Archive for the ‘Features’ Category
Back by popular demand the Horror Obscura returns for another series of terror. This year, as well as discussing some horror titles you may not have heard of, I also wanted to revisit some games which are not necessarily considered horror but have horror elements portrayed in them really well. I’ve always been quite the fan of horror. When I was 5 years old one of my parents made the big mistake of allowing me to watch Stephen King’s It. Pro Parenting tip: Don’t let a 5 year old watch It they will think Tim Curry is terrifying, Home Alone 2 to me is terrifying with his inclusion (full disclosure I’m currently not a parent). Regardless of this experience I always held a kind of fascination with horror and think deep down we all sort of do. Whether its watching a scary film, playing a scary game or doing something scary like falling in love. Okay, I know this is a gaming blog not a life lesson but I feel we all sort of find horror even if its in media that doesn’t contain a monster as my first entry of the Horror Obscura 2016 will begin with.
It all began in 1989 with developer Reflections Interactive showing a tech demo to British publisher Psygnosis. With Psygnosis impressed by what they saw Shadow of the Beast was originally released on the Commodore Amiga and was graphically mind blowing for the time. With several colours on screen at once as well as up to twelve levels of parallax scrolling backdrops, the game looked like it was from an arcade machine. Martin Edmonson, one of the founders of the company, was fond of very difficult video games. He wanted to be challenged and have to play a game multiple times to be able to master it. The score for the game was composed by David Whittaker, which was very atmospheric and left a lasting impression on fans. The cover art for the game was from the talented hands of Roger Dean who was well know for working on album covers for Yes, Asia, Budgie, as well as several others. Roger Dean merged a stone age look with technology to create a very unique look to the cover of Shadow of the Beast. He would also later go on to redesign the logo for Tetris.
Sorry to have led you here on false pretenses by suggesting that I had written an article on the subject. Don’t worry, there’s a link here to the incredible, somewhat heartbreaking details of the beginning and tragic end to Lionhead Studios. I’ve said before that the challenge of being a no ads blog about retro games and located in the Midwest (Kansas City) leaves me at a loss for developer inside stories. I’ve got Jam, who is closer to some of the core studios in London, but frankly he doesn’t work for pay (none of us do) and I have no idea how he would get into a closed studio to ask insider questions. None of these factors are the case with Eurogamer. Writer Wesley Yin-Poole wrote a fantastic piece last week that not only told the history of Lionhead (many of us could do the research and write that) with the rare inclusion of some candid stories. Those stories, including quite a few of the colorful actions of Peter Molyneux, are what I always want to know about game development and the studios responsible. In short, read this story now. The link can be found here, or by clicking on the Lionhead logo at the top, which some of you may have already done.
Welcome to an all new style of article I’ve written exclusively for Gaming History 101: Game Fights.
This is an idea I’ve thought of for a while and it’s where I pick two contenders which share something special and pit them against each other. The article is designed to just be a bit of fun and while some of the facts presented will be as accurate as possible the final verdict will be based entirely on opinion. Thanks for checking this out and of course if you want to share your own views on the games in this article please share them in the comments below.
Now without any further ado…let them fight!
The 5th of November in the UK marks Bonfire night (aka Guy Fawkes Night) which is our unusual celebration of Guy Fawkes foiled plot to blow up the House of Lords on the same date in 1605. There is a quite a lot of history behind why we still celebrate this date today but one thing you can guarantee seeing on this event is lots and lots of fireworks. Fireworks are certainly prevalent in a lot of video games such as the end level in the gun game Point Blank but few games make them the actual focus of the gameplay. The two games I’ve found to discuss were Fantavision on PS2 and Big Bang Mini for the Nintendo DS. What better way to celebrate Bonfire night (even though this article will post very late) than to pit these two games together and find out which is the best fireworks video game.
It has been quite the journey this week horror fans. Through the days of Horror Obscura we have visited various areas of deep seated fear from the virus infested Antarctic to the fear of being in a relationship. I’ve really only scratched the surface there are so many more games covering various horror themes, but I guess we’ll get to those another time. For the final entry of this series of articles I wanted to save what I consider the game that rocked me to my very core as a youngling. Retro fans, I’ve lived through many scary moments in and out of video games I’ve walked through haunted caves, played through Alien Isolation and walked home in pitch black. It takes a lot to truly terrify me. The reason for this is nothing quite rocked me to my very core more than the software I am about to speak of. Some might even not call this a game in fact it’s actually considered an educational tool in the early days of microcomputers. Just talking the title of this game will send children running to the hills in fear. You think you know fear? Then you have never played Granny’s Garden on the BBC Micro.
The Horror Obscura Finale (2015) – Granny’s Garden
Granny’s Garden is an educational program that plays out as a text adventure game with various visual aids. It was designed as a tool to help teach basic computer skills to kids in Primary school. I remember vividly booting up this software and thinking how amazing it was that I was allowed to play a game in school time. Oh if only I knew the terror that awaited me. Your quest is to go find all the missing children within the Kingdom of the Mountains. You are consistently bombarded with text based puzzles where you would have to type the answer into the keyboard to progress.
Day 7: Catherine
So this is something a bit different, so far on The Countdown Horror Obscura I have covered fantasy horror, gory horror and terrible portable powered horror. Well today I’m going to cover a deep seated horror that concerns the average gamer. I speak of the horror of commitment in a relationship.
Catherine truly is a breath of fresh air in a game. You have a simple premise a man (Vincent) is in a long term relationship with his partner (Katherine) and is conflicted about taking the next big step. Basically all those things that make up an average gamers worst nightmare, such as settling down with the same partner, getting married, having kids. One big plot hole I always questioned in this game was if Vincent was in a relationship with Katherine for as long as he had been, then why on earth was he still not living with her? Instead he lives in an apartment and spends more time with his friends at sushi bars and creepy drinking establishments then actually spending time with Katherine. But this game is Japanese, so maybe its some cultural thing I’m missing. Anyway Vincent has a moment of weakness that all men go through in life where he gazes upon another woman, only Vincent being the dumb Neanderthal man that he is drinks one to many and ends up sleeping with the most blonde just over the limit blonde girl that decided to sit next to him. After this the game plops you in this most disastrous situation you as the player are then given control of how the story progresses. You can take the weight of the situation on your shoulders and try make good with your long term partner or you can just stick with your new love interest as well as make various neutral choices. This control is what most critics and gamers rate as the highlight of the game experience.
Day 6: Resident Evil Gaiden
Resident Evil Gaiden is very much the misunderstood step child of the Resident Evil series. Capcom likes to put it in the corner along with its other B-list Resident Evil titles like Operation Raccoon City and Mercenaries 3D and pretend they just don’t really exist. Unfortunately like a lot of Capcoms other industry mistakes some of us can’t forget the past. I for one feel Resident Evil Gaiden is a portable title that though flawed, brings a unique take on the series formula with incredibly restricted hardware.
So stop me if you haven’t heard this one from the Resident Evil series: you play as a anti-Umbrella agent who intercepts a passenger ship on the sea and soon finds it has been overrun by monsters. Well before the series copied its own idea literally twice in Dead Aim and Revelations, Gaiden was the game that some would consider the genesis of Resident Evil’s small obsession with campaigns on a boat. The agent you play is the greatest character from the series Barry Burton. Except now you finally get to play as this beard faced hunk of manliness. I am aware he’s also recently and finally been allowed to have his own campaign in Revelations 2 but Resident Evil Gaiden was for the longest time the only way for Burton fans to get their fix of the man with the best one liners in the series history. Anyway, back to the game. Barry is basically on the ship to find Leon Kennedy but along the way he comes across a young girl who seems to be the only survivor of this horror as well as a B.O.W who has the ability to morph into human form. One of the main reasons I think Gaiden is absolutely fantastic and I wish this was an actual cannon to the Resident Evil story is because of how it ends. If you really don’t want a pinnacle part of the plot to be spoiled for you then I advise you to skip the following paragraph because I’m about to explain the ending.
Day 5: Manhunt
Manhunt is a game that I feel to this day I have to tread very carefully when I discuss it. This was one of the very few titles that was actually banned in the UK due to a very unfortunate link to a horrific news story which I will not be discussing in this article. With that short intro out the way lets get into why I’m featuring this title in the Horror Obscura.
I view Manhunt as a title in time with those gore fest films like Saw only a lot worse. Manhunt is a game that is really uncomfortable to play. For starters you don’t even play the good guy, you take control as James Earl Cash who is a pawn in a game where he is directed by a psychopath known as “The Director,” to brutally murder members of gangs and other crazy people. This game is incredibly dark and not for everyone. There are no redeeming qualities to Cash either. He is bad, he kills without remorse and even when he does meet support characters he has no interest in making friends. This is a rare video game that forces you down the dark path. If you are able to get past this you will actually be in for quite an impressive stealth title.
Day 4: Will Harvey presents The Immortal
Back in the early 90s my brothers and I were playing happily on our Mega Mega Drive (Genesis) with happy jolly games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage and Road Rash. Nothing scary there, right? Then we were given this little game called The Immortal. I’m not even entirely sure how we came to acquire it, I mean it was probably purchased for one of my older brother as a gift but my theory was it had appeared in the scary abyss that was our loft in a sorta “Book Of the Dead” like discovery. I remember the cover alone of this game scaring the hell out of me. It’s a skeleton like Grim Reaper with a horrific grin on his face as he cuts up the title of the game with his scythe.
Things weren’t much better for me when attempting to boot this game up as a young lad. The first screen you are greeted to is that scary skeleton again only this time his eyes are glowing red because that’s really helping with the fear factor. Keep in mind at this stage there were no age restrictions introduced on video games so with me being the curious young lad I was, I insisted on continuing forward. What I soon realized was, I was playing as a Gandalf like wizard who is running through dungeons where literally everything wants to kill him, and it was terrifying.
A prison, what an ideal location for horror and dread. Several games have visited this locale, the most infamous being Batman’s Arkham series and the recent Prison Simulator on PC, a game I’m surprised was not released 2 years ago. When it comes to horror Surreal Software took the prison as there main location and created something special with the 2004 release of The Suffering.