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
Genre: Survival Horror
It’s that time again, folks. Time to dip back into the indie survival horror pool and see what we come out with. Thankfully, there have been a few successful hooks in the past, some of which I’ve discussed here and some I haven’t gotten the chance to yet. Of course, all of these efforts tend to lend their success to hit titles from the genre’s past- and that’s not a bad thing. Titles like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Clock Tower forged a well-beaten path for developers to take something and make it their own. In this case, Fatal Frame, a personal favorite, comes to mind.
DreadOut is a game that I followed a bit in its inception, watching the news of its funding and its subsequent development. Touting that it would be a spiritual successor to the Fatal Frame series, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. As a mythology buff, the promise that it took inspiration from Indonesian mythology and culture piqued my interest, too; it’s not a realm I’m familiar with but I’m always looking to learn more. When I came out, I took advantage of the first sale I could and slotted it into my Steam “to play” list.
Now, here we are. About five years later, I’ve finally booted it up to sit down and play thanks to some discussion on Twitter with some fellow horror fans. While I’ve been working on trying to get through the last mainline Final Fantasy title I haven’t beaten and I’m anticipating that the first quarter of the year will be busy with Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists and Resident Evil 2, I’ve been working to clear out my backlog- and DreadOut felt like the perfect place to start.
Deep End Games/Feardemic
Genre: Survival Horror
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.
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.