Love (If You Like) in a Time of Quarters – PC – Arcade Spirits – 2019

20190602025435_1.jpgArcade Spirits
PC
Fiction Factory Games/PQube
Genre: Romantic Comedy Visual Novel
2019

In the early 1980s, the Atari was king of the home consoles for video gaming. As with anything that turns a profit and is fairly innovative, everybody wanted a piece of the new “home gaming” pie and between 1982 and 1983, the home console market became saturated with more systems and titles than anyone could truly afford or have space for at the time. Believe it or not, the stories of cartridges of E.T.  for the Atari 2600 being buried in the desert because retailers couldn’t hold them on their shelves and the poor quality due to rushed manufacturing times are factual, if not a bit inflated, and they were just one piece of the puzzle that nearly stopped heavy hitters like the Nintendo Entertainment System from reaching US shores.

But what if that hadn’t happened? What if the industry had practiced a bit of moderation with their excitement or retailers had sufficiently embraced this cutting-edge technology and had met the demand for supply? What if game manufacturers had been more worried about crediting their programmers and putting out quality product rather than rushing to try for the highest sales they could?

Wow. A lot of this is starting to sound kind of familiar…

In any case, my first introduction to Arcade Spirits was an explanation that it took place in a world much like you may imagine those “what if” situations could have produced. While it’s clear that the game industry is flourishing and not in much immediate danger of history repeating itself, how would arcades, now a bit of a novelty rather than commonplace as they were in the 80s and 90s, have fared if there hadn’t been a video game crash at all?

Well, the chance to see one potential outcome awaits you right behind the neon and brick title screens of Arcade Spirits.

(As a quick note, if you’d like to read more about the gaming crash in 1983, the Wikipedia page here has a ton of information to start with!)
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Near Perfection of the Digital – PC – System Shock 2 – 1999

TitleSystem Shock 2
PC
Irrational Games/Looking Glass Studios/Electronic Arts
Genre: Horror First-Person-Shooter
1999

There are always games that sound like they will be right in your gaming sweet spot that will somehow turn you away from them. It took me a while to try out Final Fantasy XII and once I did, it became one of my favorites in the series. Another game that I’ve warmed up to but still haven’t completed is Bioshock. A little known fact about me is that I really enjoy first-person shooters and based on what I’ve heard about the Bioshock series, it seemed like a bunch of games I’d easily be able to sink my teeth into. Sometimes, it’s worth taking the chance to overcome your hesitations and just try a game if you can.

Oddly enough, another game that is closely related to Bioshock called System Shock 2 had been on my radar for a while. I was told it was a cyberpunk horror first-person shooter with RPG elements. Literally, nothing in that description does anything to deter me. Looking up the game, though, it looked like a very basic FPS and between the fans online having such fervent positive reviews of the game and the fact that its marketing in the current day felt all over the place, it was tough to get excited about giving it a whirl.

It was the connecting threads from Bioshock to System Shock 2 and the suggestion of a friend (who I will publicly thank “anonymously” as ‘The Horror’) that finally pushed me to install the game. Seeing that Ken Levine and a handful of others were involved with both titles helped me feel like the atmosphere from Bioshock could easily have been translated from System Shock 2. It’s also been rare that Horror has suggested a game that I didn’t enjoy once I got into it.

Eventually, as I was sitting at my computer one day browsing through games in my backlog, I mentally threw my reluctant hands into the air and said:

“Y”know what? I’m gonna give System Shock 2 a go.”
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In Darkness, A Steady Light – PC – Claire – 2014


20190402222940_1Claire
PC
Hailstorm Games
Genre: Horror Adventure
2014

Games can pull you in for a number of reasons. The obvious ones involve an ongoing series and brand familiarity. Other can be promotional art and media buzz. Sometimes, it can be just as simple as a name and brief description. I can’t remember where or how exactly, but I do remember hearing about an indie horror game and aside from the title, I had no idea what it was about. That title?

Claire.

Now, something you should know about me is that if you name anything something that appeals to my inner psyche, I’ll probably attempt to partake in it; cocktails, books, and obviously video games all fall under this umbrella. Speaking of Umbrella, Resident Evil is a big reason why the name Claire has cemented as a favorite of mine. I even named my second car “Claire”. It may sound oddly philosophical, but when you use a name in your title, you make a lot of mental connections for your potential audience.

For me, the combination of the title and the genre were enough to garner my attention. Looking into it, it seemed right up my alley and most likely, as with most of the games I buy on Steam, it was on sale. There was only so much to potentially lose so I took the plunge and decided to give it a whirl.
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Memories, Subjective as They Are – PC – Amnesia: The Dark Descent – 2010

20190315192205_1Amnesia: The Dark Descent
PC
Frictional Games
Genre: Horror Adventure
2010

Everyone finds a different way to tackle their backlog, and it is hardly ever the same as the next person. I’ve worked on finding creative ways to approach my backlog, but it always seems to grow faster than I can get it to shrink. In a recent Twitter post, someone mentioned looking into your Steam library purchases to see what the first game you ever bought on the platform was. My curiosity got the better of me given my pile of games on there is probably the largest of all of my gaming methods, so I took the plunge to find out what my flagship Steam purchase was.

December 11th, 2010. A few days before my birthday so I must have been treating myself. No surprise that it was a horror game but a bit surprising that it was a game I hadn’t played to completion: Amnesia: The Dark Descent. As a bit of a Lovecraft fan and an entrenched horror gaming fan, it struck me as odd that I hadn’t taken the plunge to complete the game but had made a few unsuccessful attempts.

As someone who was very excited to check out Amnesia when it first released, knowing nearly ten years after it came out that I hadn’t finished it became the gasoline in my tank to push into it with the express purpose of seeing the end credits. Not that I didn’t have an inherent interest. After years of hype, though, and seeing it recommended by a ton of fellow horror fans, I had to wonder what kind of impact it would leave on me in the present day. Continue reading

Ahead of Its Time with an Excess of Pieces – PC – Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh – 1996

TitlePhantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh
PC
Sierra On-Line
Genre: Point-and-Click Horror/Sci-Fi
1996

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