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Podcast: Zombies Ate My Podcast

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Traditionally horror and comedy are entwined, faithfully representing a laughable moment of relief to accompany the graphic depictions of death that follow.  Although more rare, there is also room for comedy with horror elements and this week Fred and Jam are celebrating the games that get it right.  From some of LucasArts classic hybrids to bikini clad samurai warriors, there’s no lack of hilarity in gaming for those not looking for a scare.


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Podcast: Ghouls, Ghosts, ‘N Goblins

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This week Fred and Jam are discussing the Capcom series Ghosts’N Goblins (or Makaimura if you prefer).  Easily one of the most punishing franchises ever created, the boys tackle the trials and tribulations of Sir Arthur on a never ending quest to save his girlfriend.  Along the path he will traverse to various worlds, see terrible beings, and of course battle the many derivatives of the Devil.


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And just for fun, have a video of me cussing out the original for two hours:

Podcast: Silent 3vil: No Escape

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This week Fred and Jam feature special guest Vos5 to discuss the third installment of both the Resident Evil and the Silent Hill series.  Where RE3 was more of a side story to try out new mechanics, Silent Hill 3 returned to its roots to be the official sequel for the original and maintained most of the gameplay mechanics.  Both have high regards with the fans but are also shadowed by the more popular predecessors.


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Written by spydersvenom

October 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

Now & Then: Silent Hill

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sh_coverConsole: Playstation
Released: 1999
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3, PSP, and Vita for $5.99
Price: $20.87 (disc only), $33.99 (complete), $130.00 (sealed)  per Price Charting

Note: I did not have screen shots available from my last play and it appears all screens online are from emulation.  This title does not look this good on the PS1.

Dichotomies exist in all forms of media.  Whether it’s Elvis or the Beatles, Shakespeare or Marlowe, Alien or Aliens, and even Star Wars or Star Trek, the rule remains the same: you are allowed to like both but you always prefer one.  In the realm of survival horror, the clear competition is Resident Evil or Silent Hill.  Longtime readers and listeners know where I stand (RE), but that’s not to say the Silent Hill isn’t just as easily justified, if not moreso, as the better game even if it’s not necessarily the more popular one.  Despite the original Resident Evil being a living haunted house, the game still rooted itself into a world of intense action, the ability to kill just about every opposing force, and a heavy science fiction/biological manipulation concept – proven even more by the game’s Japanese title Biohazard.  Silent Hill, on the other hand, is classic unexplained horror and phenomena at its best.  Where Resident Evil employed pre-rendered backgrounds and forced camera perspectives, Silent Hill was fully rendered and seemed to follow the player, thus linking the character on screen with the player.  This makes it more terrifying because what happens to Harry (your playable character) seemingly happens to you as well.  Not only that, but the perspective of the title is completely different.  Harry is a regular guy, not a soldier, and he’s frantically trying to find his missing daughter, not to simply survive.  It’s all just a different perspective to the horror game where instead of trying to scare you with jumps and big gross monsters (although you will get those in this title), Silent Hill thrives on the unknown and maintaining tension instead of random fear.  In short, it’s Alien to Resident Evil’s Aliens.

sh_2Harry Mason wakes up to find that his car has gone off the road and his daughter Cheryl is missing.  Not only that, but he’s in the woods on a cold snow-covered night, and in searching the local area for Cheryl comes upon the town of Silent Hill.  With that basic setup you are tossed into a world that is almost like a Stephen King novel come to life.  A heavy fog surrounds the entire town limiting your view, there are no signs of life, and nearly every door is locked.  Eventually you see something emerging in front of you, but once it clears the fog you discover its a hideous bird-like creature with sharp fangs and talons coming right for you.  A pipe works to ward off the beast, but as soon as one goes down another replaces it.  You frantically navigate the town for any alleyway or door that offers shelter, but almost everywhere you turn there are blockades or locks to stop you.  Eventually you find a refuge in an unblocked stairwell, unlocked door, or making your own way through with items available to you, but this only lends to put you in a worse situation than before.  This is Silent Hill.

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I think what’s most compelling about this journey is that Team Silent, an internal group at Konami that would later go independent due to creative limitations put upon them, has properly captured the feel of being the character without the first person perspective.  It contradicts most of what you know about horror: fear of the unknown.  There’s no unknown in Silent Hill.  It flat out shows you what wants to kill you, makes it mortal, and even gives you the means to kill them instead.  What’s compelling is that it surrounds you with visual, audio, and gameplay cues that create tension and unsettles you very effectively.  Director Keiichiro Toyama created the scenario and specifically focused on David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks) and the occult for tone, despite Toyama not being a natural horror buff (he also integrated UFOs, but that’s only if you think the dog did it).  He must have succeeded because Silent Hill will consistently make you confused just before it frantically forces you to react on the situation at hand, which is usually jarring.  You will combat dead children in a dilapidated school, wonder the eeriest hospital I had seen at that point, and eventually watch it flip to a rust-covered prison completely overrun with gory creatures.  At various points you may wonder how in the world Cheryl can still be alive in all of this, which only makes the game’s climax even more compelling.  I must sadly admit that the game’s weakest point comes from the puzzles developed by Hiroyuki Owaku, which are more like riddles than anything else, and will most likely be the only obstacle that could make you put this game down.  If you stick with it, Silent Hill will continually freak you out.

sh_1Nowadays the game doesn’t quite hold up as well as it used to.  Since the sequel would release two years later on the Playstation 2, the visuals and controls had been greatly overhauled between generations and it makes the sluggish gameplay of the first game hard to take in.  If you frequent the late 90s Playstation scene, it shouldn’t be much of an adjustment (and may also be of the best controlled titles for the time), but most gamers who look back tend to throw out the old description of “tank controls”.  It’s also a muddy mess visually, which was about as good as that era could do, but especially on large HDTVs you may have a hard time figuring out what you’re looking at.  Thankfully the reduced high resolution screens of the PSP and especially the Vita have been quite kind to Silent Hill and you shouldn’t have any problem knowing what you’re looking at or where to go.  That doesn’t mean, however, that in a world with waypoints, indicators, and arrows telling you where to go that Silent Hill won’t come off as confusing.  You will wonder aimlessly trying locked doors and in some cases get stuck with every apparent path explored before finding that one spot in the room you’ve already been to that has the item you need to proceed forward.  In this first outing it’s few and far between, but it is a concern.  You might also find yourself unable to move on because you wasted all of your ammo too quick and come to an area where you are forced to fight and have no means for which to do so.  Thanks to melee weapons you may have an opportunity to still take out the beastie, but it can be much harder and lead to more deaths than if you had simply hung onto a handful of shotgun rounds.  If you persevere, keep an FAQ bookmarked on your phone, and do your best to immerse yourself in the world of Silent Hill before cheating your way into solutions, you will find this game is as effectively tense and scary now as it was 15 years ago.  Resident Evil may have won the Playstation battle, but even I can’t argue that Silent Hill captures the base words “survival” and “horror” much better than the competition ever did.

If you would like to hear more about Silent Hill, we covered it in our Survival Horror podcast and our Silent Evil podcast.

Written by spydersvenom

September 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Version: Doom

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I was gonna write a retrospective on this, but honestly in podcast form we’ve covered Doom not once, but twice!  From those episodes came a project that has taken six months and over six hours to put together in one near 15 minute video.  I compare the PC, 32x, Jaguar, SNES, PS1, 3DO, Saturn, and GBA versions of Doom so you don’t have to, complete with bad language and snarky remarks (sorry parents).  Check out this version of Versions for Doom, but fair warning: there is some adult language.

Written by spydersvenom

September 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

Review: Dino Crisis 2

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Dino_Crisis_2Console: Playstation, Windows
Released: 2000
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3, PSP, and Vita for $5.99
Price: $14.00 (disc only), $25.00 (complete), $50.00 (sealed) per Price Charting

Dino Crisis 2: The Lost World. Okay, it’s just Dino Crisis 2.  Just a year after the first game, we get the second game from Capcom, and this time the developers decided to stray away from the survival horror gameplay and try take the series into a unique direction.  This is where the series started to experiment and take a new direction in terms of gameplay and mechanics. So was the game a development success or should it be a forgotten fossil?

dc2_1Dino Crisis 2 has a rather complex plot from its predecessor.  A city has vanished in time which was working with “third energy” and the survivors are now having to put up with some rather hungry Dinosaur residents.  Regina from the first game and a team called TRAT (another great Capcom name) are sent through a time portal to rescue survivors.  Surprisingly you begin the game as Dylan a generic looking army guy from TRAT. Throughout the game you will swap between Dylan and Regina who both use their own unique weapons.   The plot is explained at the end of the game in a very long cutscene but it’s unlikely you will particularly care, the story really comes across as an after thought in this game.

On your very first dinosaur encounter you realise the focus of the game has shifted to action over survival horror.  Initial impressions of the game are positive, plus you now have a Hud which displays your health status and your ammo. You can also move not only with your weapon readied and while you shoot as well as having tons of ammo to cope with the ridiculous amount of enemies you’ll be blasting. In fact, its fair to say you see more raptors in the first segment of Dino Crisis 2 than in the entire campaign of the original game.

When you enter an area dinosaurs will spawn constantly and as opposed to running away you’re now encouraged to shoot everything. It can feel frustrating as the dinosaurs sometimes leap out of bushes and damage you, which feels cheap and unfair. You rack up “extinction points” and can even increase these points by getting combo kills and exiting an area without receiving any damage. Extinction points can be used at computer terminals which are scattered throughout the game. You can buy new weapons, ammo, upgrade the ammo capacity of a gun, buy health items and upgrade items for your character. You can also save at the terminals as well.

Controls are practically identical to the original game. The main differences are you can press L1 to aim at a different target thought I found this useless in the game and just didn’t seem to work. It was easier just to re press R1 and you would aim at the nearest target. As opposed to a primary weapon you now used a secondary weapon like a machete to attack enemies in close quarters. This was very useful especially when being attacked by multiple enemies. The game also mixes gameplay up with a few on rails turret sections which mix the action up and are a nice change of pace.

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Puzzles this time around are essentially find a key and put it in the right door or buy a item from the computer terminal to progress through a section of the level. Though none are taxing on the mind some of the keys are hidden in horrible places that require you to backtrack through the game quite far to find them. The good news is I found on multiple play throughs you could pick these items up early if you know where to look.

The graphics return to pre rendered backgrounds in this game, so all screens are static and no more 3D models in the level environments. This probably was for the best as the game looks great. The environments are now a lot more varied, you’ll be running through jungles to larva filled caves. There is even one section where you will put on a diving suit and explore underwater which was very interesting. Of course occasionally you will hit a research facility to investigate but with the pre rendered backgrounds they look so much nicer this time around. The character models are as to be expected by this stage. The dinosaurs look fantastic especially with the variety of beasts you will encounter this time around.

Since the game is less about horror and more about shooting dinos in the face the game includes a full soundtrack. The music is surprisingly catchy and suited to the environment your exploring. Yes, the terrible voice acting returns with some really brilliant Capcom one liners this time around. The dinosaur sound effects are absolutely superb.

dc2_3It’s very much worth pointing out both Dino Crisis 1 and 2 introduced mechanics that would become standard affair in later Capcom titles. Dino Crisis brought 3D environments, 180 turns and the dreaded quick time even. Dino Crisis 2 brought a point system which could be used to buy and upgrade weapons. As gamers we have a lot to thanks (and in some cases hate) the series for.

Dino Crisis 2 is not a very long game. You will probably finish the first time through in around six hours and this will significantly decrease with multiple playthroughs. The game is not particularly difficult but crank it up to the hardest setting and it will keep you busy for a while. There are no multiple endings but you unlock the Dino Colosseum this is a mini game which allows you to play as characters and even dinosaurs from the series in a mini game where you have to wipe out multiple waves of dinosaurs. You can also unlock a VS mode where you and a friend can choose a dinosaur and fight to the death. There is also Dino Files to collect through the main campaign finding all of these unlocks a special card which lets you play through the game with unlimited ammo.

Dino Crisis 2 is a fantastic sequel taking the series in a direction that is different but better. The game builds on practically everything from the original. More dinosaur types from 5 to 11 so your not just shooting raptors for a change. More weapons for each character. More varied environments and just generally more fun. What the game does focus less on is puzzles. Funnily enough the audience who may dislike this game are the hardcore survival horror fans, which is funny as that’s the audience I recommend the first game to. The game is entertaining and very simple to pick up and play. Even after your done it is likely you’ll occasionally re visit the game to casually playthrough again.

Final Score: 4 out of 5  (Review Policy)

Also be sure to check out the Gaming History 101 Podcast Game Club episode where we discuss both Dino Crisis 1 and 2.

Written by jamalais

August 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Review: Dino Crisis

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dc_boxConsole: Playstation, Dreamcast, PC
Released: 1999
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3, PSP, and Vita for $5.99
Price: $7.50 (disc only), $10.00 (complete), $35.00 (sealed) per Price Charting

Dino Crisis really sounds like a winning formula if, like me, you are are fan of survival horror and dinosaurs. What could possibly go wrong? Well its time to revisit this Sony Playstation 1999 release and see if it stood the test of time or should have remained extinct.

Dino Crisis released when survival horror was hitting a peak in the industry, at least in terms of the “tank-like” control system. The Sony Playstation had plenty of games like it to offer. In the same year Dino Crisis released we also saw Silent Hill from Konami and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis also from Capcom. Interesting to note: Shinji Mikami – creator of the original Resident Evil – was heavily involved in the production of this game so much so his name was put on the front of the box in hopes it would sell the game. Clearly something worked as Dino Crisis managed to sell over one million copies.

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Dino Crisis is set on Lisle Island and you play Regina, a member of SORT (Special Operations Rescue Team), because it wouldn’t be a Capcom game without a made up special unit. Regina, along with your team members Gail and Rick, are sent into the facility to hunt down Dr. Kirk who is a scientist working on a project titled ‘Third Energy”, which is believed to be linked to the production of dangerous weapons. Not long into the mission you find out most people in the facility are dead and the place seems rather empty, which should probably sound familiar for a survival horror game. Rather than the place being infested with a different common nasty, you find it’s dinosaurs that are responsible. So begins a survival tale of finding Dr. Kirk and getting out without becoming dino food. There really is not much to say on the story and it follows a very predictable path, even if you haven’t played other Capcom survival horror games.  Still, if you hunger a more in-depth look at the complete plot, we did a game club on it that you’re welcome to listen to.

Dino Crisis is a survival horror game that uses the tank style controls that are really “love it or hate it” by this point. You have limited ammo and health items and are generally expected to run from enemies more than attack them. Dino Crisis does introduce some new mechanics to the mix as well. In this game you can ready your weapon and move at the same time, however when you shoot your weapon you still remain stationary. You can spin 180 degrees on the spot, which is handy for quick escapes in the game. There is also this unique mixing mechanic where you can combine ammo and health items to create special items to enhance your equipment. Another new health item allows you to continue from the room you left off, should you die, basically acting as extra lives without returning to the last room you saved in. This mechanic comes in very handy for some of the frustrating encounters.  This game will, at times, allow you to make decisions on how the story progresses, triggered by the characters Rick and Gail giving you a choice on how to handle a particular situation. It’s a interesting mechanic that encourages more than one playthrough of the game and also helps you see the entire story – if you have any interest, that is.

dc_postA mechanic I didn’t care for in this game was the damage indication. There is no health bar, not even in your item menu. You are expected to watch Regina’s stature and movement to tell if she is injured. This sounds unique on paper, but most dinosaurs take a lot of health off especially on harder difficulties, making you more likely over use health items and get pretty irritated. Regina can also bleed, indicated by a small blood trail as you walk. Basically she will bleed out and die unless you stop the bleeding with a hemostat or health item that combines that effect. Surprisingly, these health items were pretty sparse.

The game feels much more puzzle-focused than action. You will regularly encounter puzzles which require you to find two discs and then enter a password by solving a logic puzzle. These are repeated throughout the game and get progressively harder. Though it is nice to see a game that asks you to use your head for a change, the backtracking through the environments to look for a single item gets very frustrating.

The graphics of the game are something new for the genre. The entire level design is now 3D rendered – this means all the items and environments are given their own 3D model – which is counter to what we’ve seen in the Resident Evil series that used pre-rendered backgrounds with single character models. Also occasionally the camera will follow Regina as she moves. It was probably a test what to expect from Resident Evil: Code Veronica, which used the trick often. Though the engine looks cool if you have a appreciation for game engines, to most gamers it will come across as ugly because the environments lack depth and detail when compared to pre-rendered environments used by most other survival horror games.  This is to be expected due to the technical limitations of the time – early 3D provided you with flexibility or graphical quality, but almost never both.

Character models are standard affair, the dinosaurs really steal the show as they look very impressive especially considering this is an original Playstation game. It’s just a shame there is not more dinosaur types. You have the raptor, which is the main enemy you will face, pterodactyl which are just a pain, Compy which just chase you around, some four legged dino that does a hefty amount of damage. Then there is the T–rex, which just looks great and most encounters with it lead to one hit deaths unless you handle them properly.

dc_3There is not much music in the game just the occasional tension theme to add to the horror elements. The voice acting is absolutely awful, but why would you want it any other way for a Capcom game?  The most memorable sounds are by far the dinosaur noises from the T-rex and raptor. Sometimes you’ll walk down a corridor and hear a raptor but it will never appear, a rare moment where the game actually felt scary.

To the games credit it really does try to make a game using Dinosaurs scary. The game introduces these “danger” segments where you walk down a corridor and a dinosaur essentially jumps you and the screen flashes “danger” you have to rapidly press any button on the controller to escape. It sounds like a good idea but like Quick Time Events (QTEs) in general these segments surprise you so suddenly if you don’t mash the buttons quick enough you die instantly.

I is not the longest game. Your first playthrough may take up to eight hours but that will significantly drop once you know where you are going. The game has multiple endings, harder difficulties and some extra modes unlocked once you have finished.  Overall, Dino Crisis is a decent game that will absolutely appeal to fans of survival horror and gamers that have a appreciation for early game design choices like the 3D models. For everyone else it’s a hard sell even if you like dinosaurs because the game generally is not that memorable and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. I may have rated the game low but that’s only because I feel this won’t appeal to the mass market of gamers. Those that appreciate this game for what it brought to survival horror will be happy to add it to their collection.

Final Score: 2 out of 5  (our review policy and scoring can be found here)

Written by jamalais

August 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Podcast: Silent Evil 2: Resident Hill

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This week we are tackling quite possibly the two most popular titles of survival horror: Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill 2.  Resident Evil 2 was scrapped only a few months before completion and completely redone, resulting in many of the staples that carried the franchise forward and stands as a fan favorite.  Meanwhile Silent Hill 2 waited until the Playstation 2 hit the market and with one of the creepiest atmospheres of all times redefined what horror gaming could be.  We openly discuss the notable aspects of both.


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Written by spydersvenom

July 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Dino Crisis 1 & 2 Game Club

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This week we are talking about Capcom’s survival horror titles in a dinosaur-infested facility, Dino Crisis and Dino Crisis 2.  A testing ground for new survival horror mechanics, it’s interesting to see the decisions made in what is one of the more interesting two titles of the original Playstation’s late titles.


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Written by spydersvenom

July 2, 2014 at 11:00 am

Video: Retro Game Night with Dino Crisis 2 and Dead Rising 3 DLC

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This week for Retro Game Night we are playing Dino Crisis 2 to wrap up the game club for June and trying out the fan service that is Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Edition Ex Plus Alpha (Dash).  Click on the pics below to be taken to the videos (we do not embed videos to improve site load times).

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