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

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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Just Another Brick in the Wall – Game Gear – Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble – 1994

Screenshot of Sonic the Hedgehog - Triple Trouble (UE)Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble
Game Gear
Aspect/Sega
Genre: Action Platformer
1994

Growing up on the Sonic games and as an only child, I’m shocked that I didn’t push harder to try to get a Game Gear into my greedy little hands. I do have memories of playing the Game Gear rendition of Sonic the Hedgehog on a friend’s handheld, though- until the battery died. I never saw that Game Gear or game again until years later once I started collecting.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble falls into a strange era of the Sonic franchise. Dropping right into the same timeframe as Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, the game released in the midst of a time when the flourishing series was expanding its roster and digging its heels into the same league as Mario popularity-wise.

Given that the Game Gear seems to have a fairly limited library and objectively paled in comparison to the Nintendo Game Boy in units sold, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much Sega invested in its potential. Not only is Triple Trouble the third “mainline” Sonic game to be released on the system- it does act as the sequel to equally known Sonic Chaos– but it’s one of nine Sonic related games to be released on it (including games that only released in Japan).

While Super Mario Land and its sequel commonly receive mixed reviews from folks in the current day, I couldn’t help but want to take a step back in time to see if Triple Trouble could stir up those old feelings I got from my original adventures with the spiky blue hedgehog. Given that I haven’t dug into the annals of the Game Gear library yet here on the blog and that this title interested me more than many, this seemed like a suitable place to break ground. 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

Missions Off The Grid – Game Boy Color – Resident Evil Gaiden – 2002

REGaiden Title
Resident Evil Gaiden

Game Boy Color
Capcom / M4
Genre: Action Horror
2002 (2001 in PAL region)

I missed out on the Game Boy Color for the most part so a lot of the games that were designed for the system are still mysteries to me.  Somewhere between the Game Boy, the Super Nintendo, and the Super Game Boy, this little handheld slipped right under my nose while I moved from console to console.  When I find games that would have snagged my attention back then in the current day, I immediately try to jump on them so that I can see exactly what I was missing.

Having loved Resident Evil since my friend described it to me on the original Playstation years ago, I spent hours with Chris and Jill on their flagship venture through the Spencer Mansion.  Resident Evil 2 also became and continues to be a favorite of mine.  I remember briefly seeing something about a Game Boy entry of the series in some magazine, but I couldn’t tell you which magazine it was or how deeply the article explained it.  I never saw it on the store shelves so it slipped from my memory pretty easily, especially since it had come out in the PAL region before coming over to the US so I had no idea if I would even see it.

The next time I ran into Resident Evil Gaiden was on a random shelf at a Wal-Mart down the street from my house well after they had stopped selling GBC games.  I didn’t pick it up then, either, but I was always curious about it. Part of the Resident Evil experience had to do with the scope and the narrative, both of which were things I hadn’t experienced on the Game Boy.  Having the chance to play Resident Evil Gaiden recently, I finally got to see how I would feel about the ‘lost’ chapter of the series.
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