31 Days Of Horror Games: Day 15

Yeesh.

covetous

Covetous is a game I played years and years ago, that stuck with me on such a primal level that every so often I am jarringly reminded of it and have to seek it out again. I’m pretty sure that, outside of RPGMaker horror games, this was my first experience with games outside the traditional publishing structure. It’s short–it’s done in less than a minute–but it’s creepy, and full of malice.

Covetous can be played on Newgrounds. Flash is required.

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31 Days Of Horror Games: Day 14

Here you go.

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The Tomatoes are OK is weird. It’s a headache taking the form of a VHS tape run way too many times through the player. It’s also cute? I don’t know. There’s a pervasive sense of unease, from a very childlike perspective. There are rules you don’t understand as a child, tasks you are given but not explained. Death is something strange and far-off and shadowy, and a parent’s anger is a looming monster. It’s all a very distant memory, distorted by time and space.

The Tomatoes are OK is available on itch.io.

31 Days Of Horror Games: Day 13

Friday the 13th is upon us! Good luck to you all. I forgot to actually do Day 12 yesterday, so here’s another double feature.

I took a chance on Bulb Boy because there’s not much horror gaming to be had on the Switch yet, and the art reminded me of one of my favourite childhood illustrators, J. Otto Seibold. I was pleasantly surprised by a cute, funny, and occasionally pretty spooky little point&click adventure game.  The scenes can be grotesque in an irreverent, adolescent way, but they’re cleverly accompanied by a synths and industrial soundtrack. It’s a charming little haunted house.

Bulb Boy is available on Steam and Nintendo Switch.

Thumper is a game that needs to be felt. It’s not horror in the traditional sense; its a cacophony of light and sound and sensation. Its abstract world is hostile and demanding, pounding into you like the best sort of bass that rattles your chest until you feel like you’re dying. The trance state achieved in Thumper is violent and carnivorous. The game throws you into itself and never really stops for you. It’s one of the best rhythm games I’ve played.

Thumper is available on Steam, PSN, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

31 Days Of Horror Games: Days 8, 9, 10, 11, & 12

Soooo sorry for the absence, habits are a hard thing to form. Here’s a little mix of old and new.

I can’t claim to know much about Taiwanese culture, especially 1960s Taiwan. That makes Detention all the more interesting a game to play. It draws from a bevy of Taiwanese and Chinese mythology  to create a hauntingly beautiful school setting that’s really fun to explore. Like the best sorts of horror stories, the scares here are ultimately internal, the pain of living with unending guilt and the fear that redemption might never be attainable. Detention meters this out masterfully, each scare truly earned until the end, which is heartbreaking.

Detention is available on Steam and PSN.

Resident Evil 6 is a hugely divisive game. Lots of RE fans despise it, claiming it took the series in the wrong direction with a focus on action. It certainly is much more action focused, but me? I love that. In a series spanning over twenty years, there’s room for different types of horror, and RE6 exemplifies that.

The four campaigns have you playing different perspectives of the same storyline, and this is channeled through the gameplay as well. RE6 takes a basic third-person shooter control framework, and through each campaign’s tone and pacing, creates a vastly different feel for it each time. It’s fun, it’s over-the-top camp, and it doesn’t take away from how good the original RE games were. And, well, Capcom’s shown it can still do real survival horror with RE7, so go back to this one and have fun with it. I really recommend the co-op.

Resident Evil 6 is available on Steam, PSN, and Xbox One.

Hey, remember Quake? Wasn’t that cool? Anyway, here’s Butcher. It’s an extremely lofi bloodbath massacre of a game. Honestly, it’s really impressive that you can tell what’s going on at all on the screen with how tiny everything is. Although 2D, it’s essentially in the spirit of old-school shooters like Doom and Quake, demanding twitchy reflexes while you mow down enemies to the tune of some really great industrial beats. It’s harsh, and you’ll die a lot, and it’s great.

Butcher is available on Steam, PSN, Xbox One, and, surprisingly, Nintendo Switch.

Okay, listen….Manhunt is a really intense game. It really, really isn’t for everyone. I say that as a warning, not as a some “oooh this is so hardcore and scary” kind of edgy thing. It’s a disgusting game riddled with a history of controversy.

It’s also really good. It’s a stealth-based murder simulator that has you sneaking and plotting as you meticulously kill various gang members, with nothing hidden from the CCTV cameras placed around the city. In 2017, it’s not exactly the smartest video game critique of voyeuristic violence, and coming from Rockstar its almost laughably ironic, but for its time (2003), it was a disturbing, titillating inward look at how violence and death are exploited by popular media.

Manhunt is available on Steam and PSN.

31 Days Of Horror Games: Day 7

Here’s one I almost missed, but ended up blowin’ my mind.

helltown

Helltown is exactly what you expect. That’s a good thing. It knows what it is and focuses solely on being good at that thing. That thing, more exactly, being a spooky little theme park romp through a town inspired by The Stepford Wives, The Shining, Call of Cthulhu, and the like, all funneled through the lens of an early PS1 game style.

It’s unabashedly goofy. You run around mazes, avoiding over the top monsters in order to collect runes and perhaps solve some of the mysteries of the town. There’s a few jumpscares, some campy 40s music and conventional horror beats, it’s all stuff you’ve seen before. Yet it fuckin works, and so effortlessly does it still manage to ramp up the suspense and scare the bejeezus outta you like a solid horror flick.

The low-poly style is, as usual, effective in simply suggesting grotesquerie and letting the player’s paranoia and imagination fill in the rest. It’s a masterful little joyride, one that shouldn’t be missed if you’ve ever played a PS1 or Nintendo 64 game and thought they were maybe just a little bit creepy.

Helltown is available on Steam.

31 Days Of Horror Games: Day 6

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The experience of playing ANATOMY can be summed up in, “Thanks! I hate it!”

Seriously, though, ANATOMY is heavy, unpleasant, far too close, and present, and it is wonderful for that. ANATOMY explores some of the fears closest to our hearts: bodily integrity and the home as extension of self. It reminds us, by simply walking through a house, that mundanity is its own horror, that we place trust in this construct, both physical and social, than can crush down on us and our conception of ourselves. For anyone who has been a victim of abuse or family trauma, the sense of alienation comes through twofold. What happens to a person, to a place, when a home feels so very not that? When it feels like a creature alive with malice, closing in around you and unsettling the core of your being? Every house is haunted, and every house is like a body.

ANATOMY can be purchased on itch.io.

31 Days Of Horror Games: Day 5

Here’s another classic for you.

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When most people think of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and its relation to video games, Deadly Premonition is rightly first to come to mind. The inspiration is obvious, but a solid, respectable partner should be Alan Wake which, while primarily drawing from Stephen King’s body of work, has plenty of the small town mystery and oddity of the television series. The town is, as is said, as much a character as the characters themselves.

Alan Wake does a lot of interesting things in revealing its story. Before Telltale hit success with its episodic release style, Remedy took an already complete game and paced and divided itself akin to a season of a television series. Playing it feels like binge-watching your favourite Netflix show. It makes for a game that, while spooky and weird and thrilling, is actually quite pleasant and relaxing to play.

Alan Wake is also one of the only games I can think of that actually uses audio log/note mechanics in ways that actually benefit the story in natural ways, both that being told and experienced. To be an author is to draw from around you, until truth and fiction become sometimes disturbingly hard to separate. What happens when life around you starts to resemble the things hidden away in the written word? How do you process your responsibility in how stories affect real people?

Alan Wake is, unfortunately, no longer available on PC legally (Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is though, on GOG and Steam). You can get a Xbox 360 copy which is also compatible on Xbox One.