It’s Like a Totally Filtered Reality – XBox One – Blair Witch – 2019

Blair_Witch_video_game_posterBlair Witch
XBox One
Bloober Team/Lionsgate Games
Genre: Survival Horror
2019

Not all horror movies lend themselves well to their respective genre. Some efforts with popular movies like The Ring and Ju-On fall flat almost immediately while franchises like Friday the 13th and Evil Dead have produced offerings that, while not critically stellar, appealed to their audience and resulted in stronger showings. The reception of movie-based games, in general, has been all over the map.

When the Blair Witch film was announced to be released in 2016, sixteen years after the second film had slipped into theaters and directly into cult status, it came as a bit of a surprise to audiences that another entry was on the horizon. Another surprise came when an announcement was made about a game being developed for the same franchise coming out in 2019. Considering the quick obscurity of the trilogy of games developed for the PC in the early 2000s, taking another step into the gaming pool was an unexpected venture to hear about at first.

Headed up by Bloober Team, the creators of prominent indie titles like Layers of Fear and Observer with input from Lionsgate Films, the developers of the Blair Witch films, it seemed like after the decent reception for the film a few years before, the formula could be perfect to strike at the Blair Witch and her reign of terror again. Given the impact the initial trailer had, it seemed like the game could land on either side of the quality fence- but given that the game hit the XBox Game Pass, I figured it was as good a time as any to find out for myself how well the end product turned out from one of my favorite horror films growing up.
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Fear Twice Over and Doubled – Playstation 2 – Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly – 2003

TitleFatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Playstation 2
Tecmo
Genre: Survival Horror
2003

While I’m still catching up with my batch of games from the Halloween season last year, it’s been a goal of mine to play through some of the major series of the horror genre since I started up the blog. Fatal Frame’s been among the goals since the beginning since I’ve only played through the first two despite owning the rest of the series. Given my recent look into the original Fatal Frame, I was excited to check out the second game again. Full honesty: I haven’t played it since high school and my memory of it was fuzzy but positive.

Now, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is one of the heralded possessions for horror collectors on the Playstation 2, though it hasn’t quite hit the heights of Rule of Rose or Kuon. It falls squarely into the crosshairs of “relatively affordable” and “rare enough to require hunting for a genuine copy”.  It has a strong reputation as one of the scariest horror video games available- period. The few vivid memories I had of the game before my replay were of some choice scares so I couldn’t really fight that reputation myself. Again, though- it had been a while.

Since October felt like the perfect time to make some headway into the Fatal Frame games, I figured I’d dig out my copy of the fabled Crimson Butterfly and see if I could dust off some of the cobwebs on my memories from years ago.  Continue reading

Brilliant Madness in Your Final Hours – Playstation 2 – Clock Tower 3 – 2003

Title.jpgClock Tower 3
Playstation 2
Sun Corporation/Capcom
Genre: Survival Horror
2003

There has been a lot of conversation about how great the horror library on the Playstation 2 was in circles I chat with. A lot of these games have hit “cult” status outside of Silent Hill and Resident Evil with a few folks talking about Fatal Frame since it’s managed to continue producing entries up until last generation. In between those games, though, sit titles like Rule of Rose, Kuon, and the follow-up to a little series that found its footing in the US on the first Playstation console: Clock Tower 3.

After the rights to the Clock Tower series switches hands, it fell into the Capcom stable alongside Resident Evil, lending the series a little steam to get attention for its third game. Publisher name aside, the game announced that Kinji Fukusaku who had directed Battle Royale just a few years prior would be in charge of the cutscenes among a handful of other known industry names, some of whom had worked on Capcom’s major series before. The investment in the game’s production was deep, and it seemed like both the developers and the publisher had a lot of resources to draw from.

The last time Clock Tower had changed hands, though, we got a mess of a game with Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within. Understandably, people had a lot of hope for the new game with the names attached to it but were still sore from trusting that the last Clock Tower would live up to the first two games. Personally, my memories of the game were a little hazy, save for a few scenes here and there. In my unofficial pilgrimage to relive some of the games I grew up on and to complete my playthrough of the series entirely, I dug out my copy of Clock Tower 3, booted it up and decided to take a swing at it with some experienced but fresh eyes.
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On the Flip Side of Innovation – Sony Playstation – Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within – 1999

Title.jpgClock Tower II: The Struggle Within
Sony Playstation
Human Entertainment/Ascii Entertainment
Genre: Point-and-Click Survival Horror
1999

Horror movies and games share a lot of similarities in structure, especially when it comes to sequels. In horror films, you may have the same Final Girl and killer for a film or two before you have to move onto a completely new set of characters. Most likely, though, a franchise will try to keep up a similar style of horror and tone for its duration, shifting only when it becomes vital to keep the series fresh and interesting. In similar fashion to films, horror games usually try to stick to their guns until they become too repetitive.

The Clock Tower series had established itself as a tense slasher game. Jennifer Simpson was our Laurie Strode, Scissorman acting as our Michael Myers, hellbent on destroying her and the lives around her. Like the first Halloween film, Clock Tower: The First Fear was a dark and atmospheric endeavor while Clock Tower on the Playstation was more like the second film. There was more of an emphasis on action and the slasher aspect, but it still kept the players’ hearts in their chests.

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within is our Halloween III.

The real difference between those two works, though, is that there is an audience who appreciates Halloween III for what it was- a failed attempt at turning the franchise into an anthology that worked fine if it was considered on its own merits sans the Halloween name tag. In all of my memory hearing about The Struggle Within, though, I hadn’t heard one good thing about the game. No one was singing a solo of unappreciated merits in the overwhelming chorus of vitriol against it.

As someone who enjoys singing solos about certain games of that sort, I had to finally complete the one game in the Clock Tower mythos I hadn’t yet and see for myself if there was anything worth salvaging.  Continue reading

Live Together, Die Together – Playstation 4 – The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan – 2019

the-dark-pictures-anthology_-man-of-medan_20190830200330.jpgThe Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan
Playstation 4
Supermassive Games / Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Survival Horror Adventure
2019

While I haven’t written about it quite yet, I’ve been pretty upfront about the fact that Until Dawn is my favorite game on the Playstation 4 and ranks among my top horror games period. As someone who has been entertained by horror for over half of his life, this may sound surprising, but it should also speak to the merit of Supermassive Games and the project that they put together. Horror is not an easy genre to navigate, and they found an interesting way to make a compelling story, interesting cast, and tense mechanics to bring the story of Until Dawn to life.

With that, it should be less of a surprise that when I ran into the Namco Bandai booth at PAX last year, my first stop was to see The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan, the company’s follow-up to their cinematic sleeper hit. While the demo was short, it got me excited to see how the game would play out and what the game would do to stand out from its predecessor. What I played, though, did nestle the game onto the list of my most anticipated titles from the show.

In interviews on The Dark Pictures and what exactly the anthology would entail, it has been explained that Man of Medan is the first of eight planned titles, two of which will be released each year meaning we will most likely see a title every six months. The weight being placed on the flagship game, in that case, is a great one then. While Until Dawn did surprisingly well, it seems reasonable to wonder just how well Man of Medan does to live up to Supermassive’s first game and to set up the remainder of a large undertaking for the developers.

As with most current games, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers but be forewarned- there may be some bits here and there that could be considered “spoilery”. Continue reading