Posts Tagged ‘horror’

Eversion Review

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Eversion Logo

Developer: Zaratustra Productions
Publisher: Zaratustra Productions
Platform: PC – Steam

Eversion is one of those games that it seemed everyone had played back a few years ago. Time and time again, it saw mentions in articles and forum posts about creepy games. I bought it sometime around then, but never ended up playing the darn thing until now.

Mechanically, Eversion is a simplistic 2D platformer with a switching mechanic. It is possible to change the landscape/features of blocks at predetermined Evert portals. Aside from opening up paths through the stage, these also make the game gradually darker and disturbing. Well, as disturbing as a cartoony 2D platformer can be.

Eversion Featured

There’s no doubt that this bait and switch worked extremely well around the time of its initial launch. At this point, however, so many retro-styled “secret” horror games are out there that it’s much less shocking. I did get a feeling of tepid surprise, but not much else. Autoscrolling stages in particular proved far more frustrating than frightening.

I likely did myself a huge disservice by waiting so long to play Eversion. This is a game that worked in a specific time and place. Sure, it only takes about half an hour to beat (if you’re not seeking completion), but the greatest asset of the game now feels stale.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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My 10 Most Influential Games: Rule of Rose

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Rule of Rose Image

I found myself fascinated with Rule of Rose before it even released on PS2. It was certainly no secret that games often launched in Japan prior to North America, but never before had I felt the need to play a title as soon as it hit Japan in early 2016. Yet, here I was, with a Japanese copy of Rule of Rose about a month after its Japanese launch. Fortunately for me, the game was not heavy on written text and cutscenes were actually in English to begin with.

What was it that initially drew me to pick up Rule of Rose? It most likely had to do with the Japanese trailers that made their way out prior to launch. It’s pretty similar to the footage shown in Atlus USA’s trailer, as shown below. The key things that hooked me were that it was a horror game with style, it featured an almost exclusively female cast, and seemed to be pushing the envelope.

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Pathologic Review

Pathologic Featured

Pathologic Boxart

Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
Publisher: Ice-Pick Lodge
Platform: PC – GOG*

Pathologic is one of the strangest games I have ever played. This isn’t due to the content, which is entirely understandable, but because its ability to shift from extremely good to annoyingly difficult in the span of playing for a few hours. This is a game that has earned a lot of acclaim over the years – enough to warrant a Kickstarter-funded remake! Even after finally playing it myself it’s hard to distill my complex reaction into a simple “I love/hate it” response.

Certainly, there’s a lot to love about Pathologic. The game allows you to play as one of three characters (third unlocked after a playthrough) entering into a slowly dying town. A plague has swept the area which leaves no one safe – not even you – from its grip. Visually, the world already looks dead with its desaturated browns, blacks, and greys. You hope to help people survive but that’s a massive task to accomplish.

It’s hard enough to save yourself. This is a survival game in the truest sense where you must think three steps ahead for what you need. Food, medicine, and the like are necessities and not just health boosts. If you can’t buy them you can always attempt to barter with townsfolk… or steal their stuff right out of their homes. There’s not a hyper obvious “good/bad” pathway, but characters will react with hostility, fear, or kindness based off what people are saying about you.

Pathologic Featured

The biggest problem with Pathologic is that it does so much to dissuade you from falling deeper into its world. First, the translation is pretty rough which means an English-speaker simply can’t get the full understanding of what’s going on (and may even be confused). The larger issue is the high barrier to entry for surviving in the game very long at all. Then there’s the combat which is primarily a test of patience than skill.

Despite these issues, Pathologic creates one stunning experience. It was far more innovative in 2005 than many games are today. Its experimentation may not have worked out perfectly, but it’s still a game worth playing. Here’s hoping the remake will fix the original issues without destroying its spirit!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Personal Nightmare Review

Personal Nightmare Featured

Personal Nightmare Boxart

Developer: Horrorsoft
Publisher: Horrorsoft
Platform: PC – Amiga, Atari ST, DOS, GOG*

Personal Nightmare is a great name for a horror game. And heck, there are definitely some horrifying moments in the title. However, this 1989 horror title is steeped with so much antiquated adventure gaming conventions that it is extremely hard to come back to today. It seems this is the case with most of Horrorsoft/Adventure Soft’s catalog (see Waxworks).

The best aspect of Personal Nightmare are the graphics. Pixel art has moved away from the “painterly” style that became prominent before 3D graphics took over so this all looks very refreshing. In particular, death scenes (which you’ll come across frequently) are super grisly. Rooms look distinct as well-meaning you won’t get lost in a maze of samey-looking sections. Of course, the map itself is huge meaning you can still get lost for other reasons.

Personal Nightmare Featured

This game uses a parser-based system with some graphical elements. A list of verbs is always present on the right side of the screen. Clicking on one helps fill out the text parser, although you can just as easily type out a full command by hand. Thankfully the inventory has a fully graphical representation although it has a max capacity. Weirdly, your briefcase within inventory provides a secondary inventory which is massive. So, start stuffing objects in there, although this might mess you up on later puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, they’re where Personal Nightmare gets everything wrong. Not only are you required to carefully inspect every item, but many require inspection before a certain time. Time plays an integral role in the game meaning you can miss a necessary item thanks to dawdling. It’s unforgivable puzzle design as far as I’m concerned because only the most hardened adventure fans will give that a pass. Combine that with some finicky inventory management as well as clunky controls and it just becomes a huge annoyance. Personal Nightmare  is aptly named, but for all the wrong reasons.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Waxworks Review

Waxworks Featured

Waxworks Boxart

Developer: Horrorsoft
Publisher: Accolade, Adventure Soft
Platform: PC – Amiga, DOS, GOG*

The early 90s were a scary time for adventure game developers. Horrorsoft, who began with text parser games, created Waxworks as an attempt to bridge that gaming gap. Instead of being a dull adventure game it utilized dungeon-crawler elements to offer copious fights. Of course, it still maintained that classic adventure core by requiring players to lug a heft inventory around.

Unfortunately, the implementation of action elements in Waxworks leaves much to be desired. The game does start off creepily enough, at least. You enter into a wax museum after being ushered there by your Uncle. According to him there’s a curse on your family and your brother will be lost forever if it isn’t removed. Destroying said curse requires entering different wax exhibits which transport players to different planes of existence.

Waxworks Featured

It sounds fine until you realize that every ounce of gameplay is a pain. The adventure trope of clicking on and collecting everything is in full force. Alongside that are constant swarms of enemies to slow progress and chip away at the health meter. Then there are maze-like areas that are far more frustrating than they are fun (especially as more enemies spawn as you try to find a proper path). It’s terribly un-fun.

Waxworks does have some grotesquely detailed artwork and a suitably creepy soundtrack. Had gameplay actually passed muster such aspects would be icing on the cake. As is, these are the only high points most players are likely to find. Only the most determined of horror connoisseurs should seek out this game.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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Realms of the Haunting Review

Realms of the Haunting Featured

Realms of the Haunting Boxart

Developer: Gremlin Interactive
Publisher: Interplay, KISS ltd
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Realms of the Haunting was a game trying its best to straddle two worlds. First, it most certainly wanted to tell a good, creepy story like a classic point and click adventure. However, by 1996 that was a tricky proposition. As such, the title is a first-person shooter although it still maintains many hallmarks of the adventure genre. Everything begins when the protagonist’s father dies.

After this death, his son then seeks to discover what exactly might have been going on before his father’s untimely demise. This leads him to a mansion where the father’s spirit is apparently trapped. You must help to free this spirit by, basically, taking on the great many evil powers which have taken up residence there. Of course you do this with a liberal dose of puzzle solving – and shooting demons.

Puzzles aren’t particularly tough on their own. What makes them a challenge is that players require keen observation skills while exploring. Oh hey, see that slightly discolored tile in the corner of a room? Click it! Players must also pay attention to the fact they can tilt the camera up and down as well. Often, items are hidden below the “forward” line of sight. As long as you’ve got a keen eye it’s possible to make it through most chapters.

Realms of the Haunting Featured

Of course, Realms of the Haunting also has a variety of FPS segments shoved in for good measure. These aren’t usually difficult, especially with large caches of ammo hidden around. It’s worth noting enemies are weak against certain weapons over others. So if one takes a zillion blasts with one weapon try switching to another. Despite all this shooting business, I still feel that the game is primarily steeped in adventure game concepts. This is furthered by the copious FMV cutscenes and dialogue present throughout.

FMV games are often laughed off but in this case the sequences are actually fairly compelling. The story is simplistic but the acting isn’t bad at all. I found myself even looking forward to seeing what would occur next. With that said, it does drag on as it’ll take somewhere around 8 to 10 hours to complete. Realms of the Haunting feels very antiquated with its tank-style control scheme but there’s a pretty intriguing game lurking underneath the surface.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Blackbay Asylum Review

Blackbay Asylum Featured

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Developer: TAD Productions AB
Publisher: KISS ltd
Platform: PC – GamersGate, Steam

I play a lot of games. Many of them are indie, and some are certainly odd. With that said, I don’t think any other game has been this weird while still managing to grip me this year. Blackbay Asylum defies expectations, messes with convention, all while being a point and click adventure game. Well, let’s dive right in and try to define this strange creation.

Blackbay Asylum focuses on a murderer named Doug. He arrives at Blackbay Asylum after finally being caught. However, once he arrives everything goes absolutely wrong. This game has very little to do with the whole “inmates running the asylum” trope. Instead, this place becomes an apparent portal to hell. Lovely!

Despite all the gore, death, and creepiness around him, Doug feels perfectly at home. He makes jokey quips at pretty much anything early on. Jokes pummel the player so much that at least a few stick. As you explore the asylum you engage in a multitude of puzzles. Many are easy, a few are complex, and sometimes they feel annoying. For the most part they seemed fair.

Blackbay Asylum Featured

The dressing of Blackbay Asylum is all very odd, but one design change completely surprised me. For the first few chapters the game is presented from a top down perspective. But after that, it shifts back and forth between that and first person perspective. Why? I’m honestly not sure! In first person you’re given an up close look at puzzles that otherwise wouldn’t be possible with a top down view. Neither view feels like a last-minute decision, either.

Graphically, the game definitely feels behind the times. This is true of the audio often as well as some jokes. Still, the incredible oddness of everything kept me playing. I just had to see where the story went and if anything else unexpected would occur (as continued to be the case). Blackbay Asylum is definitely not for everyone, and probably asking too much at $20, but it certainly hooked me.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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The Child-Like Terror of Among the Sleep

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Among the Sleep Featured

Among the Sleep is a horror game that was Kickstarted to the tune of $248,358 in 2013. The funding campaign hooked me with the game’s unique premise of playing as a toddler. Although I don’t feel the game reaches as far as my hopes did, it certainly succeeded at being terrifying in a very unique fashion.

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The Cat Lady Review

The Cat Lady Featured

The Cat Lady Boxart

Developer: Harvester Games
Publisher: Screen 7
Platform: PC – Desura, Direct, FireFlower Games, GOG*, Phoenix Store, Steam

Adventure games have been one of my favorite genres for a long time. Although some call them archaic, I find them innately enjoyable. There’s something to inhabiting worlds that are usually very fleshed out, often humorous, and full of puzzles. Somehow, I managed to avoid playing The Cat Lady for an entire year. Now that I have, I feel the need to make sure anyone else who has ignored it plays the game immediately. Be warned that the main focus is on depression and suicide, so it could easily distress or trigger some players.

The story centers around a woman named Susan Ashworth. She lives alone in an apartment and likes it that way. For a long time, she has suffered from depression and the only joy she still gets out of life is the stray cats who come whenever she plays the piano. As the game begins, she has finally mustered up the courage to commit suicide. From there, things get strange as it quickly becomes apparent that even death won’t stop the suffering.

The Cat Lady Screenshot 1

Susan is a novel protagonist and I immediately grew attached to her. Although I have never experienced depression myself, I do know others who have and her character and condition were treated with respect. This is something you rarely see in games (and oftentimes, any other media). Her journey is unusual, dark, and disturbing but also empowering. Other characters are also well-written in their creepiness, annoyance, or friendliness. Although the events depicted become quite unreal, Susan is still a very grounded character.

Unlike most adventure games, The Cat Lady dodges a point and click interface. Instead, you move through 2D screens using the arrow keys. Picking up and using items also is handled in this manner. I felt this was very convenient because you always know what items to interact with and how that might work. Overall, the game is fairly simple puzzlewise which keeps it open to both gamers and non-gamers. This is a huge deal considering that the story is one that I think many people would benefit from experiencing.

Atmosphere is one of the strongest elements aside from story, and this game provides an incredible one. The art is unlike anything else out there, with usage of drawing, collage, pixel art, and seemingly painting and CG art. Although this sounds like it could spell disaster, the end result is stunning. Some say the game is ugly, but if it is that only enhances the off-kilter mood. Much of the world is black and white with only touches of color at times. It really sets the scene for Susan’s mood and the dire situations she encounters.

The Cat Lady Screenshot 2

Then there’s the audio which is nearly perfect. Musically, there are a great deal of tracks that immerse you further into the experience. There were only a couple times when I felt the music was out of place. Voice acting is also impressive, and much more so than some more “commercial” adventure games. Susan gets by far the best voice actress, but other characters are also well-acted. Only two (of many) characters sounded a bit silly to me. It’s quite an impressive effort, overall.

I do not think The Cat Lady is perfect, but it proved to be an experience that resonated with me. It brings depression to the forefront and discusses it honestly. Because of that, it’s hard to not get pulled into the world and need to see it through to the end. At times, it was hard to play (because of how it affected my mood) but incredibly worth it. If you have any interest in the subject matter or adventure games, The Cat Lady is simply a must-play game.


Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Eldritch Review

Eldritch Featured

Eldritch Boxart

Developer: Minor Key Games
Publisher: Minor Key Games
Platform: PC – Direct, Steam

A lot of things come to mind when people invoke the name H.P. Lovecraft. Sometimes thoughts rush straight to Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, or (in)sanity. Even if you’ve never read his fiction, you’re likely aware of some of these things thanks to video games taking bits and pieces to create their own narratives. Eldritch is one such game that was inspired by Lovecraft, but also roguelikes. It might sound like a winning or awful combination (depending on your proclivity). As it turns out, the results are pretty good.

Players enter Eldritch with little explanation. They are just a woman stuck in a library, or so it seems. After reading some of the tomes, you realize that you can actually transport yourself to a new area by reading one of three special books. What is this strange new place? It’s a dungeon filled with treasures and dangerous beings – and you’ll have to survive it all. Or, as was often the case for my playthrough, you’ll die a lot.

Each dungeon is an odd mass of rooms, spikes, enemies, and objects to be found. Weapons are pivotal to survival later on and it is best to stock up on them early. Often there are coins scattered about as well which you can spend for other items. If you’re in danger, try to put the coins in storage though. Upon dying the player loses all they’ve found thus far, including any coins on their person. The same holds true for keys which are tremendously useful. However, unlocked levels will remain unlocked even after you die, which is quite handy.

Eldritch Screenshot

The gameplay itself is based around searching through levels to collect gear and find the exits. Of course, there are tons of monsters that will do anything to keep you from that goal. For about half of Eldritch the game is actually pretty easy. Then some new monster types appear that makes things more challenging – and sometimes even creepy. Sound effects are used to great effect as well.  For example, hearing odd breathing coming slowly closer will definitely cause players to be extra alert. Although there is apparently a very subtle soundtrack, I couldn’t perceive it and instead would play my own soft music over the game.

There’s an elephant in the room that it’s time to address. Eldritch looks tremendously like Minecraft. Or, it at least uses voxel graphics with pixellated skins that are certainly Minecraft-esque. This has been a trend lately for many indie developers and its easy to see why. With such graphics it is easier to worry about the experience, rather than making realistic graphics that are far beyond the scope of a small team. The game itself however is nothing like Minecraft. Aside from being able to blow up walls with dynamite, there is basically no similarity between the two.

Playing through Eldritch doesn’t take too tremendously long, but once you do, it reveals a new game+. Anyone who felt the main game was too easy will find this to be a much harder version. Features such as sneaking are actually necessary to survive! Players must also more carefully manage resources. If you felt the main game was too simple, then definitely try and get to NG+ to really start enjoying it. For me, the main game was tough enough. It’s a fun little adventure perfect for those looking to build up to more challenging roguelikes.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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