Tag Archives: jump scares

2017 Game Review Haiku, #112 – Layers of Fear

A disturbed painter
Striving for his masterpiece
Will do anything

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #33 – Bendy and the Ink Machine: Chapter One

Imagine Oswald
Going on murderous trip
Cool look, just the start

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Running out of batteries is Outlast’s darkest horror

Outlast is most certainly and without a doubt not a game for me, but at least it was only a couple hours long and a “freebie” from Xbox One’s Games With Gold program several months back. I have one more Achievement I’d like to pop, which is thankfully right at the beginning of the game before everything is plunged into murky darkness, and then I’ll be waving goodbye to this sliver of nightmare meat from my console with boyish glee. Unfortunately, I still have a couple of other horror games in my various collections left to tackle, such as Layers of Fear, Anna, and Siren: Blood Curse, and I’m just the worst at these. Y’all remember when I promised to play Silent Hill 3 two years ago? No? Okay, good. Well, we’ll see if I can, ahem, outlast a few more.

So, moving right along to Outlast‘s plot. Freelance investigative journalist Miles Upshur is off to the Mount Massive Asylum, a private psychiatric hospital, after receiving an anonymous tip about inhumane experiments being conducted there. Because of course. Still, once there, Miles is shocked to discover the hospital’s halls destroyed and brimming with the mutilated corpses of the staff. A dying SWAT officer reveals that the asylum’s patients, known as “variants,” have escaped and are freely roaming the grounds, butchering employees left and right without mercy. Alas, Miles is unable to leave the way he came in and, besides looking for a new way out, soon finds himself deep in the mix as he comes face to face with those that roam this madhouse. It’s a somewhat straightforward story with loose details that won’t surprise you once you see what it is doing, and that’s okay. I saw that second season of American Horror Story and have enough unique and terrible images in my head to last a lifetime.

Gameplay is broken down into several distinct elements: exploration, platforming, chase sequences, and stealth. There are a few cutscenes to watch as well, but don’t expect much out of Miles Upshur other than labored breathing, as the man is nothing more than a vessel for the player, a host to see these horrific things through and breathe a sigh of relief when push comes to shove and events take a turn for the even worse. I enjoyed exploration the most, and really enjoyed it at the very beginning and end of Outlast, in the most well-lit areas of the asylum where you don’t have to bother with the video camera, and disliked all things related to chase sequences. Early on, you learn a move that allows you to run forward and then also quickly glance over your shoulder; I never used it. I hated being chased in Super Mario 3D Land, most likely would hate it in real life, and did not enjoy the pursuits here. Too stressful. Puzzles revolve around finding valves to turn or levers to pull or a specific key, and they aren’t about figuring out how to do these actions, but rather getting to them alive by sneaking around in the dark and avoiding violent asylum patients. The platforming, while not the greatest considering this is first-person platforming we’re talking about, is infrequent enough to not be a bother though I still missed a number of easy jumps.

I think I played the first five or ten minutes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent many moons ago and knew then that it was too terrifying for my weak skin to handle. Outlast is pretty similar, with a focus on carrying around a light source (lantern versus video camera with night vision mode on), being in first person, and a lack of combat, but also completely different. Whereas the former seemed to go for quieter scares and ramping up the tension, Outlast brings out all the big guns, with swelling music, screaming, jump scares galore, and a large monstrosity to chase after you down dark halls where you have to both run and create roadblocks in the manner of shut doors and barricades. There are, of course, occasions where things are quiet and uneventful, which is unnerving, but I quickly learned to not trust these sequences for too long. Eventually something’s going to grab you.

All right, lastly, or rather outlastly, there are some more things that I’m just not a fan of and found severely off-putting because I’m in a complainy mood, but your mileage may vary. A large portion of Outlast boils down to basically managing the number of batteries you have and when and where to turn on the camcorder. They drain quickly, and though I never did run out of them entirely during my playthrough, I always felt like I was close and preferred to have more in my inventory than not, just in case I needed them. This stressed me out greatly. For collectibles, there are two types–notes and documents–with notes referring to handwritten notes by Miles after witnessing something, and documents being, well, printed papers of exposition left behind for players to find. They aren’t all that interesting to read, and, more annoyingly, when you get a new one, it appears at the bottom of the collected list, which means as you collect more and more, it takes longer and longer to scroll down and read the one you just unlocked. Lastly, because I’m a wuss and scared of the dark, I spent probably something like 85% of this game behind the camcorder’s lens with night vision mode on; I’m sure Outlast looks sharp and amazing in spots, but all I ever saw was grainy blurs of faded neon-green and blinding puffs of white light.

Outlast isn’t fun. It’s kind of designed that way, but maybe a special type of person exists somewhere on this batty planet that looks at all these cruel limitations and unfriendly setting and thinks, “Aw yiss!” The developer’s main goal is to fill you with fear, and the player’s main goal is to escape scare-free. I’d rather live safely on my Stardew Valley farm with Maru and our first child Mauly, tending to my crops and searching for those rare starfruit and upgrading my tools. I’ll never run out of batteries there because, thanks to my lightning rod, I get a freebie every time there’s a thunderstorm. Take that.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #32 – Outlast

Asylum in woe
Hate battery management
Not my kind of fun

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #31 – Choke

We all need to breathe
Ignore the doors, too much sass
I am boring, same

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Blameless is ironically not without its faults

gd-final-thoughts-for-blameless

I don’t play many horror games. Honestly, I’d like to touch more, truly, but I have a hard time being the deciding factor of opening that creaky door and stepping into the dimly-lit room full of monsters with only a twig as my sole mean of defense. I’m thinking the last one I danced with was Silent Hill 2, some three years back, and I made a promise to play Silent Hill 3 last year around Halloween…but that never happened. There’s also Outlast, Siren: Blood Curse, and Lone Survivor, installed and waiting. They might be waiting for a long time. Heck, I even have that last named game ready to go in two different locations (laptop and PlayStation 3). Nah, the mood is never right, and by “the mood,” I naturally mean my mood.

So, what pushed me over the edge to play Blameless, which is totally a horror thing? Well, besides being completely free to play, I saw via HowLongToBeat that it was a quick experience, with completion times ranging in the fifty- to sixty-minutes range. “I can handle that,” I told myself, clicking the “play” button and sitting up straighter in my chair. I also politely asked my cat Timmy not to make any sudden jumps on to my lap. Surprisingly, he behaved.

All right, here’s the rundown on Blameless. It’s a mysterious first-person adventure focusing primarily on solving puzzles in the vein of collect specific item and use it on another specific item correctly to make magic happen. Point and click, but with more exploration. You are an architect dude–maybe you have a name, but I can’t recall what it is–investigating a potential project house currently under a lot of construction. Alas, once there, you get bopped in the head by the man you agreed to meet and left in a locked room. As you make your escape, you discover more acts of violence. Your best chance is to get out of there and call the cops.

Visually, the game has a decent look. It’s no PT, but it makes a valiant attempt. I mean, it’s a house full of clutter and the remnants of bereft construction workers. I’m not expecting beauty from the tool benches, garbage bins, and unused materials, but it does all seem to look as it should, and that fact helps create a realistic, believable environment. That makes poking around in its darker corners all the more unnerving. The voice acting, unfortunately, is sub-par and really jarring, and the puzzles never become more complicated than finding the right item to use where it is supposed to be used. I will give the developer props for making me use a set of keys twice and actually take them out of the first padlock manually; I mean, that’s how you’d do it in real life, but a lot of games would have automated that process so you wouldn’t stall moving forward.

Unfortunately, Blameless broke in a big, big way right near the end, to the point that I had to abandon the whole sojourn and look up how it ended via YouTube. Ironically, I was almost there, only a few footsteps from the conclusion myself. Oh well. For some reason, after a spoiler thing happened and I failed to remain alive, the game reloaded me into a previous checkpoint, except all the walls of the room were missing and I couldn’t interact with anything. Basically, I killed the scripting and found myself unable to move forward. I tried re-loading the same checkpoint multiple times to only end up at the same roadblock. For a free game that took me only about an hour to get through and wasn’t anything I’d shout from the mountaintops about, I can’t be too annoyed, though it certainly cemented my thoughts about its quality right then and there. The ending tries to stuff a somewhat unbelievable twist in there and really force it down your throat; I wasn’t a fan.

Let’s hope whatever the next scary game I play at least lets me complete it.

You’ll never find The Hunt’s Elk King unless you click everywhere

the hunt screenshot 001

For short, atmospheric-driven point-and-click adventure games, I try to go in blind. Maybe, at most, I’ll read a brief summary of what it is all about, but I’m probably already interested in playing based on either its zany title or if a screenshot revealed an appealing art style. I figure I’ll learn along the way, and it’s not like I’m committing to some hundred-plus JRPG where there are many spinning plates to pay attention to. Well, for Running Zombie’s The Hunt, I read a bit more than usual before exploring its spooky wilderness, and I’m so thankful I did, because without that knowledge, I’d never have been able to complete it.

The Hunt is an otherworldly and horror-heavy point-and-click adventure game that has you tracking down the legendary Elk King, for reasons not clearly stated. This Elk King is a demon that has cursed the surrounding forest, as well as those that pursue it. Also, I keep mistyping it as Elf King, which Thranduil would not approve of–my bad. Before venturing off into the woods, you grab a gun, knife, and your trusty dog Arrow, which I can only assume is a reference to The Point. Anyways, along the way, you’ll find clues, as well as fend off animal attacks, all in search of a mythological creature.

Since The Hunt is a point-and-click adventure game you can play in your browse, one only has to click on things to interact. Some objects will display descriptive text when you hover over them, but not everything you can interact with does this, which leads to a lot of clicking on everything…just to be sure. The game’s developers also seem to like to hide pertinent items and puzzle solutions along the far edges of the screen, where many might not even consider examining. This is the bit I mentioned reading earlier that really saved my skin. In terms of your inventory, it’s mostly weapons and tools, and these items are often used automatically if the stars are aligned and you are standing where you need to be standing. However, using the shovel to dig up the grave makes perfect sense, but the shovel remains in your inventory afterwards despite being depicted as on the ground after shoveling the dirt. I don’t know. The whole interface and way the puzzles are obscured from view makes for extremely awkward gameplay, nearly to the point of frustration.

For example, take a look at the screenshot at the top of this post. I picked it on purpose. See those trees and flowers to the far right side of the screen? Seem fairly nondescript. No descriptive text comes up if you hover over that area. Well, if you click near the “mute” button, but not actually on it, you’ll push the plants away, revealing a boat that will help you get across the island. I stumbled upon this solution through brute force. Or rather, brute clicking. I did not feel rewarded afterwards.

Here’s what The Hunt has going for it: atmosphere and sound department. Also, the art style is loose and grainy, but easy to fall into, like Thomas Cole’s paintings, and the animal attack jump scares did their job, catching me off guard by how fast they happened. I say all this because there’s something here, a glimmer of potential in a dark cave full of red eyes. Hopefully Running Zombie’s next adventure will require less clicking in corners like a madman and more logically tough puzzles. Otherwise, I’m less inclined to chase down that mysterious Elk King. For those curious, I took the “approach” choice when forced, and it did not end well for me or my dog. Sigh.