Tag Archives: survival horror

2017 Game Review Haiku, #39 – The Evil With Us

Monsters left and right
Grind out gold, better your knife
Only upgrade knife

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.

Not all monsters are human in Resident Evil: Revelations 2

You might notice an unsettling trend of late here at Grinding Down, with me playing some games that fall into the horror slash survival horror genre. Please note that I didn’t say slash fiction. Rather, things like Outlast and the first chapter of Bendy and the Ink Machine. Not my usual go-tos for fun gaming times, but that’s okay. I’m both trying to diversify what I play as well as get through these experiences to delete or uninstall them with the knowledge that I gave them a fair shake, no matter how much I hated sneaking around in the dark like a total wuss. Naturally, the majority of horror games in my collection are freebies, with the last one I actually deliberately payed money for being…well, probably Silent Hill 3. Perhaps this is all building to finally digging into that amusement park nightmare.

First, a quick history of my, well, history with Capcom’s long-running, zombie-shooting, ammo-conserving, ruby-finding-and-using-as-a-key Resident Evil series. Don’t worry. Just like with Mega Man, I haven’t found myself playing many of these games over the years. I wonder if I secretly have an unconscious dislike for the company; I mean, yeah, they made Breath of Fire III, Star Gladiator, and Zack & Wiki, all of which I enjoy, but their more well-known series, including Street Fighter and Dead Rising, are just not my bread and butter. Mmm butter. Moving along, I most definitely played the original Resident Evil on PS1, as well as rented Resident Evil 2. I believe I watched my childhood best friend go through the majority of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Because I couldn’t handle something chasing me constantly. I tried the demos for Resident Evil: Revelations and Resident Evil 5…and that’s it. You’ll notice that I’ve never touched Resident Evil 4, which many claim to be the star of the series. Oh well.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is, from what the Internet says, set between the events of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, which, if you read the previous paragraph, means absolutely nothing to me. However, it does follow two classic characters from the series’ past: Claire Redfield and Barry Burton. In the opening scenes, Barry’s daughter, Moira, is kidnapped alongside Claire, by a mysterious woman calling herself the Overseer. They end up imprisoned on a severely isolated island where, naturally, dark and terrifying scientific experiments have gone from wrong to oh so worse. In this first episode called “Penal Colony,” the narrative jumps back and forth between those two exploring the compound and a second story thread six months later as Barry comes to the island to find Moira. He is accompanied by a young girl with mystical powers because why not.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 remains a survival horror game, and that means trying not to die by the bloody hands of zombies (and other monstrosities), as well as scavenging for ammo and key items. However, this one supports cooperative gameplay. One player is the hero, using guns and melee weapons to get the job of murdering zombies done, and the other player is more there for support, shining a bright flashlight in enemies’ eyes, throwing bricks, or spotting hidden items in the environment. The flashlights in this game are much better than Outlast because they have eternal batteries, thank the Maker. I played the game alone, which meant I had to control both characters, flipping between them when necessary with a simple button press. It’s fine when solving puzzles or generally exploring, but you have to stick with the fighter for combat, otherwise it’s downhill from the first bite.

A couple nitpicks because I am who I am. First, when you are controlling Natalia and carrying a brick, when you go through a door from one location to another, she doesn’t take the brick with her; Barry of course carries his entire arsenal of firearms through, but you then have to scrounge around for another brick to throw. Seems like an odd limitation. Second, I like to crouch-walk a lot in stealth games and, again, when moving between a door to a new location, even if you are crouching, the game doesn’t remember this, and you are now back to standing. This also goes for having your flashlight on or off. Basically, all your “presets” go back to the defaults in each new room, which is annoying. Lastly, since this is a co-op experience and I don’t have anyone to play with, relying on the AI is pointless, as Moira rarely shown her light at enemies and Natalia stayed hidden during all fights involving Barry. I believe you can upgrade some skills to allow for better AI, but I’m also sure having another living, breathing player controlling them is the best way to do it.

Honestly, I thought that I’d play Resident Evil: Revelations 2 to see what it had to offer, quickly run through it, delete the infected file from my Xbox One, and then move on to something else. That is not the case. The game actively encourages replaying, with new modes to try out–like being timed or dealing with invisible enemies or a score attack–and you can continue earning BP to spend on upgrades, which ultimately can help with your next run. Naturally, I want all them collectibles, as well as to try out the Raid Mode, which is a type of “run and gun” mini-game where players fight through short stages to reach a goal and level up their characters and equipment. The mini-game itself exists as a scenario where the Overseer is testing the new Red Queen Alpha program on the player, who is a test subject for it. Sounds neat, at least.

All that said, I don’t think I’ll be grabbing any of the other episodes for Resident Evil: Revelations 2 just yet. I have a couple other titles in the series from PlayStation Plus–specifically Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, of which I know nothing about them–that probably deserve some attention. But before I get to them, I have to replay Barry’s chapter a few more times to grind for gems and pop that stealth kill Achievement, among other tasks.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #35 – Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Episode 1 “Penal Colony”

Stuck on death island
Co-op Afflicted, puzzles
Don’t be Claire sandwich

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.

Where They Once Were ended with me cold, dying alone

where they once were gd impressions VO4gCKj

Where They Once Were is another teeny tiny yet impressive result of Ludum Dare 31, which brought us cheerier titles like Kram Keep and A Place in Space. Actually, no–both of those contained their fair share of murder and mayhem, though here it is downright brooding. Anyways, that thirty-first game jam’s theme, in case you forgot, was “Entire Game on One Screen,” and I’d say Where They Once Were absolutely nailed it, seeing as everything happens on a single screen, in and around a snowed-in log cabin.

Basically, Where They Once Were is a survival game. Like your first few nights in Minecraft or all of The Forest from the moment the plane crashes. I’m just not sure if one can, ultimately, survive the many snowy nights, but a better player than I might be able to make it. There’s three endings, of which I got two: eaten by a wolf, and cold, alone, with no more supplies. Not sure if the third ending is a victory or just another way to buy the farm; I couldn’t figure out what to do differently. Maybe it has something to do with that snowman outside the cabin.

For controls, you can use the arrow keys to move left or right, up grabs items or drops whatever you are currently holding, and the space bar interacts. Sometimes it’ll interact with whatever you are facing, sometimes it’ll go to what is in your hand, and the other times it’ll use what’s in your hand on what you are facing. That might sound confusing, but it’s really not. For example, to stay warm at night, you need a roaring fire. To do that, you go over to the log pile, carry a bunch of logs back to the fireplace, and press the space bar to drop them in. Then you grab a book of matches, go back to the fireplace, and light them on fire. Rinse and repeat each night to keep on keeping on, while other elements development.

Where They Once Were‘s puzzles aren’t too tricky to figure out, as everything, more or less, follows a logical path. Yes, part where you use a shotgun to shoot a ladder down, I’m raising an eyebrow at you. Need that can of food opened as soon as possible? Whack it with your shovel. Once you are fed, warm, and free from outside danger, you can use the bed to sleep safely through another balmy night. However, the odds are stacked against you from the start, with a limited amount of supplies in the cabin, meaning you’ll have to work hard to make everything last. There’s not much in the sound department, but the absence of sound effects adds to the mood, though I don’t believe that to be an intentional decision, rather a cut due to time.

The game’s page describes the story as about “a woman finding a weird abandoned cottage while escaping pursuers.” A couple things. I never got the sense that the main character was a woman, though with pixel art it can be difficult to tell. Shame on me for assuming this. Also, there was no mention of being chased by off-screen villains, so I took this more as this person lives out here by themselves in the day-to-day, but must now survive the harsher weather for a few nights on a sliver of supplies. You don’t get much in terms of words-on-screen narration, though I did find a diary with some obtuse writing in it. Regardless, surviving is the goal, and the reasons behind it are up for interpretation.

Either way, it’s a neat survival game that may help you years from now if you find yourself trapped in a snowstorm with only a creepy log cabin for safety. You can download the original jam version of Where They Once Were in the link from the previous paragraph, which is the one I played, or there’s a post-jam version here that adds sound effects and additional endings. Both will suffice in terms of atmosphere and experience. Let me know if anything happens with that snowman. Really now–I know it’s vital for living.

The gloomiest night in Lakeview Cabin will wear on to a morning

lakeview cabin capture

In Lakeview Cabin, as a burly, orange mustached manly man, you can drink beer, get naked, and use an outhouse. You can also mow the lawn, chop some firewood, or hunt a deer for food. Docks on either side of a small, summer island let you take in the lake’s tranquility and contemplate skinny-dipping, which you ultimately can’t actually do, as hopping in the water just spits you right back out onto land. Boo to that. Birds and bugs provide a calm, predictable soundtrack one might expect to hear at such a place. Really, a faultless postcard-esque vacation spot–that is until the sun sets.

Controls are straightforward, mostly because this is a Flash game. You move around left to right with the arrow keys. Z picks up and drops items, while X uses an item or throws it if possible. From what I played and saw after about twenty or thirty minutes, there’s no story text or narration. You just do things until you can no longer do things, and sometimes you’ll die from walking into a bear trap twice, and other times a nightmarish monster–who I suspect is maybe our leading lumberjack’s dead wife or girlfriend–will hop out of the lake and finish the job. Then you press R to retry…or O to “summon her,” whatever that means. I was able to accomplish various tasks, like killing the deer after perfectly setting the bear trap down and then chasing the animal into it, but never defeating the monster. Oh well.

Lakeview Cabin begins more like a puzzle game than anything else. I spent my first day/night cycle just interacting with everything I could, seeing how I could use items I interacted worked with other items. Such as filling up a bucket with water or using the axe to cut a wire in half, exposing electric danger. I also frustratingly stared at items I couldn’t get, like a key and shotgun. Nothing is immediately clear, and only through experimentation and retrying will you progress, but that’s kind of the name of the genre. Do what you must to survive; do anything.

I find lake-based horror to be very effective. Maybe there was a moment from my childhood that I’m just not ready to deal with personally and publicly, but I find the isolation and restriction to be the most crippling aspect of the ordeal, the most traumatizing. Truth be told, I’d rather run from a monster in the woods or even a building, but on a small island you have nowhere to go but underwater. Over the years, I’ve read a good number of Stephen King books and short stories, but Bag of Bones has stuck with me the most, as it is based around an author with writer’s block sequestering himself at his vacation house on Dark Score Lake. The movie What Lies Beneath, which I saw in Las Vegas all by my lonesome as a young lad, has some very effective scenes set around a lakeside home. Also, you can see me writing about this fear of mine in “The Feet Eaters”, a short story  published back in…oh, January 2007. The page seems gone from the Aberrant Dreams website, so maybe I should get around to reprinting it on my own sooner than later. But yeah: horror and lakes. Much as I don’t want them to, they go together like peanut butter and jelly.

I think developer Roope Tamminen has made something special here and could totally see Lakeview Cabin being expanded a bit–perhaps add an inventory to allow for multiple items and maybe some text-based guidance here and there–and put on Steam in the future. That’d be cool, even if I probably never survive past the first night. It’s a funny horror for sure, and one that doesn’t say everything it’s doing, which makes it simultaneously unnerving. Laugh while you die, I guess.