Through the True Lens of Terror – Playstation 2 – Fatal Frame – 2001

TitleFatal Frame
Playstation 2
Tecmo
Genre: Survival Horror
2001

In general, horror is a tricky genre to be successful in, despite there being quite a bit of leeway as to what “horror” can actually pertain to. Sometimes, horror can be encapsulated by the visuals of a game, making for some gruesome scenes or grisly environments that can offset a player’s senses. Action-horror can give a player weapons and defenses aplenty at their disposal only to let them whittle away as the game continues. Then there are games that don’t even give you weapons, offering either environment or a host of hiding spaces to avoid assailants as you attempt to escape the encroaching danger.

Whatever the specifics are, horror games usually have the primary goal of trying to scare the player. Jump scares can be cheap but effective and atmosphere and digital disorientation can leave a lasting impression but takes a thorough followthrough to pack a punch. There is a delicate balance involving tension, foreboding, art, and programming that has to go into these games for them to achieve their goal.

One game that made this attempt was Fatal Frame, the origin point of a series that never quite reached the popularity of some of its brethren but has a well-sized and devoted following. Touting a rare “based on a true story” label on its cover, the game left quite the impression on me growing up but I never finished the original title, opting instead to play through the second entry with a friend in high school over the course of a night one summer. I’ve had fond memories of the pieces of the series I’ve played in the past, so I decided it was time to buckle in and push through the game that started the series on its quiet course into cult reverence.  Continue reading

Just a Short Trip Back for More – PC – DreadOut: Keepers of the Dark – 2016

20190811102407_1.jpgDreadOut: Keepers of the Dark
PC
Digital Happiness
Genre: Survival Action Horror
2016

Certain games lend themselves to a convoluted and drawn-out mythos. Taking into account some certain popular horror games, you could easily find essays about Silent Hill’s background and characters. Personally, I’ve poured through a number of analyses about Rule of Rose and the symbolism within the world drawn up over the game’s events. While a lot of that is in the eye and explanations of the analyst behind the keyboard, most franchises are not foreign to the idea of adding more to an already existing mythos to explain mysteries or flesh out their universe. It’s what endears people to their work, after all.

The original DreadOut (which I reviewed a while back here) took its inspiration from some already existing mythology, sending a group of trapped teenagers and their teacher up against some of the specters and demons in Indonesian stories. The game didn’t just rest on this, as it had its own plot and story to tell, but the combination of existing and specifically created histories made for an interesting plot to watch unfold as the horrors played out.

Keepers of the Dark is not a straight sequel to DreadOut as one might be led to believe from the title and timeline. I say this not only informationally but as a bit of a warning for the discussion to follow since there is almost no way to discuss the game without referring to elements from the original DreadOut and possibly giving some spoilers. Acting more like a “missing chapter”, according to the game’s page on Steam, it sort of takes a quick sidestep from the plot of the original and has events that relate to it. If you haven’t played the original game and don’t want it ruined for you, feel free to turn away now. No hard feelings here, I promise!

Otherwise, take a peek at what I thought of this extra chapter from the DreadOut universe and how effective it may or may not have been as a standalone piece. Continue reading

Two of Us Against the World – Nintendo Entertainment System – A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia – 1990

Title.jpgA Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia
Nintendo Entertainment System
Imagineering / Absolute Entertainment
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
1990

The introduction of the NES to the video gaming market felt like it was a time where a lot of chances were taken. Not to belittle the consoles that had come before it. There were plenty of games that tried something new, but it felt like there was a marked shift in capabilities for the system and the approach to video game mechanics began to spread to a larger variety that was accessible to more developers. With that, some companies attempted to step outside of the box a bit, jumping from their work on earlier consoles to embrace the growth of technology in the field.

Such was the case with Imagineering and Absolute Entertainment who had produced and published games for the Atari and Commodore 64 before making the jump onto the Nintendo Entertainment System. With a bit of innovation and some high aspirations, their first attempt to break into the NES market in conjunction with one another was with a little game that has seen a few entries in its legacy called A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia.

Attempting to put a spin on the classic adventure platformers that were so plentiful in the system’s library, the idea was to create a game that did away with tedious inventory management and would be another step forward in the genre given the influence designer and programmer David Crane had already with his work on Pitfall!, a classic in its own right that pushed the adventure scene in a promising direction.

Having played this game as a kid, I had never finished it and remembered it being a bit too challenging when I had attempted it last. One morning, with my renewed resolved and a few more years of gaming under my belt, I decided to take a swing through the game and take a journey with A Boy and His Blob. Continue reading

All’s Fair in Love and Covering Wars – XBox 360 – Dead Rising – 2006

20190706233207_1.jpgDead Rising
XBox 360
Capcom
Genre: Action Horror
2006

Zombie games are everywhere. Like the creeping undead they promote, they seem to have vastly grown in number and even when you don’t think they have made their way in, games suddenly have a new mode that has you facing off against the hellish creatures. As someone who swears by Zombie Ate My Neighbors being one of my favorite games of all time, even I have to admit that there’s a lot to look through and not much to be done to make the zombie pseudo-genre feel fresh.

Looking back a bit, though, it didn’t feel like the wave of zombie-centric gaming started to swell until popular games like Resident Evil 4 and Dead Rising hit the scene, bringing a more action-oriented approach to slaying the already slain than many of their predecessors of the era. Plenty of ground had been struck within the Resident Evil series and other one-off titles here and there to give credit where it’s due. At the time of its release, though, Dead Rising felt like a revival of a sort. It was shiny and new while calling back to similar works from film and gaming.

There’s also been about thirteen years of efforts to replicate those shiny and new feelings in a number of ways since. Some have been successful while others have paled in comparison. It only feels right to look back into Capcom’s Dead Rising series, one of the original members of the new wave, and see how it stands up now that so many other games have come around. Plenty of games make a splash and get lost in an ocean of titles and efforts to be the best.

After all of this time, does Dead Rising still hold its own in the arena?
Continue reading

Enter If You Dare – Nintendo 64 – Castlevania – 1999

TitleCastlevania
Nintendo 64
Konami/KCEK
Genre: Action Adventure
1999

Since the earlier days of console gaming, Castlevania has been a standout series alongside esteemed first-party brethren like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. Over the course of the 8 and 16-bit days, the series managed to produce just under 10 or so unique games for itself, and the popularity it gained after the night-untouchable Symphony of the Night released on Playstation made it a force to be reckoned with. While keeping true to its core mechanics, for the most part, Castlevania rode the waves of evolution over generations in a way that many series with they could have, whether by quantity or quality.

Inevitably, this would mean that when the jump to 3D gaming started to rise with Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Castlevania would surely take the leap with them. With a strongly established mythos and plenty of recognizable elements, the series brought a dark tone to the otherwise colorful and fantastical offerings plenty of other powerhouses had been for years to the Nintendo world.

Looking back now, there are some horrors aside from the creatures of the night the Belmont Clan had been used to that many games entering the 3D arena had to compete with. Notoriously, Castlevania 64 tripped into some of these pitfalls, but so did plenty of the heavy hitters during that time. Why, then, have we seen so much love for Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time but not for Konami’s attempt at making a more immersive trip to the Count’s castle abode? Continue reading