Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh
Genre: Point-and-Click Horror/Sci-Fi
Anyone who has talked with me about video games for an extended amount of times has stumbled on my love of FMV games. It’s probably due to the mixture of cinema and the interactivity of the medium, but something has always intrigued me about the jump to using live actors and CGI to bring games to the ‘next level’.
About three years ago, I put together a piece on a full-motion video game called Phantasmagoria, a game that was developed and published by prominent adventure game designer and Sierra On-Line luminary Roberta Williams. After the immense success of creating a video game that was aimed squarely at a more mature audience, it was only logical that a sequel would be developed; that’s the way that media works and Sierra did not disappoint in delivering another game to the short-lived franchise.
Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh appeared on shelves a year after the original. Despite not being helmed by Williams this time around- the reins had been passed to a colleague of hers, Lorelei Shannon who wrote and directed- the sequel’s horrific box art and correlation to its controversial predecessor gave it the perfect setup to once again break records. The issue with following up groundbreaking work, however, is finding new ground to strike in a novel way. On the surface, this game seems ready to deliver the goods.
Once it’s open and the gears start turning, though, does the puzzle fit together or are there are few pieces missing that keep the final product from being as iconic as the first? Continue reading
Layers of Fear
Aspys / Bloober Team
Over the years, horror as a genre has branched off quite a bit. While the genre wasn’t exactly a stranger to symbolism or subtext, time has lent itself to certain horror offerings exercising the cerebral and dramatic. Video games have been doing this for some time now thanks to certain developers working to deepen the artform that video games have started to be recognized as. Games like Silent Hill and Rule of Rose have taken a whole mythos and forums full of discussion to dissect- and it’s all been amazing to watch unfold as a horror fan.
Layers of Fear is an indie effort that attempts to marry the horror genre with drama and surrealism. While a few games have done this, I had heard a lot about Layers of Fear from my friends- and yet had heard very little about it aside from it would be right up my alley and that I needed to try it. Given my extensive Steam library, I thought it would be a while before I got the chance to play it. In a stroke of generosity, a friend of mine gifted me a copy so I could finally check out the experience.
That was about a year or so ago.
Well, now it’s the season and in between replays of Clock Tower and Friday the 13th, I’m making it my goal to get to some of the creepier titles I haven’t had the chance to break into yet. First up on my list ended up being this one since I was in the mood for the kind of game I had at least thought it was. Allow me to detail for all of you the experience I had after a year of anticipation for this game and all it had to offer.
Goosebumps: The Game
Genre: Point-and-Click Horror
Every kid at my school growing up read or knew what the Goosebumps books were. Moreover, nearly every kid I hung out with collected them. When book fairs were held in the elementary school library, it was a race to see who could get to the latest titles first. If you didn’t get there fast enough, they were gone. Honestly, Goosebumps was a pretty big thing for us in K-5 and probably segued into my love for horror in general.
Despite taking breaks here and there, the series doesn’t seem to have gone away completely at any particular point. Aside from the original 62 books in the series, there have been choose-your-own-adventure books, boards games, comics, and a television series among other mediums keeping the franchise’s porch light on. Goosebumps seemed to turn up the volume full blast, however, with the 2015 film (which coincidentally, I thought was a pretty cool little horror film for the younger set).
At the same time, a game was released simply titled Goosebumps: The Game. It was meant to serve as a lead-in to the film- and we all know how we feel about most games adapted around films. While this isn’t the first Goosebumps video game to be released, most of the other games feel like they drifted by unnoticed. This game had a pretty tough track record to fight upstream against from the minute it started development. Even knowing that I had to throw some money at it and see how my beloved childhood series fared.
Shiver Games/Lace Mamba Global
Genre: Stealth Horror
The number of horror sub-genres in film are vast- slashers, thrillers, hauntings, killer toys; the groupings are near endless and occasionally ridiculous. One particular style of horror movie that still makes the rounds is the ‘demonic child’ trope. Whatever the reason, the concept of something usually cherished as pure and innocent like a child exacting horrible deeds has unsettled movie goes for decades with titles like The Omen, The Bad Seed, and The Good Son. Shiver Games decided to take their own spin on this with their flagship title, Lucius.
Based out of Finland, Shiver Games has only worked on games in the Lucius series including a ‘demake’ of the original title and a second game, Lucius II: The Prophecy. Their goal, according to their website, is to offer up a unique spin on horror gaming. While there isn’t a lot of other information presented by their site, their devotion to the title is clear. After spending some time with Lucius, though, I definitely have some thoughts on this little tenacious project.
DigiFX Interactive / Merit Studios
Genre: Horror Adventure
There are plenty of gaming discussions and topics that grab my attention and engage me, but few really stoke my fires like video game controversy and censorship. I’ve definitely hinted as to how much I love exploring the how and why of a lot of these actions (see my article on Night Trap for a sample taste of that) come to be. Even better, I love hearing the voices of the creators on these matters.
Once again, I dip my toe into a game that fought censorship and bred controversy in its day with Harvester. When Harvester released back in 1996, it shocked plenty of people with its claims of being ‘the most violent adventure game of all time’. Given its place in electronic history, I could maybe see where its claim could be valid. There was a lot of competition to push boundaries while balancing interesting gameplay not only to ‘stick it to the man’ but to also promote commentary on what was acceptable in video games and film at the time. According to Wikipedia, Gilbert P. Austin who wrote and directed the game said that he wanted to use Harvester to explore whether violence in the media created violence in real life. Sounds oddly familiar, yeah?
This brings a few questions to the table then: did Harvester achieve what Austin was looking for? Were the shock and awe worth it? Above all else- is Harvester even a good game?
Well, I’m glad you asked! Continue reading