovecraftian” god by discovering and completing a banishment ritual at Stonehenge. Game-play is split between plotting courses across an overland map of England in your car and exploring various “Dungeons”. I chose the title “Minimalism Maximized” because the game executes a dizzying level of subtly and complexity using only the barest of bones. One of the first things you notice when opening the main menu is a rather simplistic 2D art style. I would argue that not only does this not take away from the horror experience, it actually can and will add to it. Here in the main menu you see a silhouetted player character hunched over a desk in a nearly pitch black room giving a basic summary of plot details.
Within the menu itself you have the option of beginning your journey or killing yourself. This is a masterfully crafted execution of both the games tone, and one of it’s central game play mechanics. Clicking on ‘Kill Yourself” starts a mini-game where you frantically tap the mouse to keep a silhouette of your character from putting a gun to their head and pulling the trigger.
After you begin your journey you find in yourself in your car with a map of England and a variety of procedurally generated towns. You will notice a sixty hour timer on your screen. Time management is a vital factor here. If you fail to die within sixty hours, the invading god will do what he does. Which is invading, and killing you. You have a health, sanity, and ammo count meters to contend with. Also here is another great moment of subtly. In your rear view mirror is a post it note with the words “Don’t look back” written on it. At first it seems almost whimsical, but as your sanity wanes, you start to see it as a call for clarity in a world going mad. Your car is where you can heal from a refillable med-kit, and take narcotics to temporarily restore sanity
(albeit with diminishing returns). You can also find your book of clues and a spell book. Clues will logged as you find them. They are integral to completing the game. They are randomly sorted each play through to always keep you guessing. Your main concern is to discern the identity of the invading god and the correct runes needed for his banishment ritual. This segues nicely into your spell book. Here you keep all the spells you have learned. You can use a variety of spells that can heal, illuminate areas and highlight your goal in a dungeon or damage enemies. Using spells saps your sanity there is a steep risk/reward aspect at play here.You will also receive texts from time to time in your car. They run the gamut of job offers from your employer, The Ministry, family texts that can add or subtract sanity and random numbers or threats from cultists. Also you can sort through equipment you find in dungeons and purchase from towns. These while not necessary, they can be extremely useful. This section of the game has a somewhat Oregon Trail feel with traveling from town to town in a non-linear fashion while coming across a variety of random encounters along the way. The texts and encounters only occasionally have a massive impact on your play through. Most of them exist to add flavor and immersion to the game world Towns themselves will consist of either friendly towns or towns that have fallen to the shadow. Friendly towns give you the option to scavenge for supplies and a hospital for mending wounds, refilling med-kits and buying more drugs. All of this is conveyed through a simple but effective images of towns with accompanying text.

 

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Fallen towns are where the meat of the game-play is located. Here you will find “dungeons” consisting of various realistic settings like hospitals, parks and warehouses. Objectives will be rescuing a hostage, closing a dimensional rift, defeating a large creature or finding an important artifact. I am going to leave an important note here, imagine it as a post it note on your rear-view mirror. You, will, die. You will die a lot. It is not simply a Dark Souls combat style of masochist difficulty, it is a central game-play mechanic. Completing dungeons, killing monsters and piecing together clues about the impending gods arrival all give you experience. The difference here is, you only level up when you die. Every level unlocks birth signs which are used to boost your stats at the beginning of each new journey. Birth signs are placed in the sky near astrological symbols which confer health and sanity bonuses, to other things like loot drops, research buffs, spell effectiveness and larger ammo capacity. Combat consists of using your 9.mm pistols for ranged, or pistol whipping for melee. Here lies one of my favorite aspects of Consuming Shadow and one of my favorite types of horror game combat in general. Combat in horror usually falls into one of three categories. On one extreme you have the Outlast/Amnesia style horror combat, where there is basically no combat. You’re a wet paper bag lost in the wrong side of town. You stealth about and run when you realize you suck at sneaking. On the other end is the Doom 3/Dead Space style combat. Your a sentient oil drum filled to the brim with whoop ass. you mow down all sorts of monstrosities and neer’do’wells with gleeful abandon. The Consuming Shadow falls into that happy medium between the two ala Resident Evil 1-3 or Zombi. A wonderful chunk of corned beef and sour-kraut between two slices of wholly different loaves of bread. You have means of defending yourself, sometimes it is the better option. Other times, it is not. The dungeons are procedurally generated making each play through fresh and new. Here you will encounter various ghastly creatures and occasional cultists; human foes who cast profane magic at you. Taking damage or leaving rooms with enemies in them result in sanity loss(among other ways) While sanity mechanics have been implemented in other games, I find Consuming Shadow executes it almost to perfection. As your sanity drains, a whole host of uncanny visual effects begin happening. Translucent black botches appear on the screen, a grain effect fades in an out. Sometimes the silhouette of your character will disappear entirely, doors will shift about and enemies that only exist in your mind will appear. While are all well and good despite being cribbed to some level from Eternal Darkness, there are other sanity effects that nail the atmosphere and horror like a professional sniper. One in particular is when the objective text at the beginning of a dungeon is replaced with “kill yourself” “die die die” etc, only to seamlessly transition back into the normal text while your reading it. The other major one is far more sinister. Various commands in the town and car sections will randomly be replaced with the “Kill Yourself” command for a few moments. You will accidently hit this. If you succeed at pulling the gun from your throat, you have a high chance at recovering some sanity, But, it gets progressively harder every time you enter the mini-game. While It is never stated in any way, a lot of background story telling is at play here when infer that even when you are completely out of ammo, you still have one bullet left. It is a great reinforcement of the despair and morbid atmosphere in this game. Even when your characters head is held high, they still know in the back of their mind the only fail safe way to save themselves from the darkness is to simply end it all. The endgame of all this is to discover enough clues about who the invading god is to form the correct banishment ritual. The place of his summoning will always be found at Stonehenge, the farthest point from where your journey begins. When you die, or complete the game (you lucky bugger) you’re presented with a rundown of your characters actions. This is one of many moments where Yahtzee really flexes his writing chops and despite their random nature, I found all of them compelling and enjoyable. See you only get one life in Consuming shadow. A hallmark of the rogue-like genre is “Permadeath” So when you die, it’s game over, start over. For most games in this genre it works to make a steep difficulty curve. In the Consuming shadow, it allows for a multitude of great stories to Emerge. For example, within the lore it is stated to be multiple parallel universes. That means, that every single play through is a cannon play through. Neat huh?
I believe I covered most of the meat that is Consuming Shadow. Now I am going to move on to the even meatier bits. The filet side of the T-bone steak if you will. When you die, you will find a bestiary tab unlocked in the main menu. Here is a list of all the enemies you encountered and a percentage of your knowledge about them. While this is hardly new in games, the way it is executed is. The writing on them is unveiled piece by piece, sometimes ending in the middle of a word. For me, this created an almost addictive sense of going back and raising as much hell across England as possible just for a few more lines of lore that were denied to me. Also you will discover diary pages giving background info leading up to your characters involvement in the plot. With the Insanity Edition now out for sometime, you can play a number of challenge modes including an endless descent version of the Stonehenge dungeon. You can even unlock three hidden characters with their own unique stats and abilities. (Minor Spoiler warning) One of them MIGHT be one of the main characters of previous Yahtzee games. While this game does have a lot of variables left to random number generation, they fit to together cohesively and lead to some truly unique and horrifying scenarios. One in particular for me was when I had reached the bottom of Stonehenge. I collected all the clues and prerequisites for the proper banishment ritual, found the summoning room and cleared it of all opposition. Sounds good so far right? Well, By this point my narcotics wore off and I had lost every last bit of my sanity. With no sanity, you are unable to concentrate enough to use spells. I had no options left, I had no time left. I was a madmen running around in the stygian catacomb under Stonehenge with every last piece needed to put an end to the machinations of the invading god, and with it’s altar right before. Alas, I was to far gone to complete the ritual. I died a broken man with the key in my hand, and the lock at my feet. Other standout moments include being chased by various death-less beings after completing a dungeon objective and being forced to escape. At first it seemed a simple jump scare, but combined with low visibility, sanity effects and the need to overcome regular monsters still lurking about, it became a rapidly rising scene of nail biting tension.
In moments like this the simple art style really brings adds to the horror. The monsters are detailed enough to give your form, but vague enough to let your imagination fill in the rest.
The sound track like any good horror sound track, gives the atmosphere weight and depth. Somber piano melodies with haunting synth inspired sections remind me of the classic Resident Evil games with a touch of the Silent Hill franchise. The Consuming Shadow is a brilliantly executed game. It’s simple art style is deceptively sinister. The sound track sends chills up my spine at all the right moments. The combat is beautifully clumsy. While some may not like it, it does reinforce the notion that your character is just as meagerly equipped to deal with absolute horror like any person existing in the real world. The writing is top notch, and one of the greatest strengths of this game.
Now that I have finished gushing on about a game whose developer I admit to be a fan of most all his content, I will finally quit dragging my feet and get into the flaws. I do this in order to maintain a thin veneer of objectivity.
My first nick-pick would have to be the near uselessness of lock picking. You start with three lock-picks, finding more is scarce. I accept that. The problem arises when the chance of picking a lock starts at 15% and only goes up by 5 for every failure. While you can up your lock picking chances by placing a birth star near the proper astrological sign, nearly every single dungeon has a set of keys to be found making it practically useless. Especially when you can just beef your health and melee damage like me and become a insane gains-bro running around in body armor pistol whipping the ever-loving shit out of H.P. Lovecraft’s rogue gallery. Another nitpick would be the birth sign leveling system. It changes the placement in the sky with some signs not appearing at all. While I understand the merits behind it, I find it most displeasing when I am unable to be a hulked-out maniac. Sometimes you are forced to a playthrough with a load-out you are not familiar with or not really wanting to play with. One major gripe I do have is lack of any ability to hold more than a single clip of the three ammo types for your 9.MM. I understand and prefer for horror games to have an inventory management mechanic, but any ammo you find that is over a full clip just disappears.
On the same note of inventory, money is incredibly scarce, which is fine in and of itself. The problem is when you find yourself lucky enough to have more equipment than need be, but nobody on a whim to sell to for some badly needed scratch. There have been plenty of playthroughs for me where I found myself staring at a syringe full of that sweet, sweet, drug-stuff and scratching the skin off my neck but no money to buy it. Even though I did have a garbage barge full of ammunition. Apparently the concept of bartering is the first thing lost when cosmic terrors descend from beyond the stars.

The Consuming Shadow was developed on the game maker engine By Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw. The sound track was composed by Mark Lovegrove.
I would recommend The Consuming Shadow to anyone who enjoys a good horror game and has no problem with occasionally putting a bullet through their own throat.
I give it 4/4 banishment runes.
It is available on Steam for the low price of 10 American dollars. (Value of American dollar is subject to change on a moment to moment basis. …Sorry I didn’t vote for him.)

 

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DUSK episode 2-review

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DUSK Episode 2 picks up almost directly where episode 1 left off. Having left rural backwoods behind, the eerie industrial grime is out in full effect here. You begin with only the sickles and have to find all the weapons once more. Once of the first things I realized with episode 2 is the almost sadistic difficulty fights. Most of the first level consists of big open areas, and at key points it reaches near-Serious Sam levels of combat. A giant horde of enemies spawn in and you have to zip around the area taking them on with merciless fervor. Three new enemies are introduced in the second episode. A big armored fuck with a flame cannon tanks a good number of hits and will explode upon defeat, damaging anyone nearby. A miniature version of a boss fight you encounter about halfway through episode two. This one basically replaces the witch monsters from episode one and are easily the hardest non-boss encounters in the game. They moan, they groan, creak like rusty wheels and apply a liberal application of rockets to all their problems. The third new enemy I will keep a secret, trust me you want to find this one on your own 😉 While the level design was definitely good in Episode 1, here the levels become sometimes surreal as well as complex. DUSK always had a horror vibe and episode 2 really begins to lean into that. At one point your flashlight breaks (your flashlight has an actual practical purpose now) and you are forced to navigate through the dark until you find a new one. No spoilers if you have not played it but the payoff for all this light fuckery is superb.

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When DUSK is not having monsters coming out of closets by the parade full, it is crushing you on all sides with delightfully claustrophobic levels. Quite a few times you find yourself crawling through tiny shafts with your arms grazing each side while some truly creepy ambient music plays among the cold metallic slamming and grinding of machines.  It really gives you a feeling of being in a place you don’t truly belong.

A few new power-ups are introduced in episode 2. One lets you climb walls(IT is fucking awesome) Another is basically a SUPER-HOT! power up (I have no idea how to use it effectively) While the former is utilized well in traversing certain areas of a level and finding secrets, the latter (for now) seems to be more of a spectacle thing.

Episode 3 is titled “The Nameless City” which is a nice wink and a nod to the H.P Lovecraft story of the same name. I get the feeling giving how increasingly otherworldly and bizarre the levels become as you near completion of episode 2, I feel like this is more than a passing reference. Hell the basic flow of that story seems to have seeped into the level design itself. You keep finding yourself going, deeper down into this world. There more than section that has in these steep descents and drops. In fact and one other one shows you at any kind of surface at all (Unless you count being in a floating temple in the sky(?) or on top of a giant reactor.

Standout levels for me are “Into the Thresher” “Escher labs” and “Neo-babal”

Especially Escher Labs.

If you have not guessed by the title.

Boss fights here are bigger and badder than ever with the only recurring(ish) boss is where you fight what I assume to be the sons of the Intoxigator from episode 1. You also get a nice Rise Of The Triad reference towards the end when you get to fight “Big John” A boss from ROTT.

The music here hits all the high you will have grown accustomed to in Episode 1 with a variance between creepy ambiance for the slower parts and grabbing you from behind and giving you a German suplex Big Van Vader style with some head-crushing metal riffs.

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*Vader=Andrew Hulshult’s masterclass riffage

The other guy=your ears*

Everything about Episode 2 gives off a ramping up feel to the DUSK that I hope Episode 3 will pay off nicely. My only complaints about episode 2 is while the world of DUSK becomes continually fleshed out, as of yet we still no absolutely nothing about our playable character. It is a real shame to because if you have played any of David’s other games you would know that is competently capable of crafting compelling characters.

So grab your sickles, take a puff your trusty cigar, step through that foreboding portal and brace your soul for episode 3.

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Condemned: Hobo beat-down Turbo Alpha MKV 3rd Edition

*This review originally appeared on Horrorwriters.com*

 

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Condemned is a first person survival horror game released in 2005 by Monolith Productions. I have been excited to play this game ever since I found out Monolith was the developers: they have a pretty good track record with horror games, having developed the
F.E.A.R. series as well as the criminally underrated 2.5D FPS BLOOD. Needless to say I was wielding a hefty bar of expectations going into this.
You play a member of the FBI’s Serial Crime Unit named Ethan Thomas. Throughout the game it is noted that Ethan has “gifted” investigative abilities and near-superhuman durability. These act mostly as plot convenience to explain why you seem to be much more adept at taking a 2X4 to the face than most people. The game is played in a first person perspective only breaking from that for cut scenes. Condemned opens with you and a few other law enforcement officials arriving in a seedy part of the fictional city of Metro to investigate the crime scene of a notorious serial killer. The games notes early on that violent crime and psychotic behavior have recently been on an increase all over the city for reasons that slowly get revealed over the course of the game. The first 20 minutes or so serve as a tutorial of sorts for the games various mechanics. Movement on PC is typical for a first person game, simple and intuitive WASD to move and mouse to look around. You are shown how to use your flashlight for finding your way through poorly lit areas, which is the entire game. Luckily, your flashlight was not made from cardboard and congealed sadness so it has a charge time of more than three and half minutes(Im looking at you Outlast clones). After fumbling around in an condemned building (get it?) you arrive to find the latest victim of a killer known as “The Matchmaker.” Here you are introduced to one of the central game-play mechanics: investigating stuff.
Ethan comes equipped with a variety of investigative tools that I am sure were the talk of town in 2005. You get to take photographs, scan and collect samples in order to piece together what is happening around you. All of this gets transferred digitally with what looks to be a Nokia flip-phone. Did I mention this game is about twelve years old? Your correspondent who process the clues is a genuinely delightful woman named Rosa. Most of your interactions with her will be over that dinosaur of a cell-phone you carry around until a late-game level where you actually meet up with her for some clue hunting and hobo beating. The investigative parts themselves are never any kind of mind-bending puzzle or a desperate hunt for obscure clues. You get a prompt that something intriguing is nearby, then you pull out an appropriate tool and collect some samples. It makes for a nice breather in between taking a gas pipe to the mouth and crushing un-medicated psychopaths with a sledgehammer. These moments usually serve to forward the plot and character interactions between Ethan and Rosa who begins to feel like your only friend in a world going mad.

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I mentioned beating up homeless people and the mentally ill a few times earlier so let me explain that before you begin thinking Condemned is basically Se7en with a lot more murdering of the underclass. I mean, it kind of is in a sense… Early on in the game you get the notion that there is something far bigger, and supernatural, going on behind all the serial killer investigative stuff which is affecting all the crazy people who are trying to beat you to death. While the story itself is not some mind-blowing narrative that will shake you to your very core, the way it is told is admirable at the very least.
As you progress through the game, titillating tid-bits of an otherworldly horror are doled out for you to unravel. Soon after “The Matchmaker” scene, another killer crashes the party, kills your two cops buddies with your gun, then disappears. Ethan is left taking the fall for the murdering of two police officers. This sets up the bulk of the story with Ethan trying to stop this mystery killer and clear his own name with the FBI. The game itself is level based, with Ethan traveling through a variety of run-down and derelict libraries, sewers, farmhouses, warehouses, subway systems and mannequin shops- more on that later. In fact 99% of the game is you just trudging through crumbling, decaying shit-holes. The levels themselves are relatively non-linear while not devolving into abstract labyrinths. Most levels will contain a few special melee weapons like shovels, fire axes, sledgehammers and crowbars. Aside from being powerful ways of defending yourself, they will give you access to areas you could not get to otherwise. It is a pretty novel way of implementing a key system, as a lot of the times these weapons will function as such. The fire axe is especially fun because you hack down doors ala Jack Nicholson in The Shining. (Side note, I said ‘Here’s Johnny!’ out loud EVERY SINGLE TIME I chopped a door down in this game). Other times you will need to investigate a crime scene before you can continue through the level.

 

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There are two types of collectibles to be found throughout the game. Yea, only two. It seems so minimalist compared to today games that can have their playtime padded out by an additional 50 hours or so. Simpler times, I guess. Also, they are actually tied to the plot. The more numerous ones are dead/dying birds. It is stated the birds are also being affected by whatever is driving the people mad. Only instead of becoming violent, their brains simply dissolve into mush and then they die; It’s pretty sad. The other type are these strange metal bars you can find. Not much is said about them, but they will almost be found with drawings of eyes surrounding them so I think they are important.
Now some people have taken offense to the perceived repetitiveness of the levels (See above: crumbling shit-holes) and while that would be a valid argument if this was a different style of game, since similar accusations were thrown at horror games such as Doom 3 or Quake I, it is my humble opinion that Horror is one of the few genres that can actually benefit from a more slow-burning uniform imagery or color palette. As a huge fan of dark ambient music I can say that a tense, atmosphere can be sufficiently achieved when you get the notion that it is unending, droning and oppressive.
The steak and potatoes of Condemned, and one of it’s biggest selling points, is the combat. Condemned is a bit of an oddity in that while it is a first person perspective game and guns do exist in it, it is not an FPS. The few guns you find are far and few between with no extra ammo; what you find in the clip is what you get. Most of the combat will be melee-based and ohh boy is it brutal. Time and technology may have rendered Condemned a bit aged, but the depressive, visceral nature of the combat is still second to none. It is the polar opposite of stylish fast-paced combat seen in games like Devil May Cry or even a Soulsborne game. It is deliberately slow with a white knuckle sense of tension. You can block, kick, or take a swing. On higher difficulties one or two wrong moves will end with you getting a hunk of rebar cracking your skull like a soft walnut. You do get a taser as a trump card to stun enemies and even steal their weapons. The taser has a cooldown so don’t think you can be happy-go-lucky with it. Also, enemies take no shit in this game.
AI in this game is actually pretty impressive. Most enemies in other video games are of two flavors. They will be tactical and hide behind cover taking pot-shots and verbal-vomiting chunks of random military jargon. The other type run in a straight line and beat your head like they have not eaten in three days and someone told them your skull was hiding the last bag of chips. On top of that, you have a stamina bar and no regenerating health. So woe be to those who think they can flake out on a fight and hide behind a dumpster so their plot-armor can mend itself. The enemies in this game are a cut above the rest: they will skulk in the shadows, flank you, and hide in wait for an ambush waiting for your oh so smash-able body to get within range of their gym door locker. Enemies will also block, kick, or even feign attacks to get an opening on you. If you take their weapon they will even retreat and seek out another piece of random debris to pound on you with. Some enemies will have guns; they are a top priority, because they have a gun and odds are you won’t. Another good reason to run into a hail of gunfire is enemies in Condemned do not have magic infinite ammo like most games, so if you kill them quick you could get a fully-loaded gun to wreak havoc with.
Enemies come in all shapes and sizes. Random bearded hobos, relatively clean-shaven hobos, female hobos, but unfortunately no bearded female hobos. You even come across emaciated sewer junkies who crawl around on all fours and generally give you the creeps. Eventually, you come across guys that P90-X professionally and can easily break you in half if you’re not careful. Towards the end of the game I even saw a guy who looked like the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3 got really, really, fat. Those guys could throw some serious hands. The single most interesting enemy encounter took place in the mannequin shop I mentioned earlier. Here you come across people wearing the mannequin pieces like armor over their skin and will pose as mannequins in order to catch you off guard. It is exactly as creepy as you would expect. At one point I turned a corner, saw a mannequin in a real aloof pose and leaning on a cane. I looked away, then turned back to see the “mannequin” was staring at me. He then grabbed the cane and started swinging. It was an incredible and unique moment of horror for me. Now I
won’t spoil too much end game content, other than to tell it eventually cranks the supernatural aspect up to a solid 7 and gives a rather fun final boss who looks like kind of like a Cenobite.

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The graphics are not cutting edge by any stretch even for that time still, they do get the job done and it does not take away from the story or gameplay. While the character models are a bit blocky, the animations for them are quite varied and fluid. While Condemned may not have reached the iconic status of other horror games from that era, it is still a great game you should not pass up on playing.

It is currently 14.95$ on Steam in case 5 pennies is a deal breaker for you, because I got it on sale so totally was for me.

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Zombi review

Zombi is a survival-horror first person game developed Ubisoft Montreal that was released on PC, PS4, and Xbox one on August 18, 2015. It was originally released a few years prior on the WiiU under the title “ZombiU” but I never owned a WiiU (with good reason).

While it was sadly considered a financial failure, I found it to be absolutely fantastic. Which is surprising because in my humble opinion, the zombie genre is like an aging porn star; it has been done from every angle. While in broad strokes it does nothing new (ruined city, zombies, no-nonsense survivor type etc) it’s in the details that the game begins to truly stand out. First detail is the charm. Right in the main menu you have the option of changing the menu to an 80‘s styled version completes with a midi version of the menu theme. Apparently, it is a reference to a 1986 game also called Zombi which was the first game published by Ubisoft. You are also given the option to pick a decal for your cricket bat, a weapon you will be getting quite familiar over the course of the game.

The story of Zombi begins with you, some random Johnny, waking up in the safe-house of a man known only as “The Prepper” He tasks you with locating the previous protege of his who tragically came down with a severe case of the ravenous undeath. You are to kill them and retrieve the B.O.B(bug out bag) Through this tutorial Zombi intuitively introduces you to its core game-play mechanic: permanent death. There is no game over screen and reloading an old save here. If you find yourself with a one-way ticket aboard the S.S. Undead, Zombi will simply reach into its bag of random Johnnys and give you an entirely new person to play with. You then wake up at the Prepper’s safe house and must go wring the neck of the un-dead sod to retrieve your B.O.B before continuing with the story.

Zombi takes place in London and you will be visiting the various tourist traps like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London among other areas like a super market and a subway system. The world is a hub-world with the Prepper Pad serving as the central area and you explore large non-linear environments searching for supplies and completing story objectives. As you explore you can find beds to save your progress in. You can also discover various shortcuts that making getting to and from the Prepper pad easier, so you don’t have to hoof it around above ground like a food truck with your face is the hot-ticket item. Zombi encourages wandering from the beaten path because that is where you will most of useful items like gun upgrades and a shovel. be careful when you do though, opening your inventory does not pause the game so rooting through your backpack will leave you vulnerable and to add to to the horror, your player will make frightened sounds when zombies are approaching while you do this. Your character moves about as well a regular Joe would be expected to.  While most of the important areas seem to be hand-crafted, various areas are procedurally generated to keep you on your toes.

The enemies in Zombi consist almost entirely of…zombies. Surprised? Well you should be because this is one of the only games since the O.G. Resident Evil games that have had some truly menacing cannibalistic corpses. They can come in a commendable variety with later ones able to teleport and produce lightening like an electric eel genetically engineered by George Romero. Some have riot gear on making them able to tank most hits and zombies can even survive having their heads partially destroyed. Now all that would still be a walk in the park for our ensemble cast of badass space marines, right? Oh ya, you don’t get any of that. You get a middle-aged accountant with a muffin top. Zombi leans very heavily into the “survival” part of the phrase “survival horror” and I love it even more for that. Combat is almost always a tense, white knuckle affair. Your cricket bat (mine had a retro-pinup model on it) can be used to shove zombies away for some breathing room, and it takes separate button presses to lift and then swing it to attack. All the while your character grunts and yells while fighting which really conveys how you are just a regular person caught in a desperate situation. You do get your hands on some heavier ordinance like Molotov cocktails, land-mines, a pistol, shotgun, and a machine gun, but good luck finding ammo for it; this is survival horror, not a walk in the park on a warm sunny summer day horror. All this does make for some memorable moments when you do get your hands on a box or two of ammo and can finally relieve some tension by turning a hoard of your former neighbors and book-club members into a thick red paste. Zombi takes a cue from Dark Souls in that it will slap the shit out of you for getting too cocky. A lack of environmental awareness can quickly lead to you get stampeded by hungry hungry half corpses.

It was during one of these moments about halfway through the game that I  had a realization (getting disemboweled gives a whole new perspective on things). I had become more attached to Bob from accounting number 4 than I had most protagonists in video games; even the ones I enjoyed! There was a certain tragedy to be had when your character died because he was gone forever. Their story was over. Now it is time for Bob from accounting number 5 to take up the reigns. There is a certain grimness when you find your former avatar, now a zealous devotee in this new religion of shambling horrors. You peer into his hollow empty eyes, have a short reminiscence about all the good times, then flatten his skull with a cricket bat. Everybody gets a cricket bat. I had half a chest full of them by time the game was over. Does England have some sort of post- apocalyptic contingency plan where when the big shit hits the fan they just start issuing cricket bats to every able-bodied civilian? If so, my country needs to adopt that policy

A.S.A.P because i’m digging it.

The story proper never truly gets in the way of things which is good, not that the story is bad or anything, but the meat (cheeks and thighs are the best parts) of the game is the combat and exploration. Apparently four centuries prior to the events of the game a certain John Dee made the “Black Prophecy” and some blokes calling themselves The Ravens of Dee are preparing for the coming apocalypse.

 

*Side Note* Apparently John Dee was a real person. I did not know that. That is how much of a damnable idiot I am. *Side note end*

 

The Prepper was a former member but left the group over disagreements in the interpretation of the Black Prophecy.” I am assuming their interpretation involved a lot less stockpiling of MRE’s and cans of beans than he could handle. The story is rounded out with various characters like a physician named Dr. Knight who is working on a cure (take a guess at how that works out!) and a Raven of Dee member named Sondra who tries to help you escape the city. You also encounter a man named Vikram while looking for petrol. You kill him. Like after he turns, you are not a murderer. This does tie in to one of the most chilling and frankly depressing parts of the entire game. You travel to a nursery looking for said petrol (get that flashlight ready because it’s about to get dark in here) to find that all the children have been eaten. Also, the nurse turns into a teleporting ghost monster. That part is cool.

Not long after that things get a little Thunderdome-esque when you get kidnapped by a guy calling himself Boris ‘King of the zombies’ and you are forced to fight in an arena against waves of zombies. Unfortunately for Boris, his subjects grow weary of his despotic rule and overthrow usurp his throne in the best way possible; face munchin’. I won’t spoil the ending of the game for you but the RAF

fire-bombs the city.

My only real criticisms with the game are it originally being a Wii U exclusive which probably didn’t help much with it’s visibility in the general eye because Wii U’s were not exactly marketed with niche-type gaming interests in mind. The graphics are a bit dated even for the time of it’s release, they do get the job done so I am not coming down to hard on it. Overall it is a bit short without a wide girth of replay value unless you want to play on Git-Gud mode where you only get one life. There is also a “chicken mode” where there is no perma-death and I don’t want to be that “No easy mode for Dark Souls” type shithead but it’s a core game-play mechanic, it was no fun playing that for me. Have at it if that’s your cup of tea, you are just missing out on one of the most compelling aspects of Zombi.

The Ost for Zombi, is actually pretty fucking rad. I barely gave it a glance when I initially played through other than the 8-bit rendition for the main menu theme (go listen to it right now. It is awesome, you will not regret it!) There is a healthy mixture of somber piano driven songs like the main menu theme, darker ambient tracks and some good ol fashioned blood pumping NIN styled tracks. Lot of synth parts with some heavy, angular guitar riffs, that shit is my jam man. It is definitely a soundtrack I can sit and listen to from beginning to end and enjoy every second of it.

 

Zombi costs about 20$ on steam, I got mine on PS4 for free and I regret not paying for it this game deserves it despite some flaws.

I give it 4/5 whacks with a cricket bat.

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Nosferatu-Wrath of Malachi

Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi.

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Nosferatu is an FPS horror game published in 2003 by iGames and developed by IdolFX. It is an obscure gem of a horror game from that Doom 3/Resident 4 era of horror games when they started leaning towards a more action-focus concept, while still keeping the atmosphere and mood of older “Pure” survival horror games.

You play a guy named James Patterson who was an Olympian fencer that recently lost an event in Sweden. This is little more than plot justification for your starting weapon being a cane sword, which you get to use…a lot. And, it is justified. I think he lost because he instinctively decapitated his opponent then drove a stake through their heart, because you seem to do pretty well with it. The plot, like most plots in older FPS games, exists mainly to justify the imagery and motive for ultra-violence.

You arrive in Transylvania –yes– to attend the wedding of your sister Rebecca, to a wealthy Romanian Count at his home, Castle Malachi –double yes. When you arrive something seems wrong because, of course, something is wrong. Transylvania, Castle Malachi, Romanian Count, the writing was on the walls, James. You see that all your family is missing, but before they left they took the time to nail all their crosses onto the front doors. First thing you do is open your suitcase and pick up your trusty cane sword. Moments later you witness a close friend of the family, Father Aville, as he produces irrefutable proof of the theory of gravity by falling three stories onto a stone walkway. He tells you about how the Count is actually a vampire who plans on sacrificing each member of your family, especially your sister, in order to resurrect a vampiric deity named Lord Malachi. He then sets you about your way of rescuing your family members and returning them to the safe space behind the doors of the crucifix amalgam. This is a way of slyly introducing a central game play mechanic; which is an in-game clock. With every in-game hour that passes, a random family member is sacrificed. Fitting the morbid tome of the horror genre, odds are you will never, ever, rescue every family member. Also, every time a family member dies it increases the strength of Lord Malachi.

Castle Malachi itself is non-linear and semi-procedurally generated. Now this was way back in 2003, long before the dead horse of procedural generation was flogged down to a fine powder then snorted in the nostalgic hopes of recapturing that initial high. Most of the main areas of the game of static, with smaller rooms, enemy, item, and family member placement being randomized. This means there is enough RNG for a play through to remain fresh and keep you on your toes. There are also just enough hand-crafted sections to keep you from feeling like they simply coded in a level algorithm before sitting back in their chairs to make slow jerk hand gesticulations for the rest of the dev. cycle. So, while the plot may be a thin gruel, the set dressings and garnish are where the game really begins to stand strongly on its own legs.

Graphics are rather dated, it’s quite obviously an early 2000‘s era game. This does little impact on the atmosphere and imagery the game puts on display, though. There seems to be a sort of grainy film reel filter in the game, where even though it is in color, it gives the feeling of it being a 40‘s-50‘s era horror film. The areas in the game consist mainly of crumbling claustrophobic rooms and corridors with Gothic architecture abound, eerie cemeteries, creaking, archaic stairwells, foreboding towers and other familiar, ghastly sights. It’s the kind of set-pieces my black heart feels right at home in among the cobwebs and things that lay just beyond the shadows.

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Now this being an FPS, you get weapons, some awesome and interesting weapons to boot. You get a pair of two hands –enemies love to catch some-, your trusty cane sword, a five shot revolver that has its own unique pistol whip melee attack, and a flintlock musket. These are your bread and butter ordinances you will be using against most common-fare ghouls. Throughout you will also get your hands on a few more interesting items. You get a crucifix that will ward off lesser beasts and certain enemies can only be killed by it. Stakes, which are best served medium rare over a vampire heart. The stakes can also double as torches, because “why not?”. You also get a flintlock rifle, which hits like a bag of bricks tucked inside an even bigger bag of bricks. There is a WWI era machine gun for when you want to let your inner Doomguy come out and play for a while. Last, but certainly not least, you get a chalice of holy water, which brings me to my first of two major gripes with this game: the holy water is powerful. It is the BFG-900 of Nosferatu. Seriously, it is game-breaking level powerful. It kills every non-boss enemy in one hit, and most bosses in two or three.

The combat is tried, tested and true. You have a stamina bar which maxes out when you run, swing your sword or whip your pistol. Standard health bar, you need to find health packs when you are low. Enemies run the gamut from hell-hounds, fetid ghouls, gargoyles, vampires, peasant rebels without a cause, disembodied spirits, and even some skeletons. Enemy A.I. is slightly below high school level, with most bum-rushing you for a melee attack. While some peasants carry a sickle or pitchfork, most will have flintlock pistols or the rifle variant and do some serious damage if you happen to be on the business end of one. Enemy designs are sometimes simple but effective at instilling the chills where chills are lacking. I won’t spoil the boss-type enemies; one in particular has a rather imposing and horrific design. The other, for the game’s namesake, is a rather overt homage to a certain 1922 horror film.

As any fan of the first Halloween, or the works of John Carpenter in general, will know that music is a key element of horror. Ohhhh boy is the sound-track for this game top notch. Seriously, even if this game consisted of nothing more than you dropping quarter sticks of dynamite into a barrel full of fish with plastic Bela Lugosi-era Dracula masks on, I would still recommend it for the sound-track alone. Every track is dripping with macabre melodies. Melancholy violins, somber piano, eerie scratches, scrapes, and synths all coalesce into a collection of atmospheric soundscapes that brings the horror to another level. One track, the “Eastern Tower” theme, is a god among insects. If you play, or have played it, you will know what I am talking about the second you hear it. The first time I heard I genuinely got goose-bumps. I would put this one piece up with some of great dark ambient works of Lustmorde or Trent Reznor’s sound track for Quake I.

I have neglected to really mention the family rescue parts because it is my second of genuinely frustrating parts of this. The pathfinding of your family members is bad. While not game-breaking bad (that honor goes to Daikatana) it does really bring a lot of the action and exploration grinding to an uncomfortable halt. You basically must coax them downstairs lest they got lost or forget how legs work. If you fly off ahead they might start wandering into walls. Luckily, enemies will usually give you the aggro when you encounter them while your family is in tow. Still, they can die. When they do, they are dead. the voice acting for the family members is subpar and cheesy as all hell. It would be more detracting if not for the overall retro B-movie premise of the game. Unfortunately, if a relative dies, it means you get none of that sweet, delicious loot; if you successfully bring a family member back to the starting area behind the crucifix doors, they will unlock their trunk for you. Some are powerups like garlic or super-speed boosts. Which considering this takes place in the early 20th century, is probably just a big pile of actual Speed.

Most of the interesting stuff you get will be guns and armor. You get a legit old-timey steel cuirass that reduces damage you take, basically making it a necessity for the end-game enemies. You also get a the previously mentioned revolver machine gun, and chalice this way. Now I know it’s video game logic, but I want to step outside of that moment. I understand a revolver. These are British gentleman. They might have to engage in an impromptu duel for a woman’s honor or something, but an actual military-grade machine gun, though? Remember the plot, if you can, they had no prior indicator that shit was going to sail south soon after they arrived. So, unless the dowry specifically mentioned smuggling light-treason level contraband across international borders, I see no reason why anyone would think to bring a machine gun to a wedding. It’s not even an American wedding, either. Still, you will be overjoyed when you get it for literal painfully obvious reasons.

 

Final summary?

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Nosferatu The Wrath of Malachi is a rather overlooked game that while failing to achieve masterpiece status of its horror game contemporary, it is still a fun, chilling romp through classic horror movie-monster tropes of yesteryear. I forgot to mention you can also rescue a dog. He is awesome and you’re awesome for not letting him die. Nosferatu is only $10 on Steam and has the system requirements of a potato to run. I would recommend it if you don’t mind rough graphics and enjoy a healthy, heaping portion of spooky to go with your shooty.

 

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FAITH review

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*the GIf is from the FAITH page on itch.io

One of the most reliable tools someone crafting a horror experience have at their disposal is leaving things to the audience’s imagination.  The number of movies that merely titillate you until key moments of the film and become all the more scarier because of it are innumerable. Revealing your hand in the first act will give steeply diminishing returns no matter how gruesome your horrifying the monster/villian may be. Therefore, I have always found horror games with a deliberate retro or minimalist aesthetic design so compelling. FAITH is one of those games. FAITH was developed by Airdorf games and released for PC on October 4th, 2017. It tells the story of a failed exorcism by two priests and the younger priest attempts to finish the job a year later. The major selling point of the game (at least for me) were the graphics and sound design. FAITH invokes the style of the Apple II and Atari 2600 era almost to a T. If time travel is invented tomorrow I am going to travel back to 1985 and see if anyone could even tell this game was from 32 years in the future. This is a negative either, with only a handful of pixels and an

8-bit color palette, FAITH gets maximum bang for minimum buck. The game proper begins with you outside your recently parked car on the side of the road in a dense forest. Your mission to journey north and locate the now abandoned home of a girl who was possessed a year ago, whom you and your senior priest partner failed to save. Gameplay takes place entirely from a top down perspective, which is typical for the times FAITH is emulating. Which was interesting for me, because I never normally find games from this perspective to be scary because you feel so removed from the player character. It is a testament to how well they managed to convey the creep factor in this game. You move with either the directional keys or the WASD setup (ala FPS games), you use either the A button or the space bar to use your crucifix. The crucifix is used for repelling demonic foes. It can also be used for cleansing tainted objects in the game world. Doing this will usually result in text prompts appearing that help to flesh out the story and game world. They are quite well written despite hitting a lot of beats familiar to those who have seen The Exorcist movie. When I said the graphics are simple, I mean they simple. Your player character is entirely blue except for a white priest collar and his crucifix is a solid yellow. Most assets consist of two or three colors but do a decent enough job conveying what they are or are supposed to represent. After leaving your car you wander north searching for the home with the possessed girl. Every so often a rather pale and bloody humanoid creature will come shuffling through the forest, eyes filled with hope and determination, in ambitious pursuit of his dream to spread your viscera across the forest floor. You can dash the hopes of the unearthly abomination by using your crucifix, sending it back-pedaling off screen. I do suggest you let it disembowel you at least once though. You even come across a deer at one point, unfortunately the next time you see it, our pale deformed friend is sifting through the entrails like it lost its keys in the poor animal’s stomach. You can do a bit of exploring before entering the house, including finding an old shed with a key and some notes on the story proper, a well and some graves. The house itself is abandoned(seemingly) with all the residents having abandoned it after your previous failed exorcism. I am going to start avoiding fat patches of spoiler territory, but I will tell the possessed girl is very aware of your presence, and makes it know not long after your find the spot where the original exorcism took place. It is about this time you get to witness one of the handfuls of

first-person cut-scenes. These are some of the highlights of the game. It still retains that

bare-bones but efficient style but now it is up close and personal. Without giving to much away, the first you see the possessed girl up close in one of these was truly unnerving. Game-play ramps up at this point, with the girl haunting you from room to room while you locate objects of interest and piece the story together. Her attack is a puzzle in itself and you will only know you are safe in the house when the music fades to silence. All of this culminates in a three-part boss battle with the demon inside the little girl as you brandish the power of Christ and compel the otherworldly spirit from the poor girl’s body. The cut scenes between each part of truly terrifying and if I was a weaker man I would spell it out for you, you just must play it for yourself. Eventually you manage to seemingly banish the demon, or so you think. The demon flings the girl out of the attic window, leaving you to head outside to find her. This is where the game takes a turn for the dark. Like grim, macabre, depressingly dark. When you get to the front door you find a rifle has appeared, with only one bullet. Written above it in blood are the words “Kill her.”

At this point the game becomes much more open ended, allowing you to travel the whole length of the forest with the gun and how you use will lead to one of five possible endings. It is worth noting that when you are facing south, the rifle in your hand looks like a four-foot-long cigarette sticking out of chest. After you leave the house, you might notice something different, the forest is rearranged. It is now much more linear and less confusing. It is nice addition that showcases just how much the evil has seeped into the surrounding areas. I got four of endings and just to help rope you all in a little bit more, I will reveal one. You can shoot the possessed girl. This ending is incredibly twisted. Soon after leaving in your car, you are pulled over by a highway patrolman. The ending text reveals that somebody reported a gunshot, you were the only person in the area. You are reported as acting erratic thus arousing suspicion. They find the girl and absolutely no sign of demonic activity. They reveal the girl escaped some mental institution six days prior to the games events and the Vatican denies you having ever had been a part of the church. Heavily implying you are a crazy person impersonating a priest and tortured and killed a mentally disturbed seventeen-year-old girl. Pretty heavy stuff huh? This is not the only soul crushing ending either. The endgame is laid out with no clear indicator as to what is the ‘true ending’ if there even is one. Which is nice because you get to decide what note FAITH ends on. Luckily, after you finish the game, it re-loads back to the room with the rifle so you are free to quickly try and root out the other endings.

Now that the meaty game-play has been gnawed off and promptly swallowed, I want to talk about the sound design. Good sound design is integral to a good horror game experience. Imagine, if you will, the monsters in Dead Space all sounded like 2 old hot dogs hitting a snare drum instead of the blood-curdling howls they make. FAITH has pretty good sound design. Like the graphics, it emulates the sounds of that era. It is not an exact copy and paste though. They did take advantage of modern tech to give the simple midi bleep bloops a much weightier edge to it. This combination creates this sense of alienation and dread. Everything feels just a little off. Another interesting part of the sound design is all voice sections sound like it was done with one of those robotic speech devices. The pale bloodshot monster sounds like a scrambled radio transmission from hell. Also, every time you die it ever so creepily says “Mortis” in a highly distorted voice.

For such a short and to the point game, it can be a bit tough to come up real any real complaints. About the only one I can come up with is having to keep re-watching the cut scenes every time I died. As much as enjoyed them, it got a little frustrating sitting through them a dozen or so times because I must figure out that ‘not dying’ should be a little higher on my priority list.

All in all, FAITH is short, entertaining horror game if you’re not adverse to gloriously archaic graphics. The atmosphere is creeps up on you spider and won’t let go until click on that “quit game” button. It is available on Itchio for free or name your price and get a deluxe version will all sorts of sweet goodies. I paid 2$ for mine. The average is 3.75, so I might just be a cheap piece of shit.

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I give it 3/5 Hail Marys.

 

 

 

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DUSK Episode 1

DUSK EPISODE 1

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DUSK is an action horror retro FPS by David Szymanski. It is a lovingly crafted throwback to the shooting games of yore. (Quake, Chasm, BLOOD, Duke3D etc etc). I will just go ahead and get this out of the way, DUSK is my GOTY for 2018. It is one of the best FPS games I have played since DooM and Quake 1.

While the heart of its game-play mechanics is high-octane over the top action, it would be an insult to not describe this as a horror game as well.

The game is split into three episodes with the first one taking in and the forests surrounding the eponymous town itself. This is a game that takes no shit and expects the player to do the same. You have no regenerating health, health and armor pickups only. There is no cover, if you hope to make it out alive you gotta be swift on your feet and keep fanning that hammer until your the only thing still moving. Best of all, DUSK has NO FALL DAMAGE. Find the tallest point, jump to lowest pit and land like a feather on a pile of pillows. You can select from several difficulty levels that effect enemy count, speed, and projectiles. The menu options are ludicrous in the amount that you must choose from. You can alter almost every display from the lighting, shadows, pixelation, and game-world color.

*PRO TIP

Turn the dam bloom off, add some pixelation and set that color scheme to something dark.

*END OF PRO TIP

The very first level begins with you in a dungeon basement hanging on meat hooks as a trio of hill-billies wearing burlap sacks on their heads rush you with chainsaws, which is how I wake up most morning. That is a pretty good way to start any game in my opinion.

Like any good retro-FPS overt storytelling is minimal, with most of the narrative being given by various clues found in the environment. As the levels go on you begin piecing together a picture of a rural area being caught in the grips of powerful, mystical occult group.  Along the way you will find yourself doing battle with demonic goats, chainsaw wielding hill-billies(lovingly referred to as leathernecks), white-robed cultists, rats, possessed scarecrows, and otherworldly sorceresses. The scarecrows are particularly creepy, most you encounter will normally be completely inanimate and hung up like a regular non-sentient scarecrow with a thirst for blood. But, not all of them do that. So, you always get this “oh shit” feeling when you see one because you can’t tell if this is one that is going to break free of its binding and start pumping you full of buckshot.

You gain access to a variety of fire-arms (a couple which can be dual wielded). You begin with dual wielded harvesting sickles, but soon find pistols, lever action shotguns, a double-barreled break action shotgun, an assault rifle, a high caliber hunting rifle, a magic crossbow, mortar launcher, a sword, a bar of soap(get wreckt) and rounding out the big fucking gun category is something called the “riveter” It quickly fires explosive rivets and can make short work of most enemies (be careful not to get to close and blow yourself up though).

In true retro-fashion, the graphics are purposefully simplistic. Except for some lighting and shading effects, the game could easily pass as something that was developed in 1997. Don’t let that fool you though, the game does not skimp on atmosphere or details(however low-poly those details may be). DUSK builds a decrepit, foreboding rural world that you can’t stop from getting under your skin. As someone who spent most of their life living in rural parts of America, I have to applaud DUSK for being so startlingly true to life here. I always keep a chainsaw under my pillow in case some ne’er-do-well non-believer starts poking around my derelict cathedral.

Levels in DUSK are sprawling, non-linear maps that will require various colored keys to progress to other areas. They are drenched in rust, neglect and do well to paint a picture of a world in the grips of insidious hands. None of them are too confusing, but if you ever do find yourself getting lost always remember the FPS golden rule: If you find an enemy to kill, you’re going in the right direction. I am no elitist when it comes to PC set ups, but this is a game I do recommend playing with a nice set of headphones on. The sound design is in a league all its own. Every level is accompanied by its own ambient synth-driven tracks. The production on them is as crisp as a freshly fried fish & chips and even with my commendable sound system, they are subtle ominous sounds I could not pick up without headphones. The ambiance ranges from unsettling to the surprisingly soothing. That being said, all of that subtlety goes right out the dam window during combat-sections. Be prepared for an audio shot of adrenaline when crushing guitars, blistering drums and evil almost orchestral synths replace the mood building ambient pieces. Any devil worth his diabolical nature knows the best place to be is in the details. As you worm your way through DUSK, you can hear the chainsaws of enemies as you get closer, pick up the chanting of cultists and groans of demonic goats throughout the claustrophobic, underground passages and dense forests. Every gun sounds meaty and packs a cathartic, sonic punch with enemies gibbing into a putrid pile of paste and chunky viscera.

Even though it leans heavy on wonderful B-movie horror tropes, DUSK knows not to take itself too seriously. Almost everything is intractable in this game. Beds can be slept in to recover some armor(called morale in game), pick up a tire and throw it at an enemy, light a campire and put it out(because only you can prevent forest fires).  You can even drink beer(get drunk), eat canned hash, which might explain the hostility of the locals in DUSK. You would be surly too if all you had for sustenance was old tins of hash and bottom dollar swill. You can even put stuff in toilets and flush them down the drains. A lot of objects can be broken or blown up (some hiding highly sought-after secret sections!) and don’t be afraid to use that fact against your enemies. A couple of different levels are punctuated by boss battles, that you can fight or puzzle your way out of if that is not your cup of tea. The bosses themselves gleefully bounce back in forth between goofy bosses like a giant shit-faced monster called the Intoxigator, to the sci-fi horror “Experiments”.

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Standout levels for me are “Old time Religion” and “Sawdust”

“Old Time Religion” has the absolute best ambient track of the whole episode. It manages to hit that Silent Hill 2 level of quality.  The track is soothing and serene with just a pinch of melancholy.

“Old time Religion” has a couple of level design tricks and traps to mess with you and reference DooM.

“Sawdust” trades claustrophobia for large open spaces with big juice combat scenarios served lightly broiled. So get ready to HUP HUP HUP and rivet jump your way to victory.

DUSK runs like it’s hair is on and it’s ass is catching and can be set to uncapped frame rates. The game is very well optimized and can probably run just fine on a literal potato.

DUSK is currently available on Steam in early access, which means you get Episode 1,2, multiplayer and an endless horde mode with the rest of the game being given to you on its full release. It is 20$ to buy and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of fast gun-fights and Texas Chainsaw type of horror.

 Trust me when I say this, Episode 2 cranks the terror and white-knuckle action up to eleven.

*BTW those rats can get fucked.

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In down on the farm, get the basketball, get a slam dunk and find the super sayian secret.

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A burlap sack of stories

This page will be an ongoing collection of various stories I have published. I spent a big chunk of time digging through my emails just to find these. XD

*I will periodically update this post when(IF) new things get published with relevant links to the stories and sites etc etc.*

 

 

DRABBLES

BENNY-

https://horrortree.com/trembling-with-fear-01152017/

The Eye

https://horrortree.com/trembling-fear-10222017/

The Northern Cold

Willis- This is a really really old Drabble version of another story lol

Violinist

https://drabblezmag.wixsite.com/litmag/issues

Evidence in the Furnace

The Kings Feast

http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_August2017.pdf

BLOOD

The Last Animal

http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_April2017.pdf

SHORT STORIES/FLASH FICTION

The Worm Turns-

https://horrortree.com/trembling-with-fear-05072017/

Spaces Between-

http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_August2017.pdf

 

 

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Alone in the Dark-Checking in on Grandpa

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Horror has been on a bit of an upswing lately. We have more Stephen King adaptations raining down on us than bombs over Dresden. Get Out got a bukkaki of well-deserved critical acclaim and award nominations. Resident Evil 7 allowed the franchise to reclaim its’ place atop the horror game mountain (of madness) after it’s previous offering Resident Evil 6…uh… We are not mad Resident Evil 6, we are just disappointed. There even seems to a whole host of Twilight Zone-esque anthology TV shows for our viewing pleasure. Overall it is a great time to be a horror fan. It is at a high point like this that I would like to take a look back on the influential and inspiring horror games of yesteryear. Today we are checking in on Grandpa.
Alone in the Dark is the vestigial tale of the survival horror genre before Resident Evil came along and coined the term. It was released in 1992 by Infogrames on MS-DOS(ya it’s that old) and is a Lovecraftian haunted-house romp through a mansion in 1920‘s Louisiana. Luckily it manages to do what any good Lovecraftian story does which is side step the puddle of shit that is Lovecraft’s racism. You can choose between two characters, Edward Carnby and Emily Hartwood. Carnby is a down-on-his-luck private investigator with a turn of the century Teddy Roosevelt style mustache and a cast iron resolve. Emily Hartwood is a descendant of the mansions previous owner who came there in the hopes of figuring out why here uncle committed suicide. I chose to play as Edward because I have a weakness for mustaches that can bench-press more than me.
The game begins with a driver dropping you off at the edge of the estate before hastily beating feat away from the infamous locale. You begin a casual jaunt down the dirt road to the mansion front door. Right away it does this amazing perspective shift on you, and the camera cuts to a first person perspective of some ghoulish creature watching you from the attic window as you get closer. This segment shows off truly stellar pixel work by just about any standard. The amount of detail on display is breathtaking; it is one of my favorite sequences in the entire game. Your character makes his way through the front doors and on up until they reach the attic completely unmolested by the horrors within. It is at this point the game properly begins with you in the attic and the mansion now alive with all manner of fiendish creatures.
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Now, if you have played any of the original Resident Evil trilogy then most of the
game-play mechanics and design philosophy will feel eerily familiar. Alone in the Dark utilizes a “Tank” control scheme where you turn left or right and forward to move. Perspective is from fixed camera angles and while this has largely faded away as a perspective style, I always loved it you gave you the feeling that something was always watching you. The game world itself is a series of 2D pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D polygonal character models and mostly 2D pixilated intractable objects. More often than not, the pre-rendered background are exceedingly sharp and detailed especially for a game from 1992. I want to digress for a minute here and just gush about my love of pre-rendered backgrounds in old survival horror games. I was always fascinated and blown with how artistic and wondrous pre-rendered backgrounds that appear in Alone in the Dark as well as a host of games on the PS1. I remember the first time I played a resident evil game on the PS2 that was not resident evil 4 and being hit with a huge wave of disappointment in how much more plain and uninteresting the 3D rendered backgrounds were. Especially in the case of Alone in the dark, this high standard aesthetic really adds to mansion’s sense of elegance and isolation. That being said, even the thickest of rose-tinted glasses will not save even the most die-hard nostalgia lover from the absolute truth of how just painfully jarring these detailed backgrounds are in comparison to the (in this case extremely) low-res interactable objects and characters.
So, while I am the kind of mook who finds a sense of genuine charm in most aspects of retro-era games, this game can be brutally unforgiving. Not unforgiving in the Dark Souls or Doom sense where difficulty is a matter of practice makes perfect. In Alone in the Dark it is a matter of being a product of time when video games still retained some vestigial tail of arcade games where difficulty was a matter of padding game play time. Case in point, after about half a minute in the very beginning an enemy bursts in through the window and makes a bee-line for your jugular. You start off unarmed and are given zero direction as to where the first weapon is. Like me, you will more than likely die a few times before you realize you can push a dresser in front of the window keeping it from breaking in. As soon as you go downstairs, an enemy appears in three out of the four doors you can go through. All of this is within the first ten minutes of the game! It will take a few grisly trial and errors before you get your bearings straight. Fortunately the pacing of the game slows to a comfortable level for the most of the game only ramping up again in the third act (like most narratives tend to do) but seriously, that first couple of steps are a doozy.
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Exploration plays a key part in the non-linear design of Alone in the Dark with you wandering the mansion solving puzzles and fighting off the supernatural residents of the Derceto Manor. At its’ heart and soul Alone in the dark is an adventure game with most of the game-play and progress revolving around puzzles. While combat does have a meaty part it is not the core game play loop. Although it is the combat that made Alone in the Dark so fundamental for what came later. Previously in Horror adventure games, opposition was met with instant death if you did not solve the convoluted puzzle necessary for passing it. A perfect example of this is the Macventure series “The Uninvited” which has an instant death scenario within the first ten seconds of playing it.
By giving you a gun, or a pair of hands, or a cavalry saber or a well-timed boot to the face (you get a surprising variety of ways to defend yourself is what I am saying) an entirely new layer of tense action is added. Not that the gun-play is some high-octane thrill ride, you slowly raise your weapon and just kind of fire in the general direction of whatever it is you generally want to stop moving. Primitive yes, but like two sticks rubbed together until fire starts, it is revolutionary for the genre as a whole. Some enemies are unable to be killed by conventional (or any) means and while it is not telegraphed well, common sense should give you some insight. The sentient suit of armor is probably going to shrug off your bird-shot and the giant tentacle snake is just going to laugh at your .357 revolver.
There is an admirable number of enemies you come across unfortunately you mostly only have to deal with about two or three types throughout the game. The most common are zombies and (no joke) zombie chickens. A zombie chicken is the window smasher I mentioned earlier. You will be forgiven for not thinking “chicken” when you see one. The thing is the size of an adult human, is colored like coagulated blood and has teeth. You will also come across spiders the size of your shoes, immortal rats, an immortal parrot, a possessed cigar, possessed paintings, a giant Lovecraftian snake monster, and some quadruped thing you only see once and dies in like three revolver shots. Towards the end of the game you also run afoul of some Shadow over Innsmouth styled Deep-Ones and a pirate that can only be killed with a special sword.
Alone in the Dark was also one of the earliest games to solidify the inventory management concept. While you do have a carry limit, you have no indication that you have reached your limit until you do. On the plus side Alone in the Dark’s main character’s trousers have the best set of plot pockets roaring 20’s era textile mills could design. You can also drop and pick up items consequence free for later use(a concept Resident Evil 0 used to show us Capcom was not done cribbing ideas from this game).  You only have a finite amount of healing items and ammo which encourages avoiding fights or disposing of them in some puzzle related fashion.
The puzzles in Alone in the Dark are a bit of a mixed bag. About half follow simple logic and can figured out quickly enough. a good example being one room of the mansion has about six or so zombies in it, but if you find the soup bowl of human flesh you can distract them with and avoid a long drawn out fight(I did the long drawn out fight because I am an idiot and thought I could eat the pot of roast Kevin and barely soup). One in particular is even masterclass level of puzzle design. there is a dance room of the mansion with three sets of ghostly dancers frozen in place in front a key you need. If you get to close they will turn into a swirling ball of vapor and kill you. you need to find a gramophone and the correct record to get them dancing and out of your way. Located throughout the mansion are three different records. Two of them are useless, but if you are a fan of classical composer Saint Saens you will know exactly which record will coax the dead into cutting a rug. A lot of the other puzzles though, lean more towards the “Moon Logic” that plagued a lot of adventure games not designed by Lucas Arts. The worst offender is probably the possessed painting in the art room. It consists of a singular long hall way with a possessed painting at each end. The one on the opposite end needs to shot with a bow and arrow. You can’t really see what kind of painting it is until you are just out of the paintings firing range. The bow is located in the second room of the game and the arrows in a completely different room on a completely different floor. Yeah, the thread of logic for that one is more of a wet spaghetti string of vague reasoning. While 80% of the game takes place in the mansion, the last 20% takes place in the tunnels and caves beneath it. Most of them were carved out by the Mansion’s original owner and primary antagonist Ezechiel Pregzt(he is the immortal pirate I mentioned earlier).
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I loved the pacing and puzzle-centric style of the mansion proper, from this point onward, Alone in the Dark begins suffering from some serious third-act syndrome. They are almost no puzzles and instead you are presented with a series of mostly linear rooms full of fast-paced platforming sections, a chase sequence with the lovecraftian snake monster, and worst above all, a damn maze. A maze. The Duke Nukem Forever of adventure game design choices. It does save itself at the very end though with a final confrontation with Ezechiel Pregzt. After defeating his ghoul/pirate form his spirit has been trapped in an ancient tree deep beneath the earth. He summons Deep Ones to hound you while conjuring fireballs in hopes of finally destroying you. In true adventure game fashion, this fight will be won not with combat, but with a clever puzzle! This are also has some of the most detailed sprite work and background art of the entire game. Even to this day it is still impressive to admire. After he has been defeated you can make your way back up to the first floor front door and leave. Without being swallowed by the literal manifestation of cosmic terror like before!
Now a good way to get me sold on a game is to have a good soundtrack and in this department Alone in the dark does not disappoint. With a surprisingly high quality even for a game made in 1992 Alone in the Dark boats a host of varying soundscapes to get lost in. While ‘In the Eye of the Storm’ sounds like an 80’s power metal album, it is a wonderfully moody classical-styled orchestral piece that fits well with the exquisite and unsettling feel of the Derceto Manor.   Other cuts include ‘run for your life’ and ‘Battle against Evil’ that really hammer home the feeling of flight or flight, do or die horror action. For low-key moments ‘Terror’ and ‘Growing fear’ make perfect use of slow, dissonant violins and deep heavy bass as a constant reminder that you are in an isolated space of hostile intent.
While in-game there is little story going on except for at the beginning and end, you can find several books and notes scattered about that give greater depth and clarity to the madness that has been taking place in the Derceto Manor, im not going to spoil any of it, but it is some top-notch writing. Alone in the Dark has a manual save feature (for sad save scummers like me) and while being able to save whenever wherever is nice, I feel something is lost. With games like Resident Evil, Evil Within, Parasite Eve 2 there was always this sense of comfort and release when you reached a save room, this momentary break in the madness Alone in the Dark lacks.
The underlying questions behind playing this game is, does it hold up? No. Is it a bad game? Also no. Would I recommend this game? Yes.  This is a game for the nostalgic, this is a game for retro lovers and hardcore horror fans like myself. The truth is though, despite basically inventing a sub-genre that would be cribbed and iterated on by almost every third-person horror game until Resident Evil 4 re-wrote the genre as we know it, it just has not aged well. If you thought tank controls were a headache in Resident Evil… well let’s just say that RE is the M1A1 Abram of tank controls. Alone in the dark is Mark I. The late game platforming sections are a small scale nightmare with the fixed camera angles and incredibly low resolution graphics. Puzzles can be frustrating and you get little to no direction for a good number of them.

Alone in the Dark is still a great game, it’s just that grandpa’s not as spry as he used to be. But, if you can overlook some wrinkles, a bad back and outmoded ideas about tank controls, you will find Alone in the Dark a charming, Lovecraftian horror game. Good luck getting it on Steam or any other platform besides Good Old Games(GOG) where you can get the entire original trilogy for only $5.99.

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Resident Evil 3:Something something talking about it.

So while cleaning my house awhile back I found my copies of Resident evil 2 and Resident Evil 3. Overwhelmed with nostalgia and fresh off of beating Resident evil 7 and and RE1 remake I hooked up my ps3 and gave RE3 a go.

Between my habitual scouring of Steam, ITchio and GOG I came to realization that despite my undying love for retro FPS games, I have no nostalgia for them. I played Doom, and hexen for awhile when I was about 10 and played Turok and Duke 3D on N64 but beyond that I actually did not play a lot of FPS games growing up. Most of youthful gaming days were filled with Final Fantasy JRPGS and survival Horror. Namely the Resident Evil series. So i went into playing RE3 with a mixture of nostalgia and awareness of how far the genre has come since that era. Imagine it as a pair of rose tinted glasses with one of the lenses missing.

First and foremost, that opening scene before the main menu gave me genuine goosebumps and even after seeing multiple times every time I booted it up I was still in awe of it’s presentation.

That being said.

I was stunned by how low the resolution of it all was. Something I never noticed as a kid when cut scenes like that were on the cutting edge.

My nostalgia did not extend to the archaic tank controls which are about as intuitive and fun to maneuver as a stick stuck in wet cement. Although, I found my self genuinely surprised at how quickly I shook the cobwebs off and was actually really really agile despite this shit control scheme. In RE3 the crap tank controls are offset a little by the addition of 180 quick turn and certain dodge maneuvers that give you a little more of an edge over the oncoming hordes of monsters.

*I actually witnessed a new dodge on this playthrough. When you do a roll, if you have a handgun you can quickly recover and start shooting from a kneeling stance before standing back up.

it was pretty dam cool.*

*I should prolly mention this is in no way a proper review, the dam game is like 20 years old or some shit and plenty of people much more talented than me have already done that job. This is more meandering nonsense and commentary of sorts.*

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Like most games of this style at the time, the low-poly models contrast heavily with the highly detailed pre-rendered backgrounds. I firmly believe the backgrounds in these games still hold to a certain extent today, doubly so if they got some kind of HD remaster or could be played through a source port ala DooM. To it’s credit though, the models do a decent effort making for the lack of polys by having very detailed textures, as much as a PS1 could produce.

I feel like the game treating Brad Vickers like a useless turd who dies in the first 20 minutes is some weird counter to him being such a chickenshit in the first RE1. I do feel bad for the poor guy. he basically exists to show you how much a relentless monster the Nemesis is.

While the Nemesis does a standout job ignoring personal space, privacy, and the very concept of a restraining order, some of his actions are almost humorous to my adult mind. He seems to have a flair for the dramatic at times. At the halfway point when you call the chopper to the clock tower he stands there silently waiting while you celebrate your apparent victory before blowing the chopper out of the sky with his rocket launcher. HE actually waits for maximum effect just to rub it in Jills face how fucked she is about to be.

Another point is when you return to Jill as Carlos with the vaccine and he bursts through the ceiling. This was completely unnecessary. The last place you see him is in the courtyard. He travelled to the top, waited for Carlos just so he could have his big professional wrestling esque entrance.  He then chases Carlos right up to the chapel door where Jill is. But, when you leave as Jill, he bursts through another door. *He left the room he was in, waited on the other side of a door, then knocked it down just for Jill.*

It is almost cute. He really wants her attention.

Another thing I never did on this playthrough was actually use the canisters of acid in the disposal room fight against him at the dead factory. That shit melts his arm, and head off and he still fucking comes at you. I was stunned. I never fucked with them before.

I had also forgotten how much of a badass Jill is. She bitch slaps Carlos. It was really funny.

The ending has to the best moment for Jill though. After defeating the Nemesis in his third form, you have the option of grabbing a magnum and finishing him off. it is the ultimate catharsis both for you, and Jill as a character. Even with the threat of nuclear annihilation, she cops a cocky strut and spouts off a 80’s action movie worthy one liner while filling Nemesis’s mangled and maimed body with bullets.

Even though I played through on hard mode, by time Jill had recovered from T-virus infection, I had more than I knew what to do with. I had more enhanced handgun ammo than regular hand gun ammo, enhanced shotgun ammo and about 70 grenade rounds, not to mention the magnum and the mine launcher. This did sand the edges of the difficulty a bit when I no longer to worry about ammo, in fact from about that point on I only used the shotgun and grenade launcher.

One point I believe is more nostalgia than genuine design choice is I love the fixed camera angles. They are basically non-existent outside of maybe some indie games. IT gives a real charm to it. It reminds me of some of the camera thingys John Carpenter would do. Like in the first Halloween where he had these shots that made it feel like you were watching from Michael Myers perspective. It gave a real sinister stalker feel to the film. The fixed camera angles operate along a similar mindset. I understand why they were phased out for First person or over the shoulder third person perspectives.

*sigh*

man, dat soundtrack.

it is great.

The music at the bar where you first encounter Brad?

All of the Nemesis themes. the soundtrack gets top marks all across the board. Creepy ambiance, Sinister tones. And that save room music. So calming. I am an zealot in the cult of save scumming, but I love manual in survival horror. It makes a great contrast to have those areas of safety and respite from the nightmare.

Resident Evil 3 is a good game.

When Resident Evil 2 remake sells a bajillion copies, I hope they get right to work on a Resident Evil 3 remake.

*Ohh, my pleb ass got an F ranking.

 

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Fingerbones/Disturbed AKIMBO review

Fingerbones/Disturbed free-to-play double bill!

I am going Akimbo with game reviews this time around! Duel wielding observations on horror games coming at you in 3…2…1…

I decided to do both of these in one because I felt they were too good to not say something about, but the play time for these is also incredibly short. Fingerbones takes about half an hour to complete and Disturbed clocked in at just over an hour. I played Fingerbones first, so it will open the show, and Disturbed will be the closer.

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Fingerbones is a Horror game by David Szymanski; no, I don’t know how to pronounce his last name. I’m a huge fan of his games and Fingerbones was that “your first hit is free” for me. It is a first person narrative-driven horror game revolving around piecing together a story and solving simple logical puzzle, Like an adventure game. I really like those kind of games, especially the spooky adventure games. The game was meant to beaten in a single sitting and thus has no save system.
The game begins with you in an an abandoned, derelict house. After reading a couple notes laying around the first room you piece together that some sort of apocalypse happened awhile back and you are looking for your missing daughter. That is pretty much all I am going to say regarding the story, no spoilers. The graphics are rather basic, like almost “Minecraft”-esque blocky 3D models. But what Fingerbones lacks in trying to melt your graphics card it makes up for in other ways. The lighting and shadow effects combine with simple, spooky graphics to create an almost surreal atmosphere. It’s pretty off-putting after awhile in a good way. The game play loop consists of you solving a puzzle or two in one room to unlock other rooms of the house while scouring for notes and clues about the obvious epicenter of madness you are currently occupying. As you descend into the bowls of the house, the notes become more unhinged and revealing while you begin to hear some genuinely ghoulish sounds from the sub basement. When you eventually reach the end of the game, you find out “Fingerbones” was not just a cool sounding name for a horror game.
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I believe this is one of David Szymanski’s earliest games so I feel it’s simplistic graphics and short play time are forgiveable considering the atmosphere and narrative he managed to convey. Fingerbones manages to get an hour out of a minute and it’s free! I would consider this the video game equivalent of “flash fiction.” The soundtrack like the rest of the work, is short, modest, but effective. IT consists of a few simple ambient bits that do a proper job instilling a sense of tranquil, yet eerie atmosphere. You can download Fingerbones on Steam and have the game beat in the time it takes me to shower and shave.

Last but not least, is Disturbed.

 

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While Fingerbones was more of a first-person adventure game/walking simulator, Disturbed is closer to a chose your own adventure interactive fiction. Upon loading up the game for the first time, the first thing you will notice is the art style. It is reminiscent of the illustrations from the childhood bedwetting classics, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It is not a wholesale rip-off or a flagrant emulation, but it is similar. I love it. It is what attracted me to playing in the first place (besides the non-existent price tag and puzzles that were in need of a good solving). The soundtrack, unfortunately, is more or less non-existent. The main menu has a short track consists of creepy organ lines and wind blowing but that is more or less it. It is a decent enough track for what it is trying to do. This made my heart sink a little at first considering music can make or break a horror experience. Trust me, music is a big part of the package; go watch Halloween 1 with Yakety Sax playing over it and try to tell me it still sent chills up your spine. I was not deterred though, for I am a cornucopia of redundant knowledge. In lieu of an actual soundtrack, I listened to Kammarheit’s “Among the Ruins” Album. Which is an amazing dark ambient album. Also, the artwork on that album is similar to what is showcased in Disturbed. Also also, ‘Among the Ruins’ as a title, fit’s the world of Disturbed.
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You start off at your house in a medieval dark fantasy setting talking about the decrepid state of the countryside you inhabit. Disturbed consists more or less entirely of hand drawn artwork for the environments, items, and characters you encounter. In each area you are given a few choices of where to go or something to interact with. You are initially given little direction on where to go, so my advice is to just take every and choice you can, because most of those will end in death. There are about fourteen or so unique ways of buying the farm in Disturbed. You get an achievement for each one so collect them all! Most of them are quit spooky ways to go out, while a few employ some pretty dark humor. A complaint leveled at the design in Disturbed is that it feels like random chance to progress. While this may technically be true, the deaths are entertaining enough, not to mention auto-saves and a time of about .02 seconds to reload a game. A very simplistic inventory system is at play here and is integral to solving the majority of the puzzles in the game. You obtain and when they are needed new choices will appear or new outcomes will happen. You can not access your inventory though, but that’s not really a deal breaker for me. Narratively the game is pretty linear with the majority of the story playing out in a singular fashion but at the end depending on a few actions  you may have or not have done the game can have a good or bad ending. No, I am not going to tell you how or what the endings consist of.

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To summarize Disturbed, it is a metaphor for what having sex with me is like.
It is short, unnerving, and you can’t finish properly without a Unicorn involved.
I would recommend these two games for anyone who enjoys short hand crafted horror experiences and hates spending money.

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Malformation of G-Resident Evil 2

I was 7 the first time I played resident evil 2. I did not make it past the first screen. I died standing next to the fiery wreckage being devoured by zombies. I was visible shook with fright after playing it.

I beat it when I was 10.

It is the game that got me into Horror games.

With rumblings a Resident Evil 2 remake I can’t stop thinking about how the fascinating and epic the primary antagonist William Birkin is. He is easily the apex of Resident Evil’s “Giant Motherfucker with  claws” type of monsters. Also, unlike the other numero uno big bads of the OG trilogy (Nemesis and Tyrant-002) he has an established backstory in game. A backstory that only touched upon in the classic, would be fertile ground for an expansion of the character in the remake looming on the horizon that could make for a truly tragic villain.

The amount of thought and detail put into all 5 transformations (that’s a lot, he is like the Goku of mutating nightmare fuel) is nearly unparalleled.

Wheres the Tyrant in RE1 is kept a secret right up until the last leg of the game and the Nemesis in RE3 was the physical embodiment of that guy who just can not take a hint.

(The grenade launcher said no but her eyes said yes!)

William had more of Alien/pumpkinhead vibe in that classic horror movie monster sense in that throughout most of the game you only see bits and parts of William at a time. A roar in the distance, An arm from the shadows. Only at the most dramatic moments do you see him in his entirety for any length (boss fights for example)

The detail is so much that, if you pay attention to all your encounters with him, he even has transitional periods between each form.

 

*This  is not necessary in any kind of chronological order because it is spread across both adventure A and B*

The very first time you encounter him in adventure B, he is basically the size of a normal human being before his bulks up and rips a pipe off to fight you.

When he attack you on that tram in adventure A, his clawed hand is rather small, but when he punctures a hole in the wall on your way to the underground laboratory, it is noticeably larger. When he see him before he mutates, he already looks halfway there, the claw hand is slightly larger and his proto-arms are more visible.

In adventure B right before he mutates to his third form, you can see he has already increased in size, and his second set of arms are already much more developed.

In the opening fight against his third form before he mutates to his fourth, you can see the red bulge on his chest have almost completely into large white teeth, and his bottom jaw is even beginning to recess to make room for new, much more terrifying chest orifice. The only time you don’t see any kind of in between moment is for the fourth to fifth.

Malformation of G-1

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While all the forms are horrendous in their own right, this one is uniquely terrifying in that is still so human, while being obviously not. This form still has hair, an almost completely human face and besides the massive growth in the arm, is about the size of a normal person. It could almost be us. This form looks just as capable as sitting down and playing a round of Mortal Kombat as it could eviscerate you. The screenshot above in particular show how calm and normal it’s expression is. But, there is nothing behind those eyes, not anymore. The human aspect is just a shell housing unfathomable horrors. A mockery of humanity, and a sign of what monstrous proportions William will take before the game is over.

 

 

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This form has hands down one of the most unsettling mutations I have seen in a video game. It’s an almost Cronnenberg level of body horror. William’s original head is forcefully shoved lower into the body as an entirely new skull, face, and brain replaces it. It almost looks like an entirely new organism is growing out of where the arm that was injured prior to him injecting the G-virus. It’s doesn’t pleasant either, the monster seems to be in pain and blood explodes out of the body during the transformation. Everything about this form looks so asymmetrical and uncanny. The proto-arms that were only hinted at in this form gain some measure of use and will even be used against you during the final part of the Fight against him in adventure A.

 

 

 

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This form is my favorite. Going to just put my bias out here right now. The third form is almost the polar opposite of the first two in that it has none of the qualities of the first one that made it seem so human. This one also is also perfectly symmetrical compared to it’s previous incarnation. This is the apex predator. Throughout the game everything you see about William seems to b e leading to this. He nearly doubles in height compared to his second form and his reach with the those the back claws (his original arms) is nearly impossible to avoid in combat. Everything about this form seems to indicate a finely polished killing machine whose abilities have been honed to a razor edge. The scariest thing about it in my opinion is it’s head. Completely barren of any skin or muscle. The head sports a clean skull that probably glistens in the sunlight like a freshly waxed car. The eyes are blank lidless windows into a being of pure malevolence. Combine that with what I think is a grin from it’s lip-less mouth and have, at least from the neck, Resident Evil’s own approximation of the Grim Reaper. Interesting to note, what remains of Williams original head is still barely visible on it’s side. A ‘vestigial tail’ of sorts to remind of what he once was.

 

 

 

 

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This form is the most interesting while it is easily the most deadly of the forms, gaining unparalleled mobility and trades height for width, making it about impossible to avoid in the constricted space where you fight it at the end of adventure A. It is the most interesting because it can can generate the most speculation. While the growth on it’s chest in form 3 clearly indicates teeth (and logically a mouth to follow) from an evolutionary stand point, it seems to be a step down. It has become a quadruped, losing body structure of it’s more advanced humanoid structure. And from the boss fight it is clearly a forced mutation from the sheer amount of damage it sustains during the opening moments of the fight in adventure A (as well as damage sustained during the fight in it’s third form in adventure B) I always wonder what form William would have taken if it had not been defeated twice by Clair and Leon throughout adventure A/B.

 

 

 

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The final and most grotesque form William G takes by the end of Adventure B. Far removed from the apex predator of it’s third, or even it’s fourth. This form is almost tragic in that what was once a brilliant scientist has been reduced to blob like mass of flesh, eyeballs and teeth. Even the head from the second form onward is made redundant by the shoulder eyeballs moving forward to align with the gaping maw it now possesses. Whatever limbs that remained are reduced to tentacles, this forms only means of locomotion. The fight is not even that, just shoot with your strongest weapons until a cut-scene plays. It almost feels like a scripted-to-win fight. Thank Satan for the brutally hard Super Tyrant fight not long before this or Adventure B would almost feel anti-climatic. The sheer scope of the Malformation of G is display here. If somebody had never played Resident Evil 2 before and they were show a picture of his first and final forms only, they could not be blamed for think those were two complete separate entities.

 


 

My only problems with The William fights was how lacking in agility almost all his forms had. I know it would have been overkill when compared to how immobile you were compared to later games in the series(Fucking tank controls am I right?) But, with a remake means I can hopefully see him actually chase you down. And more gruesome mutation animations. That would be lovely. I want my stomach to churn when he reaches form 2.

wow I can’t believe I Actually put thought into this post.

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Dark Fear-review

Dark Fear Review

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I have been nurturing a torrid love affair with point-and-click adventure horror games lately and this was a rather obscure one I found quite alluring. Dark Fear is an adventure game RPG hybrid, something I don’t really think I have ever seen before. Developed by Arif Games and released on Steam June 22, 2016, I enjoyed the 8 hours of my life it took to beat. What initially drew me was its’ retro pixel-art style, because you don’t see that retro style often. Rather than taking nods from 8- and 16-bit console games, most of its’ cues are taken from late 80‘s and early 90‘s era adventure games. Now, I know a lot of retro-styled games piggy back on nostalgia for a lot of their appeal; it is not a bad thing. Show me a FPS with Quake/Half Life era graphics and I will be yanking money out of my wallet so hard it will tear the shorts clean off my body. I just never played any of these, and yet I still find the art style of that era fascinating in an off-beat way.
Dark Fear is in a first-person perspective, however it’s not full range of movement like an FPS. The game world is made of well-crafted scenes that you scroll your cursor around to interact with objects or people, you click arrows poised on the edges of the screen to go to other areas or rooms, and there’s an inventory system to hold clues and items that will help solve puzzles. A lot of these items can be combined or used multiple times.
The story starts off with you waking in a log cabin in the middle of the woods with no memory of you are or where you before waking up here. Aside from a few things you will use to fashion yourself a way out of the cabin, you find a picture of a male you can’t recall, but seems eerily familiar. You soon make it outside of the cabin where you find a mortally wounded person and a wolf nearby. After a tearful goodbye with a guy you never met before you get introduced to the games’ combat mechanics.
Combat is a simple turn-based RPG style with a small twist. An indicator appears with a moving arrow moving over a set of attack strengths from 100% strength down to a total miss. You have to time it right to get the best hits. It is not difficult to get a hang of, and it eliminates the random chance aspect of traditional turn based RPG mechanics. I quite liked this style of combat, because it scratched that classic JRPG itch just enough to make me smile. After you defeat the wolf, you’re allowed to leave the cabin in the woods. Here, the game opens into a a large map overview of the games world. Places you have not visited are shown with a question mark, and you may be randomly attacked upon trying to visit that place for the first time; your main area of interest here is the town. At the village you will find a place to buy potions, weapons, armor, and upgrades for all of these. The characters you meet here have a decent amount of charm and back story, but for the most part serve only to sell you necessities and point you towards the proper direction. You then enter a game play loop of visiting a new area, getting a scuffle or two with the local supernatural ne’er-do-wells, explore the brilliantly designed environments looking for clues and/or puzzle pieces to advance to the next section. The puzzles do become a little more difficult as the game progresses, but they never reach the mind-numbing moon logic of the ol’ adventure games of yore. One does come close. Well, it’s a math problem. It’s my weakest subject, so that one might just be me.
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Some of the places you will most likely die in, at least once in your journey, include an abandoned farm house, a grisly, yet meticulous manor, cemetery, mausoleum and even an ice kingdom! After a few melee weapon upgrades a crossbow with a commendable array of bolts to choose from will become available. The crossbow will become your mainstay at this point. Up until I got the crossbow I felt the combat was a tad two-dimensional. At this point enemies begin having resistances to certain bolts, and weaknesses to others. This adds a decent bit of depth to otherwise flat combat mechanics. At the end of every leg of your quest you’re going to find yourself going up against a “boss” type enemy of that area. This is where the developer really flexed his artistic muscle. They almost always begin with a enjoyable jump scare before the battle proper so yeah, prepare for that. One of the earlier ones in particular was the possessed spirit of a dead little girl you find at the previously mentioned farm house. You get to see the shadow of it’s form flit in and out of the shadows in the dimly lit structure tensing you just right for the moment when it pounces. Simple touches like this, combined with the haunting ambient melodies really help nail that ghoulish atmosphere the game is trying to convey. The game lacks a random encounter aspect unlike a more traditional RPG so don’t be surprised that the enemy encounters quickly escalate in difficulty.
A hunting mechanic is introduced about this time for you to collect furs to craft those essential armor upgrades. The mini-game has a small learning curve, but soon enough you can do it in your sleep. It was not too far out from this point I had what had to be my only genuine gripe about this game. The adventure game style puzzles began to lessen and the game started leaning much more into the combat aspect. I originally bought this game for that lovely spooky puzzle solving goodness, so at first I felt it to be a bit of a let down to shift gears like that. The focus shift did fit with the rising pace and narrative of the game, though.

As the story unfolds, you become less of a lost soul wandering in the dark looking for answers and become more of a hero, and the game play reflects that. The third act of the game consists of you trying to find a way to undo the demonic invasion that has been plaguing the valley Dark Fear takes place in. You have to ascend to the top of a mountain, open a gate to hell, and kill the guardian of hell. It gets pretty damn metal at the end and it is awesome. You don’t fight Satan, you get to fight his bodyguard, which is actually even cooler. I mean, who do think would throw better hands, Michael Jackson or Mr.T?
Exactly. The battle itself is well worth any weak spots the game may have had thus far. All creepy ambient music is thrown out the window for what sounds like a an unreleased track off the Doom OST. The guardian himself looks as if Tim Curry in Legend did the DBZ fusion dance with Dave Grohl in Pick of Destiny. For a small indie game, it really does a good job of ramping things up to a fever pitch and delivering the goods. After you kill Satan’s ‘Timothy J. McCarthy’, you are treated to the end game cinematic. I won’t spoil it for any of you. I will only say it was a twist that surprised me without feeling forced.

The game only costs about four bucks on steam, so if you don’t like Dark Fear it’s not like you’re going to have to take out a second mortgage on your house. I got about 8 hours out of it before I beat so an average of 50 cents an hour is not to shabby.

Overall, Dark Fear is a good game. Great throwback art style to the classic age of point and click era of adventure games. It boasts a sufficiently creepy and immersive soundtrack. The fun, simple to the point combat mechanics and a story of dark magic and demons just keeps its’ foot on the gas and does not let up.

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Powered down fantasy.

The horror game schmuck (thats me!) Found 3 bowls of combat in horror games. I took a spoonful of the first one.

The action horror.

It was too hot!

I took a bite from another bowl.

The run and hide horror.

It was to cold.

Finally I took a bite from the middle bowl.

Survival horror.

It was just right!

I scarfed that entire bowl down then ran stairs and and hid under one of three beds from the 3 bears chasing me.

 

Im not telling which one i am hiding under.

I know you are still looking for me bears.

 

You will never find me.

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One of my favorite to talk to myself about in the shower is how most horror games combat usually falls into one of three categories.

You have the “power fantasy” horror games like Doom3, Dead Space, The Darkness II Quake I, Doom 64 and Resident Evil 4.

They are a load of fun.

On the oppisite end of the spectrum are the no combat horror games.

Outlast and Amnesia two of the most successful in this category.

They are fun as well.

My favorite though, has always been the middle category.

The one where you fight, but you are not very good at it. You can run, but not at the land-speed record.

To me it has always been a perfect balance of the other two. It seems to have the greatest variety in game-play as well. You have peaks and troughs.  The first time you get to unload the revolver on  a boss in Resident Evil 1 in countered by all the times you run like a pussy from crimson heads because you forgot to burn them because you are terrible on time management.

Clunky combat always gave me feelings of desperation, a back against the wall, kind of situation.

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*I am just going to quietly reference Condemned here*

 

I played Frictional Games first outing ‘Penumbra Overture’ and it is probably my favorite game of theirs. It had combat. Woefully, beautifully, clunky combat. It sure the alternative. scooting about on my ass like a dog on the carpet is an extreme pacing killer.

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*Red is the best character*

The other end of the coin the ‘action horror’ is a bucket full of fun. fun in this situation refers to blood and viscera. I am rarely scared by them though. Doom3 had some killer atmosphere and it’s lighting and shadows is still god-tier even after all these years but the constant unending sense of dread I got from games like the Consuming Shadow are on another level entirety.

*side note* sending a void eel to rip someones spine out through their ass is fucking incredible to behold, but not particular scary.

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Eldritch and Into the Gloom review

Eldritch and Into the Gloom

I have returned from the deepest darkest depths once more with a First Person tag team of horror games for your ghoulish entertainment. Today’s duo of chopping block choppers are “Eldritch” and “Into the Gloom”. After a very passionate game of coin toss, Eldritch shall be the first up to bat.

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Eldritch is a first person stealth rogue-lite horror game by Minor Key games that was released in 2013. It features a host of mechanics typical for rogue-lite games like permanent death and procedurally generated levels. Eldritch really wades deep into rogue-lite territory here with death meaning you lose absolutely everything except for whatever ‘artifacts’ you store in your bank before death. Artifacts function as both a currency and a source of mana for magic spells you acquire throughout the game. Exploration is central part of Eldritch with your character being tasked with delving into three different worlds to find the souls of three different Old Ones in order to open a door to the end game. Yes, if you had not figured by the end title of this game, Eldritch is a Lovecraftian horror. The story is that you are trapped in an arcane library with Old Ones on the verge of breaking out into the realm of men and you must reach the end of the library in order to perform a ritual to bind them to their respective dimensions. The library itself serves as a hub world with three ancient tomes functioning as portals to the realms of Dagon, Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep. The worlds themselves have a distinct aesthetic and corresponding and enemies and traps depending on which Old One governs it. Dagon’s has a cavernous, watery feel to it with Deep Ones functioning as a common enemy for example. While Eldritch has a couple of guns it leans more towards stealth, with ammo being in relative short supply, and you are capable of dealing double damage when enemies are unaware of your presence. The weapons you can locate throughout the worlds are a dagger, a big rock, a revolver, pick-axe, fire axe, trap gun and dynamite. Dynamite and pick-axes can destroy the environment, making exploration easier. Although, pick-axes will break after a few swings, and you can only carry one bundle of dynamite in each of your two equipment slots.
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While most enemies are easily disposed of,  it is worth mentioning that so are you. You start off with only three hearts, and health upgrades are far and few between. Healing items can be found but most only heal a single heart. Enemies themselves run the gauntlet of cultists, deep ones, star spawn, shoggoths, evil eyes and Elder Things. A few special enemy types include a weeping-angel style lizard statue and pale, skinless monstrosity that can only be stunned but never killed. Graphics are rather simplistic and almost come off as cute in a plush doll kind of way. Environments are blocky voxel style reminiscent of Minecraft. Despite all of this, the game does succeed to create a decent sense of tension with you weighing sneaking about for supplies aginst running gung-ho ahead and risk attracting the more powerful lurkers of the dark. All the worlds have at least one shop where a friendly version of an enemy type will sell you various supplies and upgrades for a price. You have the option of stealing, but be warned the shop-keepers seem to spend all their spare time snorting protein powder and hitting the gym. These guys can put a hurt on you is what I am saying, and they take a lot more punishment before buying the farm compared to their hostile counterparts. Movement in Eldritch is fluid and rather robust; you can crouch to sneak, sprint, do a running slide, jump, pull yourself up ledges and lean around corners. Sound design is adequate, with enemies being the most noteworthy. They will make different depending on whether they are searching the area or have spotted you. This instills a reliance on sound cues as to whether or not you are still undetected. The music is pretty good from tranquil almost crystalline ambiance on certain levels to acoustic passages that pleasantly reminded me of the Tristram theme from Diablo.
The game has multiple ending depends on your choices in the end game section of the library. I purposefully obtained the worst ending. Why? Because a good lovecraftian story just feels a little out of place if horrible, awful things don’t happen to the protagonist at the end of it. Beyond the main game, post-launch content includes a special 10 level world adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness (complete with giant penguins!), and an asylum world where you free souls within a time limit for leader board  braggadocio. This area is easily the most punishing part of the entire game. The final area is a simple Halloween themed world filled with Shoggoths and Jack-0-lantern wearing cultists. This area is best using for a supply run as it is bursting at the seems with artifacts and equipment. Your off hand can hold various spells you gain by praying at the altars of varying terrible, cosmic deities.
My only real qualms with Eldritch are the lack of any saved progress when you die and it is decidedly short despite being five years and old and pretty successful on Steam. I do hope the developer releases more content. The lighting and shadow could be worked on to give a better sense of atmosphere and dread. Overall though it is a decently fun rogue-lite romp through cosmic horror.
Eldritch is available on Steam for 14.99, I waited for it to go on sale but I would not consider it a waste to pay full price for.

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Into the Gloom is a first person horror game that the opposite approach to horror than Eldritch. Instead of tense action and perma-death, ITG is more in line with games like Amnesia and Outlast. I was hesitant at first to play ITG because while Amnesia and Outlast were great, they did inspire a lot (I repeat A LOT) of D-list clones. I can not tell you how many asset-flipped no-effort Amnesia clones I have come across while wandering the outer rim of Steam in search of gems and jewels to bring back for the approval of you fine folks. Where ITG stands out is it smartly abandons that near-worthless over-used flashlight mechanic in favor of a limited draw distance among the shadows. It also benefits from having a rather unique aesthetic. The game consists of simple-low poly architecture and models, with more complex assets being rendered as 2D sprites. Also, the entire game consists of three colors. Red, Black, and white. This also gels together perfectly to create an incredibly tense, surreal atmosphere. This combination of design choices is masterfully executed giving you the feeling of alienation and isolation while still residing in a familiar, believable space. Also, I never realized how genuinely unnerving 2D sprites can be. The thing with 2D sprites are, by design they will always being facing the player. Now imagine walking through hall ways and rooms and every corpse hanging from is facing you no matter what you angle you see them from. It gives off this sense of always being watched. Creeeeeeeeepy.
The only jump-scares in this game are these ghost figures that will pop up at random and I won’t lie to you when I say every time it happened I quickly looked over at my wife to make sure she didn’t see me jump like a skittish cat. There is no combat in this game and no means of defending yourself. You will spending most of the time exploring abandoned, hospitals, prisons, sewers, forests and solving puzzles to advance to other areas. The only lone enemy is a sort of shadowy figure that at certain sections will give chase until you complete the level and cause an instant end game scenario if it reaches you. I am just going to admit before I go any further this game actually scared me. I have a pretty high tolerance for horror; I am no master, but most of the movies and games I indulge in for the excitement and appreciation of the design and narrative. ITG actually gave me a feeling of genuine fear. At one point I laid in the bed the night after playing it before bed saying to myself “this game is going to give me a nightmare”. That’s pretty great for a horror game to make me sit there staring at a wall wondering how this game is going piddle all over my subconsciousness.
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Sound design here gets top marks all across the board with your footsteps echoing down dark abandoned hall-ways, doors swing with gritty metallic scrapes and unearthly sounds ring out from places unseen. The music is on another level as well. While only a small amount of ambient tracks, like the rest of ITG’s game design, it manages to get a mile out of an inch. Most areas are this foreboding deep throbbing bass drones. The chase sequences with the shadow figure have their own equally unnerving theme and quieter, calmer areas are more in line with the music heard in Silent Hill 2. the pacing of the game is too applauded. It switches off from slow burning, non-linear exploration and puzzle solving, to more linear areas where you are being relentlessly hounded by that grim specter. The story is you play an amnesiac who awakens in a hospital where every other person has either committed suicide or been violently murdered. The majority of the narrative is told through notes and writing on the walls. I won’t spoil it to much but there is more than meets the eye going on in ITG.

My only gripes about this game are the over abundance of doors you can never open. I understand big buildings have lots of areas and a budget means you can’t fill every one of them, but it was a small letdown where every large area I went to only 1-3 doors could be opened. Also some of the puzzles were a bit obtuse. There was next to no direction on what the puzzle was even supposed to be, do, or be for, and I just had to kind of stumble on what they were exactly. That being said once I figured what the puzzle is supposed to be for they were logical enough to solve.

Into the Gloom was developed by “earrgames” and is available on Steam for 2.99, but if feel it is worth more, and I believe this is the first game developed by them. A damn good first offering, by the way.

So which game is better? Neither. It all depends on what your looking for. What Eldritch lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in gameplay. What ITG lacks in re-playability it makes up for in it’s send you running to the clothes drawer for a clean pair of britches.

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Blood-review

 

Ya, I have become so bored with my free time I have written some game reviews. Horror games in particular. This is the delusion of productivity. Hey, I am already thinking of this goofy shit while I play them so might as well write it down.

 

*I am an idiot, and do not know how to take screenshots in DOSbox so these are random ones I found on the internet.

 

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If you’re looking for a scathing review of the Occult classic FPS BLOOD, you have come to the wrong place. I am no pitchman, but damn is this one fine game. Blood is a first person shooter horror game by Monolith productions. Monolith is the same group of fine folks who later developed Condemned:Criminal Origins and F.E.A.R., so you know they got butcher block chops when it comes to making a good horror game. Blood was the very first game they released back in the halcyon days of 1997.
You play an undead gunslinger named Caleb. His skin is white as a ghost, his trench-coat is black and his eyes burn red with righteous unholy fury. He was resurrected under mysterious circumstances, then sets out to eradicate the ‘Cabal’; a powerful cult order of the malevolent god Tchernobog that Caleb used to be a member of. He was one of the four ‘Chosen’ in the Cabal along with his lover, Ophelia, a sorcerer named Ishmael, and someone in brown tunic named Gabriel. Tchernobog has his monstrous lieutenants kill the other three chosen after he disavows them.
That was about 95% of the story right there, by the way. As it was with most FPS games of that era, the story was just a set dressing for the game-play and art aesthetic.
Monolith’s later horror games had a serious story and tried to seriously tell it. Blood on the other hand, not so much. What Blood may lack in the depth of its’ narrative pools, it makes up for in body bags full of B-movie gore, gallows humor and self-aware charm. Also, the game has more horror pop culture references than you can shake a stack of Stephen King stories at. The player character Caleb is something of a weird western Serious Sam/Duke Nukem; he loves popping off one liners, making (horror) pop culture references, and takes to carnage with gleeful abandon. However, with Caleb’s characterization, at times he comes off more of a lesser of two evils than even a dark anti-hero.
Blood is a game that is dripping with winks and nods to horror tropes; before the main menu appears you are greeted with pictures of demonic gargoyles and human skull with bat wings. The single player campaign consists of five episodes of around 10 levels each with one of Tchernobog’s lieutenants serving as a boss at the end of them. With names like “The Way of All Flesh” and “Even Death May Die”, the episode names themselves exude pop culture charm. After selecting an episode you select from a variety of creatively named difficulty levels. These includes titles like “Lightly broiled” and “Extra Crispy”.
Blood, like all great FPS games, gives you access to a wide variety of creative and powerful weapons in order to open up 55 gallon drums of whoop ass on every sad sack of shark shit stupid enough to stand in your way. You start off with a pitchfork as a melee weapon but soon aquire a flare gun for torching enemies to ash, a sawed-off double barreled shotgun, a Tommy gun, Napalm launcher, bundles of TNT and a can of aerosol with a lighter to act as a makeshift flamethrower. Later in the game you come some really friggin’ cool super weapons like a Tesla Cannon(This was 1997 so no it does not shoot sexy electric cars), a skull staff that fires explosions and a Voodoo Doll you point at enemies and stab with a big needle.
Now considering this is a FPS horror game it would be an insult for it not to be incredibly morbid and gory. Enemies set on fire run around screaming in agony, and explosions pulverize flesh, sending unidentifiable meat chunks, severed hands and eyeballs flying about. The Voodoo Doll weapon has unique death animations for just about every you use it upon; zombie heads you kick send jets of blood flying everywhere, and enemies spew blood when shot that will cover the floor and coat the walls. All this carnage is set against levels that are full of Gothic imagery, weird western aesthetics, flayed corpses, piles of skulls demonic structures and various other macabre set pieces.
The Cabal is not choosy when recruiting for the ranks of it’s army. The basic foot soldiers(cannon fodder) are zombies. I love the design of these zombies because one they always have an expression on their face that looks like someone farted while the zombies mouth was open. Above them are brown robe wearing cultists who scream at you in garbled Latin while firing shotguns. Zealots wear blue robes and wield tommy guns while yelling nonsense at you.
You also come across bloated butchers, which are inspired by the Uncle Rege zombie from the Night of the Living Dead remake. They wield meat cleavers and power vomit green shit at you from a distance. Severed hands, hungry pissed sewer rats, red and green spiders also appear as “nuisance enemies”. The spider bites will disorient your vision and even cause temporary blindness if enough of them blind you. Gargoyles, hell hounds and even Grim Reapers all make an appearance in Blood.
Levels in Blood are typical for FPS games of the time. They run the gamut from non-linear to maze like labyrinths and require obtaining doors to unlock doors to progress throughout. Luckily most are easy to navigate.
The first Episode begins with Caleb arising from a grave, pitchfork in hand, to wreak havoc in a cemetery and the nearby church. The levels in Blood feature extensive amounts of interactivity. Select areas of the environment can be destroyed to make shortcuts and find secret caches of supplies. You can flip light switches, flush toilets, play the piano, blow the heads off zombies then kick it around like a ghoulish beach ball. After you clear out the church, you fight the Cabal across several cars of a moving train, a dark carnival, a Gothic castle and several others. The dark carnival is of particular note here: It features several horrific takes on typical carnival games which you can actually play. Some even have prizes! For example, you can kick zombie heads into a gaping lipless mouth. There is a freak-show collection you can visit, a tightrope walk over a pool full of some lovecraftian amalgam of tentacles. The freak-show has a sentient severed hand( a nice Evil Dead II reference) that somehow endlessly screams “I’ll swallow your soul” at you. There is a carousel made entirely out of flesh with live gargoyles instead of animals to ride. While a stellar sound-track overall (which I will get to in depth later), the track here is particular entertaining. A unnerving and twisted take on typical carnival tunes that is punctuated with high pitched laughter and occasional nonsensical carnie-barking. It ratchets the already stand out level up to eleven. The first episode ends with you finding
Ophelia’s corpse. Before you can make peace with your former lover you face off against the grey gargoyle lieutenant Cheogh. The episode ends with you placing Ophelia’s corpse on a funeral pyre then putting your shotgun to the mortally wounded Cheogh’s head and pulling the trigger.
The next two episodes play in a similar rhythm with you traversing a series of twisted fiendish areas before finding a fallen member of the Chosen and slaying the lieutenant who dealt the killing blow. Episode two ramps of the horror references with a recreation of the Overlook hotel from the Shining complete with a frozen Jack Nicholas in the hedge maze. Noteworthy levels in this episode include a lumber-mill-turned-human-remains-processing-factory and a
Haunted two-story mansion. Episode two ends with you avenging the death of Chosen member Gabriel by slaying a giant spider queen named Shial. After defeating her, you eat Gabriel’s heart (to obtain strength equal to exactly one Gabriel) and crush the spider with a well placed boot-stomp.
Episode three starts with you traveling through a few sections of war torn France during WWI while hunting down Tchernobog’s final lieutenant Cerberus. During the second level you get caught in the middle of an airborne carpet bombing while duking it out with the Cabal. Episode three contains my absolute favorite level besides the Dark Carnival; a place called “The Sick Ward”. It is a hospital operated by the Cabal and top to bottom a macabre take on modern medicine. Case and point one of the areas in the hospital is a “assisted suicide room.” It has a Guillotine, a massive table saw, and an oven big enough for a human to stand inside among other bits of morbid slapstick humor. Also in the Sick Ward level you find out apparently the Cabal is not a fan of using condoms because the hospital has a “Syphilis ward.” Seems a little specific to me. The latter half of the episode takes Caleb deep underground eventually reaching the very bowls of the Earth where Cerberus resides. In Blood Cerberus only has two heads, but he can breathe fire so I im assuming the trade off was more than worth it. After defeating Cerberus, you stuff his body with explosives and detonate it showering yourself in blood.
Episode four has some of the coolest references, with one level literally called “Crystal Lake.” Another level references Dawn of the Dead; the aptly named “Mall of the Dead.”
While most levels in Blood if they are not homages to horror films at least attempt some semblance of a place you could find in real life; the penultimate level goes completely off the rails. It is a massive labyrinth made entirely out of flesh, blood and bones. The walls even bleed when you shoot them!
When you finally reach Tchernobog’s Hall of Epiphany he makes you fight the spirits of his lieutenant before he graces you with his colossal, blood-stained skeletal presence.
I have named a few of the more obvious horror references you can find in Blood but that is merely a small fraction. If you had a drinking game where you took a shot every time you recognized something from a movie or book you would be dead from alcohol poisoning by Episode three. Blood truly is a high-octane tongue-in-cheek love letter to everything horror and it puts a smile on my face every time I boot it up. The faults with Blood are mostly subjective. Due to complications over ownership of the IP rights, Blood lacks any kind of remaster or redux. Therefore it needs to be run through a DOS box emulation software to run on a modern OS. This causes some problems as sometimes music and sound effects fail to load and it only supports a limited number of video options. While keys in other games were easily identifiable the ones Blood are rather indistinct and some levels require you finding up to five in order to complete it. Health can be a rare find and on harder difficulties can make game-play down right brutal and unforgiving.
Regardless, it is a top tier classic and quite a few retro FPS fans regard it is as one the highest pinnacles of the 2.5D era shooters. Calab’s characterization and signature smooth, wry voice, courtesy of the talented Stephan Weyte , is at once memorable and chilling to the bone.
Its’ art style manages to be both campy while still conveying a genuine fear.

So what about that sound track? A killer collection of disturbingly good audio from top to bottom is to be found in Blood. One of many worth mentioning is a track called “Pestis Cruneto”. I believe the entire song is basically a prayer/hymn to Tchernobog It mostly consists of a chorus of monks chanting Latin in a minor key with some subtle bass notes droning in the background. The track conjures up images of corrupted cathedrals and ominous figures in hooded robes. Also translation!
pestis cruento vilomaxus pretiacruento =Blessed be the Order of heavenly Blood

cruento pestis shaantitus shatruex = Curse the enemies of Chaos

infuscomus lokemundux bhuudesco = Make this dark world exist

The whole song is Grammy winning lyricism just like the three lines above. Another is the “dark Carnival” theme. I just want to remind you again that it is both terrifying and amazing. While all the songs really drive home the dark unsettling world Blood resides in I am only going to mention one more. That track is “Infuscomus.” It opens with some low volume high pitched whines offset by a couple of quick staccato lines from what is either a cello or viola. A ephemeral operatic female voice fades in out on top of that for a few lines or so before it all goes quiet. After a few moments of silence the song bursts into full swing. Creepy minor key piano lines play over deep sustained bass notes, creepy industrial percussive noises and what sounds like backtracked voices of children before fading into pounding piano notes played an octave below the previous sections. It is overall very dense and dynamic. Infuscomus pulls out every trick in
it’s arsenal to craft a song that is tense, atmospheric while also giving you a feeling of an escalating situation.

If you enjoy popping off cheesy one liners while spilling buckets of carnage across chilling landscapes packed to the brim with tips of the hat to then masters of the genre then Blood is the game for you.

Blood-e1463781281775

At $4.99 on Steam Blood is practically hemorrhaging value and I honestly felt a little guilty paying so little for this game.

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spoopy shovelware

I love horror games. It combines the visual and audio aspect of horror movies, the writing of horror novels, with the ability to fight a hillbilly in his garage with an Old Dodge Dart.

but,

First person stealth/exploration horror games are ruining my habitual dungeon delving for obscure/cult horror games to play.

Between Steam and Itchio I have seen more Amnesia/Outlast ripoffs than any mortal human should have.

And I LOVED Penumbra(Overture) Amnesia and Outlast. I admire the premise of using your wits to overcome adversity rather brute-force(even though I love that as well).

It is just that sub-genre of horror games has been over-run by hordes of shovelware.

So, so, so many games with crappy flashlights, completely dark rooms and aimless wandering around waiting for jumpscares for me to handle.

It is a shame because it is a genre that started off the way any good indie effort.

Frictional Games did not have Resident Evil or DooM 3 budgets when they made Penumbra or Amnesia but they took what they had and maximized every aspect of it.

I will always have a propensity for the indie horror game despite my love for the big shots like Resident Evil and Evil Within.

But it is lazy development to continue churning out this stuff.

Is it a unintentional showcase of the flaws in Amnesia style games? If there is no combat, you need no coding knowledge on to make a balanced combat system.

If everything is black, you don’t need interesting assets or a unique art-style.

You do not need intriguing puzzles if game-play consists of running from invulnerable jump-scares that insta-kill you if they get withing range.

DMR2vW3XcAEIdjt

huh.

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Throw Dick, or have your soul torn apart.

Hellraiser holds up.

Dam it’s good.

Something I noticed since the last time I watched it.

Almost all of the plot is driven by fucking. Either by being very bad at it, or being very very good at it.

Evil stepmom archetype would not have ever cheated on Larry if he knew how to throw dick.

Frank, Frank knew how to throw dick. Also, it is a universal truth that putting a knife to someones throat gives you +15 charisma.

Larry was such a sad character. He is the Hellraiser equivalent of “Jerry” From Rick and Morty.

Seriously the scene where he trying to get some tail from Julia made me look like a pornstar in comparison.

If Larry’s Dick-game was a pro wrestler, his finishing move would be lying awkwardly, to much eye-contact and crying when he cums.

I had forgotten how quotable Pinhead is.

960

Also, it was not really touched upon to much with Kirsty having a boyfriend. I didn’t even get the feeling they were dating. So at the end when he runs into the collapsing building to help Kirsty, it seemed strange to me.

Because, you have to be really, really, thirsty, to run into a collapsing building when you don’t even know if your girl is in there on off chance you MIGHT get some tail.

Dam good movie though.

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My little Mythos, My little Mythos! (Melancholy is magic!)

A WILD MYTHOS HAS APPEARED!

I never thought my story “Spaces between” A story about Family, the pitfalls of pride and wizards would get published, but it did!

Right here actually…

http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/

I am in Issue 34 (and 32 if you have not had enough shameless self promotion)

“Spaces Between” Is a Dark Fantasy/Horror story that is set in the same fictional world as another older story of mine.

The other one is called “Empty Keening”

That one appeared here…

http://www.horror-writers.com/empty-keening-by-b-b-blazkowicz/

So that is now two stories of mine within a shared universe.

That one is also a Dark Fantasy/Horror Novel about what someone will sacrifice for even the fleeting chance of living to see another day.

Also, check out all the other(much better than mine) material on these great sites!

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When Foreplay becomes Forework.

I hate talking about my writing. The fact that any of it has been published on any level is stunning to me.

Still though, it is nice to know I actually put off Video Games and furiously fucking my own fist long to get any of it done.

writing is like a long term relationship. When you first start a story it’s like an amazing one night stand. All passion, no direction. then when got a little more comfortable, you get ambitious. Start doing ass-play, introduce a sub-plot, stuff like that ya know? By the end of it though, your just ready for it to be done. You slopped a load in every hole, character get can’t any more resolved. Eventually you just have to cut it off. Your story is done and some new WIP has been eyeing you from across the bar.

Any one who thinks writing is like a corny than crow shit “motivational” meme is wrong. It’s work. But it’s satisfying work. Like building a small monument to your own delusions of being an Aeuter then rubbing one out over it in celebration.

Also, Stan against Evil might be the best TV show that isn’t Rick and Morty I have ever seen.

Two updates in one day.

Have not updated in like two weeks.

Hope you enjoy your multiple orgasms after leaving ya thirsty for to long.

 

 

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You would know this if, for once, you actually did something unproductive with your time.

That was a mouthful of a title.

Good Horror scares you.

Great Horror makes you feel insignificant.

Waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare and just lying there worrying that if you fall right back to sleep your nightmare will simply pick up where it left off.

Those are the fun nights.

The nights where you lay there wondering if anyone else is awake at night trying to drown the low of hum of their own mortality.

 

 

 

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A dead idea needs no abortion.

Forgot to post this last night. Was still sitting open when I got up this morning.

Finally I sit my ass down to finish putting this dead end out to pasture.

————————————————–

This was an idea that is going nowhere.  And I actually really like this one. I just have nothing to do with it. It’s like in Weird science where they made the girl, then forgot to give her working parts.

This little stump of a story is entitled “Tortured Transmission.”

—————————————————————————————————————

After dinner I saw dad was on the porch with his gun out. He was taking it apart, inspecting it, cleaning it and gathering up ammo. Sweat slowly trickled down his weathered brow. His eye’s were twitchy and wide. I noticed that his hands were shaking slightly as he went about his work.
He seemed not to notice me as I approached him.

“Father…”
He jumped a little when he heard me.
“How long have you been there?”
“Only a few moments.”
He looked past me, towards the great forests surrounding our house. The setting sun cast a vibrant gold and orange glow through the tree’s, exaggerating the contrasting shadows and giving it an unsettling feel.
After staring that way for a little awhile, almost as if he was searching for something, he turned his gaze back to me.
“I found the cows that escaped Flynn.”
“Are they allright? Can I see them? I was wondering as to where you went. …I missed you.”
I responded with a small measure of excitement in my voice.
“No. They are dead Flynn.”
Before I could say anything back I noticed his eye’s begin to get slightly wet around the edges.
“I hope you did not miss me to much.”
He then looked at the floor for a moment, appearing to struggle to say something else before stammering:
“I want you to promise me something Flynn. If you hear anything tonight. Whatever you do, do not make a sound. Just keep your head under you blankets and be quiet. Do not leave your room. No matter what you hear, do not leave your room. Can you do that for me Flynn?”
“…Yes father.”
I told him.
What could possibly have him so startled? Nobody ever bothered us out here. All the animals are safe in the barn, and our dog is more than capable of taking on a coyote or a wolverine.
He turned back towards the gun and began putting it back together before saying:
“You get back inside now and get ready for bed, I will be inside soon enough.”
“Yes father.”
“And Flynn, I want you to know that I love you.”
“I love you to father.”

Later that night, I awoke to the sound of the dog furiously barking. Afraid of what might be outside I clutched my blankets close to me. My eyes were fixed upon the door at the end of my room. I could hear father stirring in the next room. Over the barking of our dog I also made out the distinct sound of father loading his shotgun. Something was definitely out there. Suddenly the dog goes silent. I count the seconds, one, two, three, four. We then hear a growl coming from the dog. Low at first, but steadily growing louder and more vicious. I hope that whatever it is goes away. I hope the dog scares the creature back into the night. The darkness of my room seems to envelope everything around me. I can feel my heart start to race, faster, and faster. The growl turns into a snarl. This is then followed by a sickening thud. At first i was sure our dog had wrestled to the ground whatever beast or person had befouled its path. I was wrong. What came next was the most gut wrenching scream I had ever heard at this point in my life. It’s high pitched yet throaty wail of agony shook to me the core before it was abruptly cut off with a loud, violent tearing sound. Again there was silence. In retrospect it must have only been a hand full of moments, but at that time it felt like I had spent an eternity in the stygian, soundless void that was my room. I heard father slowly tip toe down the hall, gun loaded and aimed at whatever might attempt to enter our quarters. I could feel tears forming on the horizon of my eyes when I realized our family dog, was no more. I burrowed myself into my blankets even further in a futile effort to ward off the dread and terror seeping in through the walls and under the door like thick liquid.
Suddenly, without warning, I felt the house shake as the sound of wood splintering with such brutality as to have left it completely pulverized. I quickly stifled a scream of surprise. Judging by where it came it must have forced the front door open. Or more likely, judging by it’s ferocity, it demolished the door in it’s entirety. It’s was plainly audible that my father had lost his footing in shock. I could then hear a growl that seemed to fill up every nook and cranny of unoccupied matter. Baritone in it’s timbre, yet more powerful sounding than a locomotive. I could almost feel it vibrating on my skin, that is how encompassing it was. Regaining his composure my father shot at the beast. the white hot explosion shrieked out, causing my ears to ring. I did not hear the shot impact, but I could hear the cry of the beast. A short burst of a yelp. My father quickly began trying to reload. I could hear the metallic clicking sounds of him fumbling around with the action, trying to get it open in order to put another round in. What came next sounded like the roar of a grizzly bear funneled through a long cave. Rever-berating off the walls and jarring my skull. If I had not been there i would surely would not have believed it myself when i say that it sounded like a stampede within my own walls. My father began to let out a scream before it too was quickly cut off with heavy slam onto the other side of my bedroom wall. I could hear the wood crack a bit upon being hit. It was followed by weak gagging sound coming from my father as he slumped to the floor. betraying the silence I had maintained thus far I burst loudly into tears, sobbing uncontrollably into my blankets. On the other side I was able to discern a hideous cracking sound, like a coconut being torn open. This was accompanied by a cacophonous combination of chewing, lapping and slurping. My stomach lurched at what it could possibly be.
After mere minutes the noise abated, even if my pitiful moaning did not. My door slammed open, without warning, letting the moon and father’s lamplight pour in. What stood before me was neither man, nor canine. This creature was a succinct amalgam of both, yet twisted to monstrous proportions. It’s feet were massive. They stood on forefeet and toes much like a wolf, with it’s legs bent almost to a right angle as if it was ready to pounce at any moments notice. It’s incredible frame almost made it seem nigh improbable for the beast fit to inside the doorway. Despite the thick and lengthy fur, you could see the taught limber muscles rippling underneath. The faint luminescent glimmer of the moon showed the hulking monstrosity had small streaks of graying hair across it’s body, offset by the thick nearly pitch black coat. The moonlight gave off a sense of serenity amongst the madness. Juxtaposed against this, the flickering orange hues given off by the lamplight, highlighted against the streaks of crimson splashed against the fur, were a stark reminder of the nightmare unfolding in front of my eyes.
It stopped, hunched over slightly, and sniffed the air in front of me. It’s jaws began shivering and snapping with a jittery, frenzied level of speed. Upon seeing me, it picked me up by my shirt and held me there for a moment. It’s jaw slowed to a quiver and I was able to see a slight yellow tint flowing into it’s steely grey eyes. I braced myself, putting my arms up around my face and turning my head to the side. Just then i heard movement behind me. I lower my arms a bit to look over the beast’s shoulder. I saw a silver wolf standing in my busted doorway. Only this wolf was much larger than any canine I had ever encountered. It’s size was more akin to a lion. It had a magnificent flowing deep silver fur coat that almost gave it a regal air. The beast holding me looked back at it. After a tense few moments it then looked back towards me. It snarled at me before tossing me to the ground. Even though my shoulder began to throb in agony i laid there, paralyzed with fear and confusion. For some reason unbeknownst to me, the hulking creature began to walk away. As it left the room, the wolf turned and looked me in the eye. I felt a shiver run up my spine at it’s gaze. While the colossal beast before me had the look of cunning and resourcefulness you would expect from an animal of the hunt. This one was different. Like it knew. Like it was aware. It looked at me with whatever it is humans have that set’s them apart from the animals and insects. It observed me. Took me all in and pondered on it. …I learned something then. A cunning, able bodied predator may break the bodies of most men. But one who can contemplate, rationalize, predict and formulate beyond mere instinct is capable of doing things to a person that can break their mind and their spirit.
That, that was far worse than the menacing glare of any predator.
I laid there on the floor, too shocked by the events that transpired to move. As the two horrific creatures returned to the night, silence came to me once more. I simply laid still as the dead and waited for the moment I would awake and be free of this horrific phantasm.
…How quaint of me to have thought that.

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A horrific bag of flaming dumps (two sentence stories.

I got bored while waiting for the pot to boil for pasta so I sat down and splatter shat a a pile of two sentence horror stories.

I did not want them stanking up my trash can so I am just going to drop them off here.

This is a dumpster. these are my unwanted sextuplets.

Enjoy!


1)They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. You can not get much closer than the inside of my stomach.

2)My family mourned as I was lowered into my grave. Which is strange because they are the ones who would never leave this cemetery.

3)He said he would never leave. He still screams even though the stitches are healing just fine.

4)I have to disclose to you that the basement floor used to be dirt. It flooded one day and the previous owner found the bodies.

5)My axe head landed right between his eyes. And they say drugs are the ones that will open your mind.

6)They whispered to me from beyond the stars. I can still hear my family’s screams even from behind bars.

7)I had to buy a new hammer today. Human bones are more durable than I thought.

8)Tomorrow is a new day. To bad they won’t be around to see it.

9)They put me in this padded room when I told them what was sleeping beneath the town. Being in this cell means I am the only one it has not found.

10)My brother has not been the same since he returned from the sea. His eyes are blue, his skin is green and he is getting really mean.

 

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An Origin of Ultra-violence

Episode1_intermission

The year was 2000.

I was 10.

My parents had just got me a computer…for some reason. I don’t remember asking for one. It certainly was not to access the internet we didn’t have.  I was poor and it was not like today where you could step out your front door, put your palms to the sky and get a fistful of internet in a moments notice.

But holy fuck am I ever glad that they did.

Because on that computer was(among others) a little game called Doom.

It made a small splash in the early 90’s… you might have heard about it.

Other than Turok and Goldeneye I never played an FPS before. Doom opened my fragile innocent mind to an entirely new world of violence, gore, satanic energy and just what lengths a man will travel to safe his bunny Daisy.

I played that almost non-stop until I could not beat it anymore. See, unknown to me was the concept of shareware. I never was really a PC gamer until my 20’s; having only played DOOM, Hexen, Diablo I & II and Age of Empires being my total PC gaming experience.

The version of Doom I had was the shareware version containing Episode 1 “Knee Deep in the Dead.” The other three episodes were locked for reasons I was completely unaware of at the time. I remember doing absolutely everything I possibly could to unlock those other episodes. I beat Knee dead in the Dead more times when I was 10 than I have in the 16 years since then. I thought if I beat it on the hardest difficulty It would unlock. I thought If I found every secret in every level it would unlock. I thought if I beat the episode in a certain amount of time it would unlock.

The problem was I was to broke to unlock it XD

That game stuck with me though. I was fascinated by what those other three would contain.

1.Knee Deep in the Dead.

2.On the Shores of Hell

3.Inferno

4.Thy Flesh Consumed

At some point later my parents got rid of that computer. I don’t know why.

Maybe they saw how horrific and Violent Doom and Hexen were and decided their little boy could not stand to be corrupted by such evil.

But it stuck with me. the music, the imagery, the high-octane action. Never forgot about fantastic those episodes were named.

 

 

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Setting aside cynicism for a night.

There is only one way to have a truly open mind.

Which is to bury an ax in their forehead.

Watched OG Night of the Living Dead the other…night.

Holds up pretty well. I was going to say something about how progressive it was to cast a black lead in the 60’s but then he hit a woman for being “Hysterical” so I guess it balances out.

Being impulsive can be fun and rewarding. Fucking your employee or something similarly heinous may not be one of them, but watching a classic in a genre that has become as bloated and overrun as it’s central conceit is.

So I set aside my cynicism for the zombie sub-genre to watch the granddaddy of them all, the original Night Of the Living Dead. I was surprised by how well the movie held up. The pacing was superb, very little stagnant downtime. The first time I watched it the movie seemed to drag on forever. Then again, when you have smoked your own body weight in chronic, everything seems to stretch on into infinity.

Also it was a treat watching Duane Jones take absolutely ZERO shit from anyone.

I have a theory that the movie was actually shot in color but you can not tell from the near non-stop smoking of almost every character throughout the movie. It would not surprise me one bit if there was cut footage of that little girl polishing off a whole pack of Winston’s before she got bitten.

As much as I love this movie and it’s sequel, I roll my eyes in distaste when I realize this movie inspired the wet dreams of every zombie-apocalypse obsessed gun-hoarding redneck I know in this rural bumble-fuck  cultural dead-zone I call home.

*That last sentence exhausted my entire supply of hyphens

This scene is the reason why I have a friend with an AK-47 and a 1000 round drum of ammo under their bed.

So thanks for that Romero.

maxresdefault

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Father’s day.

My dad is like a super hero, he solves all his problems by punching people.

Daddy is really good friends with the police men. They come by a lot.

One day Mommy had to go live in the hospital for awhile because she smelled all the flour.

It made daddy sad that she had to go. So to cheer him up three of his police man friends came and they all wrestled him in the front yard.

I hang out with grandma a lot now.


nothing horror or video game related this time.

Also none of this is true because my dad is dead.

so father’s day gets to be all about MEEEEE!

 

 

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They saved Lovecrafts cock.

 

I originally wanted the title of this to be, “Why I am glad Lovecraft died when he did, not why or how and the murky, arbitrary nature of separating the artist from their art.”

Not as poetic and also not a reference to the Angry Samoans.

There are plenty of sources out their that give credence to this facets of Lovecraft, and I shall link to those in the footNOTES.

I am fan of Lovecraft’s work. Metallica’s “Call of Cthulhu” is my favorite song by them. Also because it one of the few song that does not have James Hetfield “YEAHing” all over the carpets.
Games like Bloodborne and Eternal Darkness are some of the best in their genre.
“The color out of space” is one of my favorite fiction short stories ever.

But, it is kind of hard to discuss Lovecraft without acknowledging the “Horror at Red Hook” shaped elephant in the room.

Lovecraft was a racist. HO-LY shit was he racist.
For the longest time I always gave him the benefit of the doubt about this. I always figured he fell into the “Archie Bunker” category of intolerance. Which is one born more of ignorance and being a product of a more exclusive time. Lovecraft was a white guy from early 20th century new-england, if you don’t poke around a bit you can not be entirely blamed for thinking that.
The truth is far more fucked up. he was kind of an Olympian athlete level bigot even for his time. If he spent as much time on his writing as he did cranking his wank to fantasies about a planet populated entirely by pasty crackers who’s skin tone could only be described as “flash bang”, his obscure death might have been translucent instead of opaque.

 

I have no segue for the ‘separating art from artist’ part so here it is…

Any writer with even a dim passing glance at him or his body of work knows Lovecraft was a racist.

Now anyone reading(oh the hubris of me to assume somebody will read this) please do not take this the wrong way.

I am glad he died before his home-style recipe of bull shit became harmful.
I say this knowing fully that yes, it truly is a harm for anybody who is a fan of his work, or horror in general to be subject to his swill. You all have a right to be offended by it. I am not referring to that.
Lovecraft died in 1937. The Nazis at this point had yet to make their ‘The Beatles on Ed Sullivan show’ level breakthrough on this side of Atlantic. This was also decades before the civil rights movement kicked into full steam. Imagine now if you will, if Lovecraft lived?
Would it be that much harder to appreciate the Cthulhu Mythos if he would not stop reminding the world that Hitler “Had a few good ideas.” Would Clive Barker and Stephen King have readily let Lovecraft influence their own writing if he was alive to scream in the face’s of black children for the simple act of wanting to go to school?

If David Duke was a speculative fiction author do you think POC fifty years from now would give two trickles of piss for their literary merit?

That is why I am glad he died when he did.
Lovecraft’s absurd over-the-top bigotry was bellowed into a void of relative nothingness before he lived long enough to throw his two-cents into the well that were some of the most pivotal moments of the 20th century.
This made it just a bit easier to separate the art(which was great) from the artist(the human stand in for a burning cross).

 

How did I come to this conclusion? By reading the works of people much more qualified to be writing than I ever will!

http://hotelworkers.org/about/history/the-little-rock-nine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadir_of_American_race_relations

http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2016/10/disturbed-by-lovecraft

http://www.castaliahouse.com/robert-e-howard-and-h-p-lovecraft-on-immigration/

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Obtaining a coherent and reliable dosage.

I should update this more often. So when I get my writing published and they want a social media link, people don’t go here and find a barren wasteland with it’s sole occupant being my hairless pasty ass face.

Monday or Tuesday sounds like a decent time slot. I am off those days. So I will actually have time to dispose of my pointless pontification like a vagabond disposing his genetic paste in a dumpster before moving on to the next town.

In the meantime though, one of my favorite servers at a work said she had an “insatiable hunger” for pussy. 2 + 2= she is a lesbian, spoiler warning. I told her it was because she has nothing to swallow. She laughed. That means it’s funny.

Something that is actually well thought and equally meaningless will be getting flushed down my toilet wisdom soonish.

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An acclamation to darkness

 

Horror has always been compelling to me because it was one of the few genres where the good guy does not always win. To someone who grew up on cheesy cartoons where even if the villain has been dominating every single second of the show, somehow, some way, the hero would drop his trousers and squat out a hot steaming loaf of Deus ex machina and suddenly everything is lollipops and sunshine drops all wrapped up in nice little bow. As far back as I can remember, this kind obsessive emphasis on protagonists succeeding with flying colors never sat to well with me. Horror opened my eyes(with a handful of fish hooks) to the idea that stories do not always need to blindly rush like lemming over a cliff to such a trite story structure. In horror, if the protagonist does succeed, it is almost always at a great cost. Some of the best horror has the protagonist losing, losing badly, very very badly. Losing like a fight consisting of Ryu from Street Fighter squaring off against a slice of wet bread. This appealed to me. I always loved the antagonists. Horror at times is a celebration of that. Cinephiles will probably remember individual actors from a Friday the 13th movie, but filthy casuals like me only remember the mute brute with a machete who turned a hockey mask into the worlds most metal piece of sports equipment. A great example is Stiches, a bad-ass Clown themed slasher flick from Ireland where the antagonist is literally bullied to death by the “good guys.” The rest of film is him coming back from the dead to enact all manners of creative, comedic and gory revenge.

Hell, a lot of times people watch horror just to see the villain to villain stuff villainenly. you don’t really get that in other genres.

Nobody is watching Schindler’s List and rooting for the villain.

 

 

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“Dark Echo” -My first published piece of fiction.

About a year ago was the first time I got a piece of work published. It was also the first piece of horror fiction I ever wrote. Of course I did burn it to the ground and rebuild it about half a dozen times or so before it reached that point but still,  the fact that it got published blows my puny mind.  Dark Echo first appeared on the Bloody Disgusting Community Platform on 5/20/2016. All of that has since been removed, and I can no longer find the original post. But, I still have the original file and will sure as shit post it here.

So here it is…

DARK ECHO-

I awoke with an abrupt jolt. I could tell that I was not alone in this temple. So long have I been without company it was almost a sixth sense if and when someone’s presence was near.
Beckoning me from the temple came a soft comforting voice. I threw on my dingy robes and head out into the main hall. Upon entering, I fall, with my knees hitting the stone floor through my tattered garments. There on the pedestal, towering over me and covered by a silvery silk robe, stands my lord! My eyes are the first to witness his presence… Finally, years of unwavering dedication have been vindicated! For awhile I could do nothing, except to gaze upon his flawless, serene visage.
“What is it that would call you here to this lowly temple my lord?“
”You my child. It has been far to long that I have been absent from this world. I am beckoned by your calling.”
He told me in a soft spoken voice.
“Is there anything I can do to serve you?”
I begged of him.
“My humble Tepes, there is naught you can do for me at this point, but in time all things are possible.”
Came his response.
tears stream down my face as I begin my morning ritual. Finally my long suffering loneliness is abated.
I could have spent all of eternity just basking in his presence but alas, my labors call.
So begins my travel across the garden which surrounds the length of my abode. I traverse the entirety of my cobbled together quarters across the rustic stone temple past the open air kitchen, tending to my crops. After a particularly grueling coughing fit I notice the rats and other pests are all absent. Not a single body or sign of struggle. Feeling that a blessing has truly been bestowed on me, I rejoice in no longer having to contend with vermin for the sovereignty of my crops. After the day is done, and all is in it’s proper order, I return in order to bask in my Lords presence. It is all I could ask for after an exhausting day toiling in my field. Upon entering the sanctum it became apparent that all the candles were out. This cast a looming shadow over the room from the doorway. Prohibiting me from seeing the walls or the ceiling. I stop in there in the doorway. I thought for a moment I had caught the faint smell of a withered corpse. But as soon as I thought I was aware of it, it had gone. I guess my mind is starting to play tricks on me in this old age.
Without the light, it saddens me that his full appearance is not visible for me. He explains in a slow, tempered voice that the lack of visual stimuli allows him to better ponder our existence. I accept this answer without question.
“Why choose to live up here all alone, away from your fellow man?” He questions me. Despite a benevolent and curious expression on his face, his voice felt cold on my ears.
“The busy body noises and bustling city life was a drain on my ability to contemplate your works.” I say.
He listens in silence with reticent curiosity to what becomes a one-sided conversation. After I finish he responds with:
“Was man truly fit to live in solitude? Why don’t you return to your people?”
“They are not abhorrent in any way, but I feel they lack the deep well spring of faith I possess so,seeing no other option, I left. It was to grow closer to you. With your presence hear I know that my faith has been true.”
He then pulls back into his robes before telling me that :
“Causes are not without their effects.”
I then see a smile form on his face, Close-lipped but serene. Euphoria floods through my being. I begin to mutter a final prayer to him before retiring these old bones to my quarters, but exhaustion over takes me before I even finish.
Howling, ravenous howling burst forth from a yawning maw. Crooked and unhinged, It sought to envelope me. I could feel it pulling and tugging me closer no matter how hard I fought against it. I awoke in my bed the next morning. It Felt like an eternity had passed.
“You have been very weary Tepes. You fell asleep right on your prayer rug. I then carried you back to your bed.” He said as I enter the sanctum. Did it seem darker than usual? For a moment I thought I saw the light from the doorway ebb away from the sanctum. I shook my head. This must be my imagination. He was right though. I felt noticeably enervated . He then slowly turns his colossal frame to face me. I can see a faint glimmer in his icy blue eyes. He says to me in a low, somber tone.
“Tell me, How often do you have visitors?”
“Once a month a boy from the city travels up here and I educate him in literature. In return, I get food and herbs I myself can not obtain. He is a jovial lad. Maybe you can meet him? So that he too can marvel at your splendor?”
I replied to him.
“That will not be necessary of you. I will decide when I, and my intentions, are to be known. Revelation happens not on a whim. ”
His voice was almost a whisper.
“Yes my lord.”
I responded with my head bowed.
After a morning of prayer and meditation, I head outside.
I take a seat on a large carved stone to eat my breakfast when I realize how noiseless everything is. there was not a bird chirping, not a sound of any woodland critters scampering up the trees or across the forest floor. A thick blanket of silence seems to have enveloped the land. It was quite strange, but I thought little of it. I begin to shiver slightly as I ate. Winter must be arriving early this year.

I then hear footsteps from the yard. I turn to see the boy with his satchel and books.
“Ahhh, you have arrived a day early!”
I call to him as he approaches.
He stopped short a few feet from me.
“Are you ill?” He says to me looking concerned.
“I am merely fatigued my boy.”
I told him, beckoning him closer.
“Would you like some tea before we get started?”
“Yes please.”
He responded still eyeing me with concern.
I head into the kitchen and prepare some tea. After I finish I pour each of us a glass then return to the front yard. All is empty as far as I could see.
“Where have you gone? As much as I would love to play games with you, I am afraid we must get down to business!”
I called out to him. My words seemed to hang in the still air before quickly growing quiet.
Did he enter the sanctum? As if to answer my thought, I hear a rattling draw of breath from the stygian room. Alarmed by the ominous sound I rush inside.
Upon entering I drop both glasses in shock at what stands before me. My lord turns toward me. His robes are now tattered and covered in soot. The pristine porcelain skin is slowly melting away, revealing a smokey gray skull beneath. His jaw comes unhinged. Howling, ravenous howling burst forth from his being. I fall to my knees in despair as the final puzzle piece reveals itself. Shrunken and pressed against the walls like a hornet’s nest are all the birds, rodents and forest dwellers. All perfectly frozen in place, all wearing expressions of extreme agony.
At the center, with a twisted visage of anguish is the boy. His small, innocent frame bent and broken.
holding out my hand as if to try and grasp the disbelief I feel, I shrieked:
“You are no God…”
“…and you are not the first.” Then all became silent.