Archive for videogames

Weird Video of the Week

Posted in Creepy, Death, Horror, Music, Videogames, Weird Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2014 by Stephanie Selby

Well, I’m not dead yet folks!

I’m getting back to being a productive individual after a short, rough patch in life.

But enough about me; today I’m sharing with you all a playthrough of a game called The Graveyard. Basically, you’re a little, old lady walking through (of course!) a graveyard. Your character sits at a bench and contemplates death through song, and then leaves. That’s pretty much it, except that she could collapse and die at any point.

I particularly like the song in this; very spooky and poetic. Enjoy!

Sanitarium: Nostalgia and Fear

Posted in Horror, Insanity, Uncategorized, Videogames with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2013 by Stephanie Selby
Sanitarium_Coverart

The cover art for this classic game.

Fun fact: It’s the anniversary of that cold November day when I made my arrival in the world. I’m happy to share this day with all of you!

As a little early birthday present to myself, I recently re-bought a copy of Sanitarium; an adventure game that I often played in high school. It’s a bizarre little title that’s near and dear to my heart and hopefully it’ll creep your way in to yours as well.

Sanitarium tells the story of Max, an amnesiac inmate at an architecturally grand asylum finding his way through delusions and finding out what’s really behind his insanity. His journey takes us through an abandoned town full of deformed children, a demented circus stranded on an island, an alien world filled with cyclopes and cybernetic insects, and Aztec gods fighting each other. It’s a varied mix of environments and scenarios that starts to become coherent when the overall plot is revealed.

The Tower Cells; where you get your first glimpse of your lovely roommates!

The Tower Cells: where you get your first glimpse of your lovely roommates!

Being an older game, it’s going to have some flaws one needs to be patient with. Dated graphics, sub-par controls, and other issues are present throughout. Just keep this fact in mind if you choose to play.

Controls are somewhat spotty, especially in the game’s few moments of combat. Max moves by pressing and holding the right mouse button, and when he does it’s pretty awkward. There are more than a few instances where the fellow went up or down some stairs when I didn’t want him to, or get within proper range of foes. It gives fighting aggressive crows and squid monsters added difficulty. However these moments are short and easily passed even if you have to attempt it more than once. It’s not a game that will make you throw your computer out the window or anything like that.

I dare you to try to make sense of this picture!

I dare you to try to make sense of this picture!

That being said, it’s still a treat to play because of the unsettling subject matter and imagery that isn’t often found in present games. I can’t think of a game where I could explore someone’s demented psyche like this and if you can think of a better example, please let me know – I want to play it!

My Mixed Feelings For Ao Oni

Posted in Horror, Monsters, Uncategorized, Videogames with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Stephanie Selby

Really, ‘mixed’ is a word that doesn’t even begin to describe the way I feel about this game.

Ao Oni is a free downloadable game that has earned quite a following in both Japan and the States. There’s even an officially published novel based on it. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about its makers or development history, but I will begin by saying it is an impressive effort, considering it’s a free product. However, Ao Oni has many problematic moments that I can’t help but point out.

First, the plot is dreadfully uninspired. The basic premise begins with four teenagers exploring a reputedly haunted house, and they get more than they bargained for. It really smacks of the cliches around almost every stupid horror movie ever made. The characters also don’t have much depth to them. They pretty much consist of the horror flick stereotypes: the wimp, the leader, the nerd, and the girl. If it’s any consolation you get to play the nerd.

Getting stuck with four of your closest friends and one monster makes for a TOTALLY fun Saturday night!

Getting stuck with four of your closest friends and one monster makes for a TOTALLY fun Saturday night!

Another major complaint, and there’s really no other way to put this – the puzzles are terrible. Many of them are just plain counter-intuitive and don’t make sense.  Take for example this strange doll puzzle: you not only have to burn a doll to get it’s eye, but put the eye into another doll head, take the head, shove that head into a different puzzle to get an item, and later shove a lightbulb into the headless doll body to proceed to the next area. Makes sense, right?… Okay, maybe not.

At another point there’s an item hidden under a carpet that you need in order to solve a different puzzle, but due to the basic graphics I missed the slightly crumpled corner of the carpet and had to have that pointed out to me.  So, if you choose to play this game, you will get stuck – you will get stuck a lot. The only reason I managed to finish it quickly was because I looked at a walkthrough whenever I was stumped on what to do.

The appearance of the monsters left me laughing initially. The ‘oni’ that chase you and your friends around are tall, purple creatures with slim bodies and huge heads. I swear these damn things look like the result of SCP-173 and Barney the Dinosaur somehow producing a baby, with added inspiration from Easter Island sculptures. I won’t spoil why, but as the game goes on the monsters start wearing goofy ‘wigs’ as well. Doesn’t really sound like something that inspires fear, right?

I think he might need to sue somebody...

I think SCP-173 might need to sue somebody…

While there’s so much that Ao Oni gets wrong, it seems that it gets two major aspects of horror games right: establishing fear and paranoia.

Core gameplay is based around evasion rather than combat. The best you can do is run, hide, and hope the oni don’t catch you. This makes the silly-looking oni much more frightening than if you had some means of defending yourself or taking a more offensive stance.

Also, while there are many scripted chases, oni can appear at almost any time. This is especially true if you’re lost and wandering from room to room. There are many times where I found myself gasping and panicking whenever an oni appeared on my screen.

This little weirdo is going right into my nightmares!

This face will haunt your nightmares. You’re welcome!

Ao Oni also has a bit of a ‘signature’ moment that will last within the player’s mind long after the end credits. It’s very popular with the fans. It’s when the player enters what’s called the Oni room.

I think I may be on a bad acid trip...

I think I may be on a bad acid trip…

Seeing all these deformed versions of oni is definitely a shock to the system.

Despite my complaints, I still managed to enjoy myself. You might think of Ao Oni a shoddy carnival ride, but the free ticket ensures that it’s still worth hopping on an enjoying it for what it does offer.

Speculations on Don’t Starve

Posted in Creepy, Fantasy, Horror, Uncategorized, Videogames with tags , , , , , , , on August 20, 2013 by Stephanie Selby

dontstarve

I’ve been kinda obsessed with this game lately…

For those of you unfamiliar, Don’t Starve is a totally awesome survival game which you should consider checking out. It’s about Wilson, a goofy gentleman scientist who is enticed to build a bizarre machine on the advice of a mysterious voice coming out of his radio (seems legit!). Activating the machine transports the poor guy into a strange wilderness filled with a host of strange creatures. Forced to survive in this place, Wilson must find a way home and confront the who tricked him…

There’s a lot to love here: the dark, animated art style, the zany characters, scary monsters, and an added dash of horror all makes this game an endearing gem. Even more, the makers of Don’t Starve have also continued to make changes based on fan feedback, and it’s really fun to see how new additions can change strategies.

I also have to confess, I have a ridiculous, girly crush on Wilson (a quick search on Tumblr proves I’m not the only one), so I might have a slight bias. Unlike some people on the internet, I try not to annoy others about my romantic feelings for fictional characters. I’m just trying to give full disclosure.

In any case, I want to delve into Don’t Starve’s lore, as much of it is being ‘explained’ over time. This lore has been revealed through secret URL codes in update trailers. These links lead to images that contain information that the audience can then speculate upon. Klei Entertainment continues to make these trailers, so more of the story will continued to be revealed over time, and there was one update very recently.

The story that’s been shown so far is the origin of Maxwell, the ultimate villain of Don’t Starve. His story of a mundane magician turning into a captive king is one that spans across the shores of America.

All Aboard!: This link shows the inspection card of William Carter, an Englishman traveling to America. Even though the photo is terribly scratched, the definite resemblance assures it’s safe to assume that William is the man that will one day become the demon Maxwell.

Abracadabra!: An image of a brick wall with several advertisements, including a one for Carter’s magic act at Bowery Hall, a theater in New York City. It doesn’t seem very impressive; the poster just shows him pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I know it doesn’t make me want to go see a magic show. Carter’s face is again scratched out.

Hard Times…: A collection of letters and bills addressed to Carter. He owes money to someone named Witherstone for magic supplies, and a misspelled, threatening letter accompanies the bill. Apparently, his career isn’t going as planned. On a more positive note, there’s also a postcard from his brother Jack, who lives in California. He asks about Carter’s magic show and suggests that he should pay him a visit.

Dark Enlightenment: Some documents forgotten in the sand. There’s a poster for a circus, a newspaper clipping, and a letter to Jack from Carter. Apparently, he has taken up Jack’s offer and traveled to California and at some point found a book that has ‘opened his mind to new possibilities.’ However, on his way to California his train collided with a circus wagon. Carter’s been assumed dead by the authorities, but he assures his brother that he’s alright.

However if one looks closely enough, there are strange shadows that lay across the documents. If you have played Don’t Starve, you will recognizance one of them at least. It seems some certain somethings have their eye on Carter.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The most recent entry of William Carter’s story. The image contains an impressive poster for Maxwell the Great’s magic show, a journal entry from Carter/Maxwell, a page from the strange book, and a job listing for an assistant. It seems that Carter has used the book to further his career. He’s reinvented himself and his act, now using the name Maxwell, and has finally become a successful magician. He’s even looking to hire someone. Maxwell is likely just a stage name, but he could have changed it in order to avoid his previous debts in New York. The status of Jack and if the two brothers ever met is unknown. However some of Maxwell’s experiences during a ritual leave him troubled… Have forces greater than Maxwell finally caught up with him?

These tidbits of information leave players speculating, and coming up with all manner of theories. However, I have my own to propose.

In many of the links listed, William Carter’s name and/or face is scratched out or smudged. Many people think that this is the work of Them, the creatures that captured Carter/Maxwell and they’re trying to erase his identity. I think that this is really the work of Maxwell himself. As a successful magician of real magic, he probably dislikes his former, failure self. Stamping out things that remind him of his past probably helps him feel better.

In regards to some of the other characters, it’s still difficult to tell if all their stories are interconnected or not. It’s safe to assume that the ‘twins’ Jack refers to are Wendy and Abigail (other playable characters in Don’t Starve) so they’re very much connected to Carter/Maxwell, and rumor even goes so far to say that the two are his daughters. This I disagree with for several reasons.

Throughout all the documentation about Carter, there’s no mention of any children he may have. I doubt a failing magician would think about having kids, or be inclined to bring kids on his travels. There’s also no indication that he was married or had a long-term relationship in order to produce said offspring. Also, while it’s obvious that Maxwell is a jerk with an enormous ego who’s willing to torment random people for entertainment, he doesn’t seem depraved enough to lure his own children into his world. That’s my opinion of course and I may be proven wrong, but only time will tell. Honestly, I’m more inclined to believe that Wendy and Abigail are his nieces or some other type of distant relation.

The other theory I have is somewhat more pressing. William traveled to San Francisco in 1904, and made a huge comeback in 1905 with his new act. Considering how close the timeline is, I suspect that William/Maxwell is the one responsible for the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires. With Maxwell/William’s impressive powers, and demons chasing him down, a disaster of such a large scale occurring is well within the realm of possibility. Either Maxwell was taken by force and the city was collateral damage, or Maxwell could have accidentally caused the disaster with his own abilities and escaped into an alternate world to avoid responsibility only to be captured. Either way, he’s now suffering the consequences of his hubris.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments.

The Villian of The Last of Us

Posted in Apocalypse, Dangerous Diseases, Videogames, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by Stephanie Selby

The-last-of-us

For anyone that hasn’t played The Last of Us yet, this contains a whole load of spoilers. Please get off your butt and go play this game already! Now let’s continue…

In The Last of Us, gamers play Joel, a hardened survivor of the cordyceps brain infection that decimates humanity. He’s tasked with protecting Ellie, a young girl immune to infection, so that researchers can find a vaccine. In this game just about anyone and everyone is an enemy. But there’s one antagonist that people often overlook.

It’s Joel.

Despite being the main protagonist of the game, he has a lot of villainous traits that leaves players questioning his ethics throughout. He brutally kills infected and humans with little discretion. He’s killed innocent people to steal what little they had, at points credited with killing 76 lookout men and opponent’s friends, tortures and kills captives, considered a “crazy man” by many, and finally hinders the Fireflies’ efforts to find a cure. Ellie even adopts his ruthless tactics when Joel is too injured to carry on. It’s a pretty long list, isn’t it?

"Guess what? We're shitty people, Joel. It's been that way for a long time."

“Guess what? We’re shitty people, Joel. It’s been that way for a long time.”- Tess, Joel’s partner in the beginning.

That’s not to say that Joel could be considered a sympathetic villain or antihero. The tragic loss of his daughter at the beginning of the outbreak and surviving for twenty years in such a devastated world is bound to leave a terrible mark on a person. He was never a great guy after the outbreak, but before that he was a loving, hardworking father. After meeting Ellie he’s very determined to do what it takes in order to protect her, very much to his credit. With these facts in hand, there’s a lot that can be found forgivable in my opinion.

There are some situations where it’s clear that everyone’s an asshole. Strangely enough, I think that assessment qualifies here. None of the Fireflies really questions the ethics of killing a child for the slim chance of finding a vaccine, except for Marlene, and that’s only because of personal obligations. When Joel finally saves Ellie and takes her to another distant location to try to live a normal life, he lies to her so she can’t make an informed choice on her own. Ellie remains completely ignorant. It really gets to me because I feel like Joel and Marlene should have given Ellie the choice to sacrifice herself to find a vaccine.

As a sidenote, I’ve been revising The Demon’s Day and I’m thinking of posting it again here. I don’t think I should completely change the older posts here because it feels too much like shoving material down the memory hole, so I’ll probably add the revised stuff in a series of new posts. It would make for an interesting comparison, and then we can move on with the story. If anyone out there has an opinion about it speak up, otherwise I’ll post the revised version soon.

Over Analyzing Videogames: Death in Limbo

Posted in Dark, Death, Fantasy, Horror, Scary, Supernatural, Videogames with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by Stephanie Selby

The visual style of the game

Hello again! It has been way too long since my last post. Apparently the difficulty level on my life right now has been stuck on hard mode, so I haven’t had the time to write as I would like to. The next chapter of Demon’s Day isn’t done yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun!

I call it over analyzing because it’s a videogame after all. I mean, most them involve saving a princess or defeating some ultimate evil and don’t really warrant any deep thinking. However I love games, and I see a lot of opportunity in them to tell engaging stories, especially when I find the ones that do.

For those of you not familiar, Limbo is a downloadable game. It’s already been out for a while and any avid gamer will have at least heard of it by now. It’s a game with no dialogue and much of it’s plot remains a mystery, but there’s still a lot that can be discussed.

The developers of Limbo give only a single tagline for the audience to understand: “Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo.” Limbo has been traditionally known as the place where unbaptized children or those that died before the time of Jesus reside in the afterlife, but nonreligious definitions include places of neglect, of confinement, or somewhere intermediate. Whichever definition is true for the boy, he’s stuck in a very bleak world and his own fate is very much in question.

Other than that, the plot stays pretty mysterious, with any conclusions left to the player’s own interpretation of events. There are a lot of theories trying to explain what exactly is going on here. Fortunately, it’s a short game, which makes it really easy to look over the whole story several times.

For all intents and purposes, I’m going to take what the developers short introduction of the game literally since it’s the only concrete thing to go on. I would even go so far as to say that the world in this game really is some bleak form of the afterlife because of various surreal events that take place (like giant spiders, mind-controlling maggots, and bizarre, rotating machinery amongst other things). Death is everywhere in this game and reality seems to have gone on vacation, so much so that I would be surprised if the boy was alive. These factors lead me to the conclusion that the protagonist is dead as well.

One major clue is the common presence of dead bodies and carrion. Dead bodies are also an important part of solving puzzles and traversing the landscape. Rotting carrion on a rope must be removed in order to get to a high ledge, the boy uses a drowned body to jump over a deep body of water, a corpse must be used to spring a trap so the boy can progress, and this are all instances that take place at the beginning of the game. While the boy never outright harms or kills anyone, he does use the deaths of others to his advantage. While it can’t be confirmed at this point, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s a hint to the reason why they is now in this horrible place.

Bugs also make a reoccurring appearance within this world as well, which are also deeply connected with death. Files, which feed on dead remains, are everywhere in Limbo. They can be seen buzzing around carrion, around swampy bodies of water, and there’s even a giant fly that the boy uses to get to a higher ledge. The fly loses a leg in the process, which may be another example of how this kid will use others for his own benefit, but I digress. Insects, especially those that survive through the death of others, are a major inhabitant of the world of Limbo.

However, some mysterious ‘good’ insects make an appearance. Small white butterflies appear right before running into the girl for the first time. Butterflies are generally not associated with death, but they are still insects and therefore related to carrion eating flies. The really funny thing that I have realized is that when you pause the game, the butterflies are not affected; they are still able to move and fly away. These are very unearthly characteristics and they don’t seem to be a part of this bleak world, much like the little girl that disappears when the audience first encounters her.

Death is even a major part of the mechanics within Limbo. Due to the art style, it can be difficult to determine and maneuver around dangers. Rather than ‘trial and error’ it’s more of a game of ‘trial and death.’ Anyone playing this game is going to die a lot, seeing the boy crushed, sawed, shot, and fall to his death. There’s even a reward for those who can get through this game with five deaths or less. Basically, not only is the protagonist surrounded by death, but gets to experience it over and over.

So there’s the ideas around death in Limbo! If you’re interested in discussing it further, leave a comment and I’ll discuss other aspects of this game. I’m even open to suggestions!