Creating the Illusion of Life – PC – Bendy and the Ink Machine – 2017

20200324225231_1.jpgBendy and the Ink Machine
PC
Joey Drew Studios / theMeatly Games
Genre: Survival Horror
2017

I was never a fan of black and white cartoons. I’ve read plenty about them as I’ve grown up, though. From the likes of Betty Boop and Felix the Cat and some of the outliers around them, the cartoons of the 1920s and 1930s have always been interesting to me from afar. Like films from the same era, though, it’s been tough for me to sit down and try to watch them. Maybe it’s the lack of colored animation and film. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re relics now.

Maybe it’s the fact that they feel a little too smooth and- dare I say it- creepy.

It didn’t strike me until now, but there’s something both intriguing and unnerving about cartoons from the early era. Some of them toyed with fire and brimstone, and the voices are just a little too pristine and emotive. I can’t really put my finger on why the more historical offerings from the animated era of that time aren’t of interest to me, but I grew up on cartoons from my parents’ era around the 1970s and 1980s. I know a person or two who study the beginnings of animation, though, and while it’s interesting to hear them talk about it, it’s still not something I’ve taken a step back into myself.

The first time I saw Bendy and the Ink Machine, though, I knew that its visual style, dependent on the style of animation from the early days of its inception, was something that might hook me. When it first came out, I wasn’t completely sure what its angle was. It seemed sort of action-oriented. Then again, it could have just been some game angling at folks who enjoyed that old style of art, whatever it might have been. Then I heard it was creepy.

I dig creepy games.

As soon as I had it in my possession, I decided I needed to play through it and check it out for myself. Not only was I trying to play more indie games, but Bendy had been gaining popularity in merchandising and on my social networks. Even if I didn’t enjoy it, I knew when I was booting it up that I would get to know what was so special about it that it had gained such immense popularity in such a short time. Continue reading

That Fine Line Between Derision and Admiration – Nintendo 3DS – Creeping Terror – 2017

20190413100028_1Creeping Terror
Nintendo 3DS
Nikkatsu Corporation / Mebius / Aksys Games
Genre: Point-and-Click Horror
2017

The beautiful thing about the survival horror genre is that there are always developers trying to innovate and find new ways to break through the separation between the player and the distance of the screen to send shivers down spines and adrenaline through the roof. It gets tough with so many hands in the pot, though; for every Eternal Darkness, there is a The Ring: Terror’s Realm.

What happens when Japan’s oldest surviving film studio decides to jump into the ring, though? Nikkatsu Corporation is just that company and knowing quite a bit about films, it makes sense that they would eventually want to strike out into other media. Their first game to the development credit appears to be a PS Vita game from 2016 called Tokyo Tattoo Girls. While it doesn’t look up my alley, it genuinely seems like a strange first step for a company that’s been around for over 100 years.

Their second effort (so far as I can find, at least) was 2017’s Creeping Terror and it appeared on its surface to be a Clock Tower homage, which was the perfect draw for me to look further into it. As a fan of a number of games in Aksys’s catalog, it seemed like a safe enough bet that I’d at least enjoy it for a little while. It’s hard not to be wary as a horror fan, though. Some companies just throw some dark corridors together, slap some stickers on the outside comparing their game to “x”, and lure unwitting hopefuls into a web of mediocre and uninspired jump scares with nonsense plots.

Not that I’m jaded- but I had some hesitation heading into Creeping Terror. Continue reading

Delving Into the Black Abyss – PC – Conarium – 2017

20190912223611_1.jpgConarium
PC
Zoetrope Interactive/Iceberg Interactive
Genre: Horror Adventure
2017

Most horror fans of any medium have at least heard of H.P. Lovecraft in passing. If you haven’t read one of his stories, you’ve probably at least heard of “Call of Cthulhu” due to the tabletop gaming system or the number of video games that have been released with the name attached. Some others like “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “At the Mountains of Madness” have seen references in film and games, too. Of his tens of stories that he wrote, only a handful have gained mainstream popularity of any kind. His style, however, is reference constantly.

“At the Mountains of Madness” is of special note here. During his lifetime, Lovecraft had a preoccupation with the idea of an expedition to the Antarctic and what could be found there. While most of the works that come out referencing his works take place in small towns with strange and isolated inhabitants- The Sinking City, Call of Cthulhu, and Dark Corners of the Earth, as examples- only a couple that I’ve run into have examined this setting in any way aside from a passing mention. Conarium is the most recent that I’ve come across.

I picked up the game as one of the Epic Games Launcher’s free offerings and if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have stumbled across it in any way shape or form on my own. I’d never heard of Conarium, but I knew I was looking for some horror games for the Halloween season and found it a stroke of luck that this would pop up in my notifications. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but as any hapless Lovecraft protagonist would, I steeled myself and prepared for a step into the unknown as I booted the game up for the first time. Continue reading

You’ll Have to See For Yourself – PC – Stories Untold – 2017

Image result for stories untold gameStories Untold
PC
No Code/Devolver Digital
Genre: Text-Based Horror
2017

Before all of the fancy graphical wonders and high-octane action sequences that developers have been crafting and hooking audiences onto in recent years, the wonders of the imagination ran free in a genre now referred to in most circles as “interactive fiction”. For anyone not familiar with these types of games, they tended to consist entirely of words describing the action and environment. From there, the player has to type out what they want to do with a series of commands or directions- want to go down that hallway to the north? “NORTH”. Think that desk might have something interesting? “LOOK AT DESK”. Everything was in your mind’s eye- for better or worse.

While the style has generally fallen out of fashion, there are plenty of folks who put together games akin to the old text-based adventures. One such group who has paid homage to the genre recently is No Code, the minds behind a moderately known game called Untold Stories. At first glance, it might look like the title card was swiped directly from an episode of Stranger Things. While it might seem derivative, though, it’s actually designed by Kyle Lambert, the artist who designed the posters for the show. Finding that out was step one to ending my hesitation about checking the game out.

Of course, amidst the ridiculous backlog hacking I’ve been doing recently, recommendations from trusted friends help pull certain titles forward. After a bit of praise from my buddy Brad over at Cheap Boss Attack (who you should totally check out, by the way), I decided to push up Untold Stories on my playlist since it seemed short and also seemed to have left quite the impression on my fellow horror gaming buff. I recently got to pop the game on and got ready to type my little frightened heart out. Continue reading

An Eerie Echo of Time and Place – PC – Perception – 2017

20181006201905_1Perception
PC
Deep End Games/Feardemic
Genre: Survival Horror
2017

Having lived in New England my entire life, I’m no stranger to films that involve the Boston and general North Shore areas of Massachusetts.  Given that authors like Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft also center quite a bit of their work around the New England area, there is plenty of horror related literature to reference that center around Maine and Rhode Island.  Gaming has also recently had a few prominent settings in the area, notably Fallout 4 which takes place in The Commonwealth a.k.a. Massachusetts.  In most media, you only have to look in a general direction to find work that centers around this section of the country.  I mean, it’s been around long enough to gain some kind of attention.

I had originally heard of Perception at PAX a couple of years back and while I didn’t get to check out the demo, my friends did and raved about it.  I threw it on to a list of games I would keep an eye on and when I looked into it, I realized that not only did the game take place in New England, but it was also developed by a company based right out of Boston.  From that point, I don’t think the game fell off of my radar until I purchased it during a sale on Steam.

Given my backlog, I had tried getting into the game once before and wound up distracted by other things in my life (and probably other games, to be honest) but given the time of year, I’ve been trying to work through some of the spookier games in my library.  I settled on the fact that I owed it to myself to play through Perception to see if my initial hype could be lived up to, especially given the unique mechanics of the game that I had heard so much about.
Continue reading