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Trivia Time- Deadly Premonition, Tell me Your Secrets, License Plates

So to end my Halloween Trivia Time marathon, I thought I’d end on a high note. And what better high note than Deadly Premonition. I will be talking spoilers in this article so read on at your own peril. This game is a masterpiece. Not in gameplay or graphics, you’d have to pay me a lot to say that, Swery. Swery being the creator of the wonderful world of Deadly Premonition. The game centres around Detective Francis York Morgan. Although he prefers to be called York, everyone calls him that apparently.  He is a film loving detective who has been assigned a case in the middle of nowhere. A little town called Greenvale, where a local woman has been found murdered.

Francis
Who wouldn’t want this guy investigating a murder.

Mystery and intrigue ensue and York must uncover the mysteries of this town in order to try and put a stop to a string of gruesome murders. It is a very strange game filled to the brim with quirky characters. There in lies the beauty of this game. It is unbelievably rough around the edges and a slog to play at times but the world and its absurdity are unlike anything I’ve played since. The town is full of weird people and you’ll get to know these people very well. As you play through the game, you’ll see different characters going about their own lives. Each character has a daily routine that you can follow and keep track of. You’ll see them in a diner or at a shop, perhaps at a bar or more commonly you’ll see them whizzing down the road and full on driving into your car. Remember, I said this game was janky. But as your fellow neighbour drives off your bonnet you might notice a strange combination of letters and numbers. The license plates of these residents not only form words, but also a trait synonymous to them or even a clue or two about their involvement in the murder mystery.

Deadly prem license plate

The basic patrol cars around Greenvale have the license plate ‘VIDGMES’, which considering you’re reading a video game article, I believe I don’t need to solve this riddle for you. Nick Cormack, the local diner chef has ‘GR8COOK’, which is very boastful and also a plate that made me do a double take because of my filthy mind. Perhaps the most on the nose plate though and the most damning in a game about finding a murderer is George Woodman’s license plate. George Woodman, for those who haven’t played the game, is the local rugged cop who helps York in his investigation into the murders. But, this whole time George wasn’t who he seemed and in the end, we find out that George was involved in the killings. Not only that, George likes to flaunt his murderous ways to the whole town for all to see. Not only is George revealed to be a late game bad guy, but his license plate was laughing in our faces about it. His license plate reads ‘HESTHE1’, which in case you’re struggling, reads as He Is The One. You smug so and so, George.

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Trivia Time- F.E.A.R, Spooky Office Ghost

F.E.A.R stands for First Encounter Assault Recon. Firstly, is Assault Recon an oxymoron? Assault in this context, means to go into the establishments with guns drawn and ready to take on the foes. Recon though. Recon to me means scouting the location and if finding a foe, keeping distance and reporting the intelligence to headquarters. F.E.A makes sense but that doesn’t make for a snappy title, does it?

Now that I’ve got that thought out of the way, lets talk trivia. F.E.A.R is a horror FPS developed by Monolith Productions and released in 2005. During production a few members of staff maybe got too engrossed in their work. Lead level designer John Mulkey had a toilet fright (bathroom for those outside the UK, I’m not just talking about an incident confined to a toilet. This isn’t The Grudge but through the toilet bowl instead of TV screen) that left him and a few co-workers a bit rattled. Apparently,  while John was using the toilets, he believes he saw a dark shadow in a mirror. This toilet prowler wasn’t just seen by John though. A fellow team member also explained to John that he found the toilet’s atmosphere eerie.

Bed Sheet Ghost
Don’t mind me! Just your friendly office toilet ghost. Here to hum soothing melodies while you do your thing.

The fact that the toilets were described as having only one working light and one light that flickers, does paint a creepy scene. A bit that I’m sure is in F.E.A.R. A trick of the mind or ghastly toilet voyeur? Perhaps too much work and not enough sleep. We’ll never know. Most of the production crew claim they didn’t believe John’s mirror buddy and that he was merely seeing things. Funny though that after the sighting was spotted, that particular toilets usage dropped drastically. ‘What a load of nonsense! I’m just going to take the lift up two floors to use the other toilet’.

 

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Trivia Time: Until Dawn, Records Your Terror

Until Dawn is a game developed by SuperMassive, released in 2015. It is a horror game with a big emphasis on choices and the butterfly effect. The game is basically a B horror film and focuses on a bunch of friends staying in a cabin on some snowy mountain. You control each character at different segments and as you play you will be given choices and the choices you make will have a reaction with the story. Some are mild, a character won’t like another character because of a decision you made,  or a character could die because of your choice.  Every character you control can live or die, at the end of the game you could have no survivors left or all of them. It’s a fun game and one I highly recommend being played with a partner or friends.

Until Dawn™_20150822014404
You never know when a choice might spell doom for a character

The game is full of scares, over it’s 8+ hour story you will feel your heart in your throat at times and the game does a good job of building suspense but also delivery jump scares. SuperMassive knew they would put the fear into people and so they devised a way to capture that fear for future viewings. If you go into the options of Until Dawn, you can enable your PS4 camera, if you have one, to record all the frightening bits. These will be recorded as little snippets and saved for you to re-watch in self humiliation. A great feature to encapsulate the look of horror on your face at a cheap jump scare.

This feature has some downsides though when used. Or positives depending on the player. You see, when you activate this feature, the little light on the PS4 camera will light up when recording. So, when a jump scare is about to happen, the owner of the camera will see that the PS4 camera has started recording. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that a jump scare is about to happen. This can be remedied by covering the light with a bit of a sticky note or anything similar. However, if you’re a big scared-ey cat but want to play Until Dawn then this might be a good downside for you. You’ll still have the jump scare but you’ll get a little warning before it happens. Enough time to brace yourself or cover your eyes behind a pillow. I won’t judge, I promise.

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Trivia Time- Doom 3, Demolition Developers

Doom 3 was released in August 2004 after a long production cycle, work on Doom 3 started back in mid 2000. The game was well received for its graphics and lighting but not so much for its gameplay, which was very different to the classic run ‘n’ gun formulae of previous Doom games. Clearly the team had spent a long time designing the game and its world and clearly it shows. The research facility on Mars, where the game is set, feels lived in and worn. When you enter rooms there is blood, remnants from fights, damaged surfaces and misplaced objects. But the rooms were like that originally.

When the levels for Doom 3 were created, they were created immaculate. Brand new rooms! Like a newly built office. As if the Mars research facility was a brand new, vacant building. Developers were then given the task of going through each level and giving it that tattered, lived in feel. How they did that you ask? Well, the developers created special weapons to do the work. Details of these weapons are very scarce but I like to imagine they made guns that put dents into walls, smudges on surfaces, smeared blood upon the tiles and a variety of effects to make the world of Doom 3 a damaged one. Once they had gone through each level with these weapons, the levels were then used in the game.

doom 3 room

It’s a clever idea. It helps give the research facility that authentic feel that helps our ability to believe in this universe. Also, how fun would that be, to be one of those developers? To create something and after months of hard work and detailing the levels, you get to go round and smash up the place. I bet it’s very therapeutic, especially wrecking certain rooms that were more difficult than others to design. I would love that job. Professional level wrecker!

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Trivia Time- Silent Hill 3, UFO Ending

The Silent Hill series is known for its isolation and monstrous creatures. The series has been persistent with these themes, especially in the early games. One other big element ties the early releases together, and that is the endings. Yes, when you finish Silent Hill 1, 2 or 3 you are treated to one of several endings. Nothing peculiar about that, a lot of games have a good or bad ending. But Silent Hill has gone one step further and added UFO ending to the list.

In this ending, which I might add is a cartoon ending similar to a comic book slideshow, the protagonist Heather, returns home to be greeted by an odd scene. Her father (Silent Hill 1 protagonist), Harry is at a dinner table with an alien. The grey classic alien look. There is also a man hiding behind a curtain which is James Sunderland, Silent Hill 2’s protagonist. Heather explains to her father the strange events that have been happening to her. Her dad flips out and does a sick kick to a piece of wood that James was holding.Kick!

Harry proclaims, in a warbled voice, that he is sick of Silent Hill’s shenanigans and that he’s going to destroy Silent Hill. Cut to a bunch of Alien spaceships laser beaming Silent Hill into dust and then flying off into the night sky. The credits then roll and the happy Silent Hill song starts playing, lyrics included. The beginning of the songs is this:

Come on, kiddies! Gather around!
Now, tell me, everyone,
Aren’t you sick and tired of that ol’ UFO ending?
That’s right! Be honest!
Honesty helps you grow big and strong!
Okay, you fine youngsters, let’s sing the Silent Hill song!

And it continues from there, singing about the characters from Silent Hill 3. It’s a surreal ending to a bleak game but this is a grand tradition in Silent Hill games. The UFO ending is a fan favourite easter egg. Usually the ending has to be unlocked by performing certain actions in the games. For example, in Silent Hill 3, the player has to unlock a weapon called the Heather Beam. To do this, the player needs to kill 333 monsters in several playthrough’s of the game. Then when you start a new playthrough, you need to kill at least 30 monsters with the Heather Beam before entering Harry’s flat. If done correctly you will be treated to the absurd UFO ending. Here is the ending for your viewing pleasure:

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Trivia Time- Rule Of Rose, Banned in the UK

Rule of Rose was a PS2 game released in 2006 by developers, Punchline. In the game, the player controls Jennifer, a 19 year old woman in 1930’s England. She is led to a abandoned orphanage by a small boy and before she knows it, she’s dowsed in water by four children and chucked in a coffin. This isn’t your average horror game. The villains of this game are children. When Jennifer awakes, she finds herself tied to a post on an airship.  I’m not even going to try to explain that for you here. Jennifer must navigate this airship with a faithful dog, while playing the games of the sadistic children. It’s kind of like a government of kids, similar to The Lord of the Flies. With different tiers and roles distributed to each child. Jennifer is ranked as ‘Beggar’. This is a weird game.

JenniferRat
‘I wash myself with a rat on a stick’

I wish I could have played it but instead I watched an LP of this game. The reason I couldn’t play it when it was released, is because it was banned in the UK. Not only that, but other countries tried to get it banned too. While the game does have some mildly disturbing content, it’s not enough to ban the game. Not in my eyes anyway.  There are mild references to sexual content and abuse but nothing that hasn’t been done in other games. Yes, this game is a lot weirder and so that probably had something to with it. The overall verbal and physical abuse Jennifer receives doesn’t help either, even though she is an adult and it is related to the story. You are also fighting enemies that are children size:

TwoImp

GoatSisters
Also goats.

Just to give you a taste of why it was banned, this is from Wikipedia:  In November 2006, three French deputies introduced a bill asking for the game to be banned for sale, arguing that the goal of the game was to “rape, beat up and kill a little girl”, and that if nothing was done, video games could become an “uncontrollable factor of decadent violence in our society.”. This statement isn’t true. The goal of the game isn’t to rape someone. How they can say that without proof is beyond me, but that’s what was said and why, along with other reasons, the game was banned in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It’s a shame that such a unique game, never got the chance to be played in certain countries based on lies or misleading quotes. But that is the power of words, for good or bad.

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Trivia Time- Shadow Man, Here Lies 

Similar to my Resident Evil 5 article, Shadow Man’s sequel, Shadow Man: 2econd Coming (Oh, the 90’s and early 2000’s were full of fun ways to cram numbers into titles), had a publicity stunt planned around the idea of death too. This one though has no bloody body parts scattered in alleyways and yet, is more disturbing.

The publishers of the game, Acclaim, decided that the best way to advertise their game, would be to slap a Shadow Man plaque onto the recently deceased graves. In 2002, Acclaim were planning on offering money to the recently bereaved. Their reasoning was that ‘burying a loved one is expensive so why not let us, Acclaim help pay the bill?’. And while that may be true, I’m sure little Billy didn’t want a reminder of a not so great sequel, every time he went to visit his gran’s headstone.  As you can imagine, their was quite a bit of uproar about this idea. The Church of England basically said it was having none of it and this idea would not be allowed on any of their grave sites. You know you’ve reached a certain level of controversy when The Church of England calls you out for being disgraceful.

Acclaim
They a-claim to have good ideas………..is that the exit over there?

This is also the same Acclaim who offered $10,000 to those who would name their child Turok, after the character of their upcoming game. Classy Acclaim! At least Acclaim saw the error of their ways and in the end, they didn’t go through with the Shadow Man idea. Makes you wonder if there were any ideas on the cutting room floor at Acclaim. Publicity stunt ideas, where the top managers said ‘Yeah, I think that idea is a bit too much but billboards on graves sounds genius’, what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall at those meetings.

gravestone256
Trust me, I wish there was a bigger image but the blown up size just makes you think you need a vision test.
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Trivia Time: Resident Evil 5 Corpse Hunt

Publicity stunts are a funny thing. Some companies just miss the mark in spectacular fashion while others hit the tone of their respective game just right. Others, try something a bit different. Different is good……sometimes. Resident Evil 5 had such a stunt.

For those that don’t know, Resident Evil 5 is a third person shooter set in sunny Africa. The series is known for having zombies but the main enemies in RE5, are villagers under the control of the Uroboros virus. This virus basically puts whoever is infected, under the control of whoever is controlling the virus. Now that that’s explained, let’s talk about something completely different! This Resident Evil 5 stunt! Rather than taking place in Africa, this stunt take place in murky London. 50 contestants set off in the early hours of the morning, for a scavenger hunt in the city. The prize you ask? A trip for two to Africa. Not a bad prize at all. I’d give my right leg for that trip. And a hand. A torso. Another leg. Oh wait……I wouldn’t have to give them my body parts! Just the ones the organisers have scattered about the city.

27.-Resident-Evil-5-2009

Yes you read that right, body parts. Just lying there, no big deal. Someone’s grandma out for a morning stroll, wanders round the corner and hello there! A leg in the alley. Whether that happened or not, I am unsure of. Maybe the heads, torsos and limbs were hidden well enough. A little too well apparently because at the end of the competition, a few mounds of flesh hadn’t been returned. Yup, apparently one head, two torsos, six limbs and lots of chicken liver, for added effect, were not returned.

I like to think that this was one of the contestants who just ran off with his finds. Perhaps he was really happy with him or herself. Strolling along, limbs tucked under each arm, head in a carrier bag and torso shoved in a back pack. Then he sees the winner of the contest, Steve Long, walking by with more limbs. And our body snatcher decided that he/she wouldn’t win today. So, like a sulky child they took their football and went home. Only this time, it was a head instead of a football. Just like the Mayan’s used to do.  There’s an extra fun fact for you!

resident-evil-5-stunt-1-300x300

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Trivia Time: Redead’s Scream

Redead’s are the stuff of nightmares. I don’t care what anybody says, The Legend of Zelda series can be dark at times. From paralysing screams, giants hands that spring from the shadows, the Happy Mask Salesman and that sadistic, smiling moon, the Zelda franchise is deceptively twisted. Exhibit A:

Zelda Monster

What is that!?!? Nintendo, that ain’t fair. A few hours ago I was in an open field with my trusty steed Epona, whistling a merry tune with my ocarina. Then you open the gates of hell and invite Satan’s creepy uncle to Hyrule.  That is an abomination of a mind I don’t want to delve into. Some creatures in the Zelda universe are creepier than horror game monsters.

None show this more than the Redead’s. These shambling corpses just stand there moaning like us Brits at a bus stop. Until you get close enough and then suddenly they scream. A scream so terrifying, that the main character Link, freezes in place. The player then has to mash the buttons to try to unbind themselves from the spot, before the slowly moving figure, latches onto you and starts biting. As a child, this put the fear right in me! So much so, that there were times that I’d just close my eyes and run through Castle Town. That was until I learnt that the Sun Song freezes them and then it’s easy. Easy but still scary.

redead kill

So, I wanted to try and figure out where that scream came from and whose vocal chords it belonged to. Alas, I didn’t find the person in question, I did find where Nintendo got the scream from though. The General Series 6000 Sounds Effects Library! A catalogue of sounds that can be purchased for use in media.  The scream that I have found is different to the Redead scream, but I believe this to be the base form before audio tampering. The scream even has The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask listed as one of its times used in media form. Here is the scream I believe to be the Redead’s origin:

This

Compare it to the completed game’s version:

Here

I may be wrong on this but I do believe that is the same scream. The very first half a second or so sound to me. It then changes and a sound effect is added, that is like a whooshing sound. I listened to quite a few women’s screams (what an hour that was) and that one sounds the part. For now and until I master audio mixing, that is the Redead scream to me.

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Tips or Trivia: Reassessment

Tip- Maybe Don’t do Tips

So, about a week ago, I started Tips or Trivia as a recurring article per day up unto Halloween. My plan was to then do a generic Tip or Trivia article every few days or so, and maybe do similar to this Halloween run and release one a day for holidays or themes.

As I’ve been doing this however I’ve noticed that: Tips are pretty boring. I envisioned a lot more unique and interesting horror game related ones, but besides from the obvious: shoot at the giant red spot, save your magnum ammo for this fight and lead you enemies to this area for easy pickings, there just aren’t enough good ones. With Trivia, there is so much to a game, it’s back history, stories upon its release and lore, that I am spoilt for choice. I also just find Trivia more fun. I like learning these weird facts and I imagine you, as the reader, do too. I could list Captain Obvious tips as articles but if you’re reading my blog, then I imagine you’re already an accomplished gamer. Give yourself a pat on the back! You don’t need my tips! (There’s a Carry On ‘Ooooh Matron’ joke in there for all you 60’s comedy loving gamers. I’m sure there are tons of you!). So, I think I’ll just stick with Trivia for now.

If I’m having more fun with it, you’re probably enjoying reading my articles more too. That’s why from today on, my Tips and Trivia articles are now *drum roll* Trivia Time! Got a theme going with my blog title now. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the new, re-branded Trivia Time.

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Tips or Trivia- Clock Tower, Scissorman’s Inspiration

Trivia

Clock Tower was a point and click horror game for the Super Nintendo, released in 1995. It spawned several sequels and is known for its iconic villain, Scissorman. This aptly named stalker of the night, is a small man-ish creature who follows the protagonist with a ridiculously gigantic pair of gardening shears. Not your standard villain. In the first game, Jennifer Simpson must find her way out of a mansion that she finds herself trapped in whilst dodging Scissorman’s attacks and traps.
The Scissorman is seemingly demonic in nature, as he defies the laws of space and time, and frequently transports ahead of the player after running in the opposite direction from him. He also takes great pleasure in his hounding of the poor Jennifer, as when he knocks her down, he will do a little jig to signify his happiness at terrorising the innocent girl.

Scissor man
Look at him! Little, evil rapscallion.

Creator Hifumi Kono, has stated that Sciccorman’s design was influenced by Italian horror films such as Phenomena, which is about a girl at at boarding school with the power to communicate with insects. Using this power, she intends to do battle with the serial killer, that has been killing people in and around the grounds of her boarding school. As you can see, this draws parallels Jennifer and Scissorman’s battle. 

Perhaps, the biggest influence though is the film, The Burning. I believe, this film poster below speaks on my behalf.

The burning
Fantastic Poster

 

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Tips or Trivia- Dino Crisis, Jurassic Park Reference?

Trivia

Dino Crisis was a game that released on the Playstation back in 1999 by Resident Evil creator, Shinji Mikami. It is a horror game, like Resident Evil but substitute zombies with time displaced dinosaurs in a research facility. You play as Regina, a weapons specialist and a field operative with a talent for gathering intelligence. Regina is sent to a research facility on Ibis Island to find and retrieve Edward Kirk, a researcher at the base. Upon her arrival, Regina is attacked by time travelled dinosaurs. Because, why not? Armed with her trusty shotgun and other weapons she ventures on, unravelling the mystery as she goes.

36779-Dino_Crisis_[U]-1492554439Dinosaur fever was big in the 90’s. Jurassic Park was a killer (get it, dinosaurs?)at the box office and what followed was a slew of other dinosaur films or TV shows. Jurassic Park sequels, Barney the Dinosaur, The Land Before Time, Theodore Rex and even Godzilla, which I know it’s meant to be a radioactive lizard, but look at it! That’s a T-Rex. So, it’s no surprise that video games decided to have a go at the craze. Dino Crisis spawned two sequels and was a hit franchise until the third one. I believe Jurassic Park played a big role in its success and so did Dino Crisis acknowledge this inspiration? Quite possibly.

Regina’s shotgun is a SPAS-12 (Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun), the very same shotgun that the character Muldoon, can be seen sporting in Jurassic Park. Whether this is a nod to Jurassic Park is up in the air as the SPAS-12 was a common weapon in a lot of games. But, the fact that these are both characters whose job it is, to take down dinosaurs on a remote island, leads me to believe it is a reference to Jurassic Park. At least Regina didn’t meet the same fate as Muldoon. Clever girl!

JurassicPark_330Pyxurz

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Tips or Trivia- Bioshock Lighthouse Location

Trivia

In Bioshock, the game starts with the player aboard a plane over the Atlantic ocean, in 1960. The title card pops up and the very next scene is our hero drowning underwater. Due to the debris sinking around him we can gather that something has gone wrong and the plane crashed. Our hero, Jack then quickly swims to the surface and thankfully doesn’t drown. Amidst the fire and wreckage, Jack sees a lighthouse. A lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. There are no other islands nearby or anything and so what purpose does a lighthouse have in the middle of the ocean? But Jack isn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth and so proceeds to the lighthouse for safety. Within the confines of the lighthouse, Jack finds a bathysphere which takes him on his adventure through Rapture. I’m going to skip Rapture for today, even though it is a fantastic setting and has lots of lore surrounding it.

Today, I want to focus on the lighthouse. An odd thing to have in the middle of the ocean. So, I wanted to see how far away from land this lighthouse was. I was going to try and pinpoint the location using speculation and the process of elimination. But that’s not going to be needed. “When Mum and Dad put me on that plane to visit my cousins in England, they told me, ‘Son, you’re special, you were born to do great things.’ You know what? They were right.”. That is a quote on the Bioshock Wiki said by Jack. I personally don’t recall the visiting cousins part in England but I trust the Wiki. So, I was going to work backwards from that to see where he was coming from and where about he crashed. But………..the actual coordinates for the lighthouse have been published by the Bioshock team. There is no lighthouse there sadly.  The coordinates are 63° 2′ N, 29° 55′ W, which brings us to here:

Bioshock lighthouse

As you can see, it all adds up geographically. Jack was coming over from somewhere in America to visit his family in England. Along the way something went wrong and the plane careened off course and into the ocean below. The location of the lighthouse is between Greenland and Iceland. It’s still not close enough to land to serve a purpose to the residents of the islands. But, to get into it’s purpose is another topic all together and one that involves spoilers for the game. That’s why I’ll just leave the alone for now.

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Tips or Trivia- Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Illusions and Trickery

Trivia

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem released on the Gamecube in 2002. The game is a 3rd person, survival horror that features elder gods and controlling multiple characters throughout history. The game itself is more remembered for its sanity effects. As you control characters, you will be attacked by Eldritch horror-esque monsters. When your character encounters these monsters, they will have a dip in sanity. Their sanity can be regained by killing the enemy with a finishing move but sometimes this just isn’t an option without risk of death. There are also monsters that focus primarily on attacking your characters sanity. More than likely as you progress as this character their sanity meter will deplete quite a bit.

This leads to some scary, unnerving, goofy, confusing situations. Whilst, your character is losing their marbles you will hear them muttering to themselves things like ‘This can’t be happening’. And, when you transition to a room there is a chance of a sanity effect taking place. These can include:

  • Your character shrinking to child size
  • Their head suddenly exploding, followed by the limbs too
  • Walking on the ceiling of the room
  • Swarms upon swarms of monsters attacking you, making you hope that it is a sanity effect and not a steep spike in difficulty
  • The character will attempt to reload their gun but will accidentally shoot themselves in the stomach, causing their death (not really but in the sanity effect)
  • Bugs suddenly appearing on your TV screen and eventually covering it with creepy crawlies. This one got me the first time, I was sure there was fly’s on my TV
  • Your inventory will be empty of ammo and health
  • When you save your game a message will pop up saying ‘Would you like to delete your saved game?’, picking yes or no results in a message saying your game has been deleted
  • Your screen will go black and you will hear the sounds of your character being attacked or eaten. Making you believe that the video output is faulty but the game is still playing

eternal-darkness-delete-games-sanity-effects

Other grim effects involve finding a man hanging from the ceiling or your character finding themselves in a bathtub of blood. There are loads more sanity effects too and it really helps to set the game apart from others. I would find myself purposely trying to lower my sanity just so I can see more freak out moments. A great horror game, just a shame the planned sequel never came to fruition. I’ll never forget the mini heart attack, thinking I just deleted my save data. Good times.

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Trivia- Dead Space: Chapter Cryptology

Trivia

In Dead Space 1, our hero, Isaac Clark boards the Ishimura planet cracker spaceship in search of his wife. She was aboard the ship when a distress signal was sent out and Isaac saddles up his engineering suit and heads to her rescue. Upon arriving on the ship, Isaac sees that all is not right, as grotesque amalgamations of bodies called Necromorphs attack him. Throughout the game, Isaac sees his dear beloved who seems to be leading Isaac to something rather than leaping into his arms.

As the player reaches the back end of the game, they are met with a startling revelation. Spoilers inbound: Nicole was dead the entire time. Not only that but Isaac knew of this and was in denial the entire game. At the start of the game Isaac is seen playing a recorded message from his partner. She is clearly under duress and scared, as this is when the distress signal is being broadcast. Once the video message is over, Isaac arrives at the Ishimura and enters. At the end of the game, we are treated to that same video except it doesn’t cut off where it did previously. The footage then shows the poor Nicole using a needle on herself. She then closes her eyes and dies. It’s a grim scene and one that many wouldn’t have seen coming. Sure Nicole seemed off during the game but the realisation that this entire time, we have been playing as a character in denial and who has been risking his life for a truth that doesn’t exist. Her actions may have alluded to some strange goings on but there was a massive give away the developers put into the game to give us a clue. Dead Space is split up into 12 chapters. Each with a title of its own. Seeing these titles 1 as you’re playing the game, you would be hard pressed to see the clue in plain site. But string the chapter titles together and the puzzle is complete.

Chapter 1: New Arrivals
Chapter 2: Intensive Care
Chapter 3: Course Correction
Chapter 4: Obliteration Imminent
Chapter 5: Lethal Devotion
Chapter 6: Environmental Hazard
Chapter 7: Into the Void
Chapter 8: Search and Rescue
Chapter 9: Dead on Arrival
Chapter 10: End of Days
Chapter 11: Alternate Solutions
Chapter 12: Dead Space

Simply take the first letter of each title and Nicole’s fate is revealed. Nicole Is Dead.  I personally love attention to details like this or subtle hints that developers input into their games. They don’t need to do this. I imagine most people who played Dead Space never even knew of this detail. I didn’t until a year or so after completing the game. It plays in with the lore of the Dead Space universe too. In the game there is The Marker which is this alien doodad that reanimates the dead and tends to make people in its vicinity go a bit mad. Isaac has a wide variety of hallucinations during the Dead Space series due to The Marker. This manipulation of the brain theme plays into the Nicole revelation. It’s as if Isaac’s subconscious is trying to convince him of Nicole’s fate. In the end he accepts the truth but only after a gruelling journey through the Ishimura. Maybe that’s what it takes to accept the death of a loved one to space monsters. Stomping a few hundred into the ground doesn’t hurt either.

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Tips or Trivia- Silent Hill 2: James’s Monsters

Trivia

The Silent Hill series is full of body horror monsters. They’re creatures of nightmare fuel. Generally each monster is the way it is, due to the character it is hounding. The monsters represent something of importance to those trapped within the foggy town. This idea is lost or muddied in later games but in Silent Hill 2, the theme shines bright.

pyramid head
Wait till you meet his cousin, Rhombus Face

This is going to go into spoiler territory, so if you want to play this game at any point, I recommend you skip this trivia. Believe me, I would love for you to read my tantalising words but I would prefer it if you experienced the game before I ruin the story. And for a horror game it does have a good, weighty story. You’ve been warned. OK! In Silent Hill 2, James receives a letter from his dead wife saying she’ll be waiting for him at ‘our special place’. James believes this to be a hotel in Silent Hill. Along his journey through the mostly abandoned town, James encounters several kinds of repulsive beings. Two of the most seen are the nurses and Pyramid Head himself. Pyramid head is like a force of nature. Unrelentingly looking for James and almost impossible to stop. Why the fixation on James though? As for the nurses, they first appear in the hospital, where nurses tend to be. Their uniforms are more on the revealing Halloween costume scale than work attire. The clothing is sparse enough to show ample breasts and legs. Sounds sexy but if you saw one of these things up close you’d run the other way and straight into an open grave.  ‘My time on this Earth is done’. Like I said, the monster design isn’t just slapping limbs where limbs weren’t before. Even though, at times it looks like it.

James killed his wife. It gets revealed towards the end. His wife, Mary, was very ill and dying in a hospital. She was weak, frail and spent most of her time bedridden.  Mary and James argued during this time and James decided to spend a lot of his time elsewhere, because of this. This went on for a few years before it became too much for James. He didn’t handle this very well and in the end he smothered Mary with a pillow. It’s a twist I never saw coming. When you have that knowledge though, the world of Silent Hill 2 starts to make more sense. Pyramid head represents James guilt. To go from a loving, close relationship, to fighting and hardly seeing each other. And the times when you do see each other, you aren’t close. That resentment builds and that’s why James did what he did. He buries the murder deep within him and goes on with his life. When James arrives at Silent Hill, he is stalked throughout the town by Pyramid Head.  This is James’s subconscious want for punishment. Pyramid Head is here to dole out James’s sentence.

silent hill 2 nurse
Hey beautiful, where have you been all my life?

The nurses represent lust and desire. James is a man who was in a loving relationship. Rapidly that love and security dissipates and James is left with a husk of a relationship. He has feelings and needs. These aren’t being met but he tries to be a good husband and not to act on these sexual pangs. The nurse’s revealing clothes allude to his wants. The fact that they’re nurses is a smart design choice. James would have been visiting the hospital to see Mary quite often. He would have his urges and he would be in the presence of nurses. Most of whom will be women that he’ll see on a regular basis but will have no physical contact with, even though that’s what he desires.

And so, when you see Pyramid Head or nurses in other Silent Hill games or films, ask yourself if it suits thematically. These two monsters in particular are staples of the franchise now but most of the time they don’t have that connection with the protagonist, that the fantastic Silent Hill 2 had.

 

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Tips or Trivia- Resident Evil 4: Flash! Ahhhh *Dead*

Tip

In Resident Evil 4 you play as Leon S. Kennedy, a man who has a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Usually on his first day of the job too. First, it was in Raccoon City with a zombie outbreak, it was Leon’s first day on the police force. Then his first mission for the US Government, was to track down the presidents missing daughter, Ashley Graham.  The Intel provided to Leon informed him that Ashley was taken to a remote location in Spain. Leon arrives and makes friends with the locals. And by that I mean he murders a bunch of farmers with pitchforks. Easy pickings for Leon who has previously fought zombies and other un-dead abominations and survived.

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Psst, hey Leon! You might kill more if you had 20/20 vision. Maybe trim your hair a bit.

But come night time, these villagers develop a defence for Leon’s suplex-ing ways. Originally Leon could pop a peasant in the head and pile-drive his face into the dirt, no problem. It was like lifting a bag of shopping for super boy Leon. But under the cover of darkness a head shot could lead to an even more perilous situation. These villagers are housing squirming, biting and tentacle swinging parasites within their bodies. These parasites are vicious. Their host is under attack and so their fight mode activates. That easy villager is now a Alien lookalike with legs.  But why didn’t we see them during the daytime segment of the game. Well my fellow reader, like Dracula, they prefer to stay out of the light. Light makes them go pop like a weasel.

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You forget to mention your best feature. Don’t be shy. Sell yourself, Flash Grenade.

Now, throughout the game, you have been picking up grenades. Flash grenade, flame grenade and…….well, grenade grenade. The kind that goes boom. If you were like me you would instantly favour the boom and flame types. They deal damage whereas the flash grenade just makes the villagers stumble about like they got chilli sauce in their eyes. In my first play through I sold the flash grenades. Stupid, I know. The light the flash grenade emits not only stuns villagers, it disintegrates the parasites. These parasites are resilient, they inhale bullets like its food at a buffet until they burst. One flash grenade and it’s bye bye face-hugger. That’s why I highly recommend keeping a few flash grenades on you. Pop a few skulls and keep the conga line of exposed villagers coming. Then toss a flash grenade and soak in that tan.

 

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Tips or Trivia

Halloween Edition

Spooky Time! I’ve decided to do smaller chunk articles along side my other features and reviews. I’ve always enjoyed reading background information about games and hearing how others have played games differently to me. And so, I’ve decided for the rest of this month, I will post a small read about individual games each day. Horror games I might add. For this is the season of frights. With it being Friday 13th I thought I’d get started today. Yup! I chose to do it today on purpose. It wasn’t like I didn’t think of this idea until only yesterday and saw that the day conveniently had scary connotations to it. 100% planned for weeks.

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Overwatch is in Need of Support

A support hero specifically. I bought Overwatch on release day and since then I have usually played it every day for at least an hour. It’s a great game and rekindled my love of online FPS’s which I was quickly losing interest in. The lore surrounding the game, it’s world, the unique characters, all of this set Overwatch apart for me. It’s creator, Blizzard have done a great job, in my view, of listening to fan input and complaints. Sure, they’ve changed a few things characters recently that a large portion of the player base wasn’t too happy about, but these changed haven’t ruined the characters, they just made them different.

One thing that a big chunk of the player base wants is a new support character. For those that don’t know, Overwatch’s heroes are divided into four classes. Offence, defence, tank and support. The amount of heroes in each class is as follows respectively: 8, 6, 6, 5. As you can see Offence has the most heroes and while that’s all well and good a new support would go a long way to adding variety. Since launch on May 24th 2016, the game has welcomed Ana to the support class. She is a great addition but the class sorely needs some new freshness installed. All the support heroes in my view are fun to play as but after playing them for so long it’s losing its charm. I like to play as an all rounder and do play the classes that need playing. That tends to be support as most people lock straight in as offence or tank. And, I can hardly blame them. Offence has so many options to choose from and both it and tanks are up in the front lines, right into the fray. Supports tend to stay back and cover the teams rear while providing healing. While that’s fun and a vital part of your team, it can get stale when you’ve played that character a lot. I tend to play Mystery Heroes now as the random nature of it and the lack of needing to fill a class slot for your team, means I don’t feel obliged to play support. But, for those that play competitive or support is what they’re best at, a new hero to play as would be amazing.

Supports for me offer the most interesting opportunity. Four of those supports have healing functions. Symmetra differs, as she can set up portable turrets to assist her team, but her biggest support contribution is in her ultimate’s. A shield generator or a teleporter. I like this idea of a support that does something different to healing. The teleporter is a great tool as it lets your team back into the fight quicker and with full health. Another hero with something similar but a bit more offensive would be a good move as Symmetra doesn’t get picked as much when attacking. Quick idea off the top of my head but a character similar to Symmetra but also Torbjorn. Say you have a wall that is connected to a room on the other side. Imagine having a character who could essentially Put a door through that wall.  Like Symmetra’s teleporter. Perhaps from the same business of even a rival company. This would help flesh out the lore of the world and Symmetra’s background.  The door would allow your team mates to pass through and get behind the unsuspecting team. Offence classes are usually the flankers but with this and coordination, your entire team can be flankers. This isn’t a fully fledged hero proposal. I can see flaws with the idea already and am unsure about the other abilities this new hero would have. The point I’m striving to make is that a new support doesn’t need to be a healer. It could be something more Symmetra based or a hybrid of the two. You could walk through the door and it heals you too or something else entirely. Support means that that character helps your team. It’s a great class to get creative and weird with. Blizzard is good at being creative and I’m sure they can do infinitely better than my idea.

One other trait that would make a new support class ten times better. Make them a Talon agent or a bad guy of some kind. All the supports are nice people. Symmetra, not so much. She’s not cartoon villain evil like Reaper, which is what I want or similar. My magic door man could even be a burglar or spy or something. Overwatch is a world full of character. Right now though the good heroes outweigh the bad or selfish heroes. I want to see more clashes of ideals, and conflicts.  Roadhog and Junkrat are fantastic characters. They’re selfish but they’re not evil. They’re fun to learn more about and to imagine their devilish escapades. Goody two shoes are fine but I always prefer to watch a flamboyant villain. It’s what makes the best villains in films. A dose injected into this game would be a treat. Reaper is spot on. He’s Saturday morning cartoon baddie. But where is the evil support of that? Bad guys need to be healed too. Or a character who creates fancy weapons or gadgets for their evil schemes. Where is the eccentric follower like Igor in Frankenstein, for the Talon organisation? Mercy supports Overwatch so who supports Talon. And before you say Sombra, she’s a wild card. She’s like Catwoman. She has her own agenda and helps when she wants to. A good bad support is needed. I’m hoping we get one in the short future.

Anyway, go play Overwatch  if you haven’t already. Currently the Halloween event is on and Junkenstein’s Revenge is a great mode.  I can’t recommend the game enough. Feel free to comment and I hope you enjoyed the read.

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Keeping Peach In HER Keep

Hi there! Are you tired of over grown lizards stealing your princess? Kicked down too many castle doors and told your princess is in another castle? You need to call us, the MKS (Mushroom Kingdom Security)! Call now on 1800-123-MKS and quote the code ‘Princess’ to get 20% off our Protected Princess package. This package includes all the premium gear you’ll ever need to keep your damsel in distress, just a damsel. The following features will be provided and installed by yours truly:

  1. Warp Pipes: With these green beauties that pesky Bowser won’t get too far with your beloved. We install a hub room in the confines of your castle that is JAM-PACKED with warp pipes to across the land. Now when Bowser and your ravishing maiden are half way to his fiery castle, you just hop in a warp pipe for the end of World 7 and wait for the blundering fool to appear. Quick, efficient, and you and your highness will be back in the throne room before Luigi even notices.
  2. Power Up Pack x 10: You ever been up a creak without a frog suit before? Not any more! With our patented Power Up Pack’s that Super Mushroom is just tap away. In our PP package you don’t just get 1 of these, nor 5 but 10! You read that right, I said, 10! Before you set off for your rescue mission, slap one of these to your plumbers belt. Then, when that annoying red shell as taken away your power up, just slap the  PP pack and BOOM! An explosion of upgrades will burst forth in front of you. Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, Super Star, Tanooki Suit, Penguin Suit, Cat Suit and more. We’ve got them all. Even the ones that weren’t in your World till now, we scoured the Mushroom Kingdom so you don’t have to.
  3. Chomps: The best offence is the best defence. And here at MKS we do offer the very best of both. Now tell me if this rings a bell. You go to rescue your silken haired beloved but before your very eyes, is a raging black ball of teeth that’d tear you up faster than a Wiggler unwrapping Christmas day’s 8 pair pack of socks, from Grandma Wiggler. The only thing keeping this untamed sphere of fury off your face is the chain that secures it. Now what if we flipped the script on that Godzilla wannabe and fight fire with even hotter fire. Buy our pack today and we’ll place a Chain Chomp in each of your strongholds rooms. But we don’t stop there. We place a Chain Chomp to cover every 10 metres of your buildings exterior. We supply you with the biggest deterrent of the Mushroom Kingdom for your own home. Now you may be thinking ‘MKS are you crazy!? Why would I want these vicious atrocities in every room of my stronghold?’. No need to fret, friend. We hand raise these Chain Chomp’s ourselves in a secure location in The Forest of Illusion. These boys don’t bite the hand that feeds them and you’ll be surprised at how loyal they can be. Heck, you can even get rid of the Chain and just have your own personally Chomp rolling around your room. Your own personal guard Chomp.
  4. Toad Camp: Now we’re being too kind. Do you ever wish you could have some help with protecting your Princess. That lanky brother of yours always crying about ghosts and cowering with fear when that repugnant, reptile face shows up. You wish those Toads would step up and stop telling you to go save the Princess. Wish they would do it themselves? Me too, friend. That’s why we offer to take your castle’s Toads for a vigorous, strenuous and absolutely stupendous 2 month training exercise. This 60 day course will push your Toads to the limit. Strength, speed and jumping will be improved like you wouldn’t believe. Turning your Toads from a bunch of Fun-guys to Toad-al beefcakes.
  5. Star Juice Vial x 15: Marioooooooooo! She shouts, as Bowser snatches her away in his ugly, dulled claws. With our PP pack this will be a thing of the past. And if that sneaky reptile does manage to grab your princess on a social outing somehow. Possibly when playing tennis or go-karting. Your royal leader will be fully prepared. Our Star Juice is 100% freshly squeezed and organic. We only use the brightest and shiniest Super Star’s. We condense that energy into a little vial that comes with a necklace that is personally tailored for your fair lady. When Bowser grabs the soon to be queen, she pops the vial from her necklace and drinks the Star Juice. The beat down that Bowser will receive will be like none before. He’ll think twice before trying to turn your princess into a helpless captive. Girl Power!

If this all sounds too good to be true then pinch yourself and see if you’re dreaming. I’ll let in you in on a little secret. You’re not. For just 999 coins this bargain can be yours. Call now on 1800-123-MKS and quote ‘Princess’ for your exclusive saving. Put up and your feet and let us do the rest.

MKS- Securing the Mushroom Kingdom, so you don’t have to.


MKS isn’t liable for any damages to you, your princess or your castle if our packages are used inappropriately. It is not advised to release your Chain Chomps from their chains unless you individually, have received the full Chain Chomp release training provided by the MK Government. MKS is not liable to pay for any injuries sustained at the Toad Camp or Toad misplacement. All our products have been tested and approved by the MK Regulations Act of 1976. MKS is a Mushroom Kingdom sanctioned public trading company and is fully covered by the MK Trading Standard Act of 1984.    

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Just A Quick Go: SNES Mini

As a 90’s child, I grew up with the Super Nintendo. One of my first ever memories is sat in front of our old CRT TV playing Donkey Kong Country. An ice level actually, I was struggling on this particular level and played it so much I can still remember the level’s song. When, the NES Mini was announced I didn’t buy one. Not because I didn’t think it was worth it, but because it wasn’t nostalgic for me. The SNES was my first console and possibly my favourite console to date. There may be some bias there as it is my first system but the staggeringly good line up speaks for itself. The SNES had an over-abundance of titles that to this day hold up and was the birth place of many of gaming’s greatest iterations. And so when they announced the SNES Mini, I had to get one.

I’ve only played it for about 4 hours and haven’t touched some of the games yet. This is just my take away from my brief re-introduction to some classics. The SNES Mini itself: cute as. I didn’t realise it is this small. The SNES controller itself is wider than the SNES. The dinky console comes with two controllers, the system, a USB cable and a HDMI cable. It’s deceptively small and comes with 21 games built into the system.  I think, the console looks the part, the resemblance is striking. It even has the fake controller entry points that the SNES had back in the day. Now with this new version, that is a plastic guard which you pull to reveal the real plug sockets. The controllers themselves feel lighter than I remember but that could just be an age thing. An issue I have at the minute are the length of the wires for the controllers. They’re short. Not as short as the NES Mini so I’ve read. But still, wires are dirt cheap these days. Nintendo could have shelled out for another 3 foot, no problem. There are remedies if this is an issue for you. I’ve bought some extensions which basically attach to the controllers wire length and increases that to a more comfortable length. The controllers now reach 10 feet which is couch length with some slack, which suits me more. A simple fix but a fix that shouldn’t need to exist.

On the subject of the controllers. An extra button or two would have gone a long way to increase enjoyment of the system. Nintendo has a newly added rewind feature on the system. A feature which is greatly appreciated. I’ve forgotten how hard and unforgiving some of these games are. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, I can’t even beat the first level any more. The rewind feature goes a long way to help alleviate frustration but the rewind button is on the console itself. There is no way to implement the rewind unless you go over to the console and hit the reset button. This then takes you to the main screen, with all the games to select and the option to use a save slot, to save your progress or rewind to seconds or minutes earlier, depending on the game. I know Nintendo are going for a true to classic look but an extra button on the SNES controller called ‘Rewind’ wouldn’t hurt. The controller isn’t cluttered, it has room for it. The rewind is a great feature that requires too much effort to use. And that might sound like I’m being lazy but I tend to play my games to unwind, so lying on the couch comfortably is my preferred style. I don’t want to have to be sat right next to the console or to get up every time I want to use the save state or rewind. Another issue I have and I might be stupid for not seeing why this couldn’t have happened. Is, I don’t understand why the SNES Mini can’t work on a computer or laptop screen. I tested it out on my laptop and nothing loads up. I’m not too tech savvy, but I’d imagine that would have been quite simple to implement.

And with that, my nit picking is done. I have issues with the system but it plays the games I want it to play and, it’s retro and nostalgic for me. The list of games are fantastic. A lot of these games I haven’t played yet either because I wasn’t aware of the series at the time, or just because I had limited money and had to make choices over other games. Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Street Fighter 2, Star Fox and Super Mario Kart are the only games from the list that I actually owned. A few of the others I’ve touched over the years but never at length. I love the Zelda series but only got into Zelda when Ocarina of Time came out. Before that I wasn’t aware of the series and so to have A Link to the Past included is a real treat. Many call it the best Zelda game and I am so looking forward to finding out why people say that. Super Metroid is the same as Zelda, great praise but I never tried it. Fusion and Metroid Prime were my first introductions and I love both those. It comes with 4 RPG’s that I’ve never played more than 3 hours of. Earthbound I’ve never touched and so am excited to try that.

Contra 3 was the first game I played when I switched on the system. The Konami logo popped up and memories came flooding back to me. I rented this game when I was young and don’t think I got very far but definitely further than I got today. This game is tough! I’m amazed at how much persistence I had as a kid. You forget how merciless these games are. After losing all 5 lives on the first level I walked away dishevelled and feeling old. Are my reflexes slower these days? Or is it because when you’re younger, when you get a game, that is your game for ages. I would make games last because I had so few. Super Mario World I cleared several times, Star Road and all. When I loaded it up today, I was killed by the first enemy. I’m embarrassed by that but not ashamed to admit it. Trying to jump that Beach Koopa I completely forgot the physics and momentum of the game and landed right in front of it. And I’m happy about that. I can remember the sound effects, the layouts, the music but the actual feel of the game is rusty in my fingertips.  The thought of playing something loved, familiar but forgotten too is what I wanted when I ordered the SNES Mini. It’s as I remember it, nothings changed except me. Nothing highlights that for me more, than Donkey Kong Country.

Starting this game again after so long is a bit jarring. The intro doesn’t look as good as I remember it I’ll confess. Donkey Kong Country did have a different look to it than other games at the time. But hearing Cranky playing that song again and DK dropping that boom box for some ape free-styling, brought back the 90’s for me. The soundtrack to this game still holds up too. I was humming away during the first water level, that tranquil song as relaxing as ever. All was going well playing this game. I got acclimatised to the rolling then mid air jumping again. Which is needed for later levels as some collectables are way below the land you’re standing on. Then I got to the first mine cart level. Wow, the pressure. My heart was racing. I went from 20 lives to 8 in just a few minutes. The thrill of those sections is still in this game after all these years. After completing that section I had to save and switch off the SNES Mini.

I had great fun with my short time on the SNES Mini and am eagerly looking forward to sinking my teeth into its catalogue of classics.

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A Day In The Life: Stardew Valley

I’ve been playing Stardew Valley A LOT lately.  Currently clocked in at just over 55 hours on the PS4 version. My fiancée is around 25 hours on Steam. We’ve spent many nights lately swapping farming knowledge and advice whilst both on the same couch watching different screens. It’s a great game. Recently I passed the 1 year mark and so I thought I’d just assess how far I’ve come since arriving on my abandoned farm all those hours ago.

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Well that flew by

For anyone reading who doesn’t know what Stardew Valley is, it’s a farming game essentially. Your character acquires a farm from a relative, you quit your job and get on a bus to your new home. When, you arrive the town mayor shows you to the farm that you now own. It is littered with weeds, overgrown grass, trees and rocks everywhere. You get given some money, some seeds, gardening tools and that’s it. You get advised to go into town and talk to the townsfolk and visit the local shop but what you do next it up to you. Farming is the core component but fishing, mining, exploring, foraging, socialising with the locals and doing up an old town hall through item gathering are all available at your leisure.  It’s an easy to grasp but loads to find out and learn along the way type game. As you progress and do more things, your character will upgrade and improve in areas as well as be able to build new features for your farm. Each year in the game is split up into 4 months which represent the 4 seasons. When you arrive on your farm, it’s the 1st of Spring. A month consists of 28 days and each month has certain produce that can only grow in that month, seasonal fish to catch and a bunch of other season only events.  There is tremendous depth to this game which I’m sure I’ll cover in a review in the future but right now I’m nowhere near done with this game. So for now, here’s an average day for farmer Rudiger on Kraken farm.

Journal Entry: Saturday 13th, Summer, My 2nd Year

I woke up nice and early this morning at 6am. I usually do that anyway but I’ve got a bumper of crops I need to pluck from the soil today. Been waiting for my melons to grow and now they should be perfectly ripe and plump. I get out of bed and say hello to my baby girl Sarah, who’s up already and crawling across the bedroom floor happily.  Must be nice to not have a care in the world at that age. I see my beloved wife Abigail by the cooker and we chat about the time we beat a level on Journey to the Prairie King. A video game Abigail was struggling on last year. It was one of the first times we spent time alone together and it was also a moment of connection for us both. Looking back at it, that might be the moment I knew I cared for her that way. She was always endearing. The way she’d eat flowers that I gave to her as a gift, I always found that peculiar but intriguing. That and the fact she’s a gaming girl sealed the deal and we got married.  Happy to this day I might add.

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I’ve got a lovely bunch melons! Here they are just growing in a row!

I kiss her goodbye and head into the cellar. I recently stocked up some casks with goat cheese and cow dairy cheese. None of them have matured enough yet to sell so I’ll come back again tomorrow. As I leave my house I can hear the distinct sound of rain as I exit my sleepy haze. The door opens and I am immediately hit by that earthy smell of wet soil. I should trust the weather forecasts more, I could have got an extra hour in bed. The crops are watered by nature today. That saves me a job this morning. Scanning my field I see that my melons are glistening in the rain. Ripe, beautiful colour and ready for harvesting. I pluck them from the moist earth and examine their quality. 5 are immaculate. I’ll use these for making melon wine once my kegs are free. I promised Penny if I grew any melons I’d bring her one as they’re her favourite fruit. So I keep 1 aside, plus the 5 perfect melons and I put the rest in the shipping bin. Those will be collected in the night and I’ll wake up to find my wallet has grown fatter. Easy-peasy. I venture over to my coop and check up on my little guys. Not a bad haul, 4 eggs and a loose duck feather. Feathers fetch a pretty penny so I’ll sell this along with my 2 dinosaur eggs and then I’ll make mayonnaise out of the remaining eggs. I pop over to my barn and say hello to my gang of misfits. My goats aren’t producing milk today but my 2 cows: Meryl and Mary are prime for milking. I’ll use this milk to make some fine cheese later. Nearly done for the morning, the greenhouse is the last to do on my land. I enter the greenhouse and my flowers have started blooming. A radiant blue colour. I take them from the soil and collect the rest of the crops. A lot of coffee beans were picked today, those will sell well tonight. I head back to my house and use my mayonnaise and cheese press machines. Those’ll be ready by the time I get back.

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I’m sure you’re dying to know, so my animal names: Chickens- Chilly, Chuckles, Clucky/ Ducks- Quackers,Bill (GET IT!?)/ Rabbit- Thumper / Dinosaurs- Lizzie, Scales/ Cows- Meryl, Mary     Sheep- Baaaabara/ Goats- Kicky, Lulu, Berty

I jump aboard my loyal steed Clip-Clop and we head into town! When we get there I check the local calendar for events. It’s Alex’s birthday today! I’ll pop in to his and give him a present. Before I can even get through the door, the delicious aroma of baked goods come flooding up my nostrils. As if in a daze, I go to the kitchen like a zombie. I find Evelyn there. She tells me she’s happy to see me and that she’s just baked a fresh batch of her famous cookies. Try one, she says. Oh my god! They’re the best things since sliced bread. Crumbly but with gooey chocolate. Evelyn also gave me the recipe to make them myself. I was a bit taken back by this. In the beginning, when I first arrived to town, she told me that maybe 1 day she’d tell me her secret recipe. I guess she trusts me to have it now. Savouring that treat, I headed to Alex’s room.

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I’m selling this recipe on eBay, Granny

I should knock before entering rooms. He was lifting weights. Shirtless. He didn’t seem awkward about it but I felt wrong for just barging in. But he apologised to me. I wasn’t expecting that. He explained that he spoke a bit harshly to me about his American football dreams in the past and that he regretted it. That he just gets defensive about what he cares about. He had no need to apologise to me but I’m honoured that he did. Before I go I wish him happy birthday and give him one of the flowers I plucked earlier. He smiles and thanks me and I go to leave. Walking past the kitchen I give Evelyn one of the flowers too. She’s delighted by it. They’re a nice family, even George, though he can be a bit cranky at times but I think that’s a façade. I look at the time and see that it’s later than I thought.

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I could take mine off if that’d make you feel better. Want tickets to the gun show?

I jump aboard Clip-Clop and we head to Clint’s Blacksmiths.  I was in the mines yesterday and found a large stash of geodes. I ask Clint to crack them open for me. I pay him his usual rate and he gives me the hidden treasures. Not a bad deal. I got some precious minerals to keep for later. I got 2 things that I’ll donate to Gunther at the museum and I got some precious Iridium. This rare ore is what I’ve been searching for lately. Difficult to find and guarded by monsters but at least I’ve got enough now to smelt a bar out of it. I drop off my 2 rare finds to Gunther at the museum, which he thanks me for and away I go to the beach. When, I get to the beach I go to the shoreline to investigate my crab pots. Not lucky today. Mostly rubbish and soggy newspaper. Still, worth a go though so I put some bait in the pots and I’ll see what I catch tomorrow.

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I see that I have 1 flower left and so I decide to see how Jodi and the kids are doing.  Sam and Vincent are playing games and watching TV, I hand  the kids some coral I found at the beach. Boys love that kind of stuff! Their mum is doing dishes in the kitchen and I hand her the flower. Her face lights up and she thanks me for it. I check the time and see I’m behind schedule. I bid farewell and quickly dash for the door.

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It’s nice to be nice in this game. Comes with perks too, like recipes and gifts

I race to the bus depot to catch the last departure but I’m too late. I see Pam walking by me, no doubt on her way to the Saloon for a refreshing drink. Well that’s me not going to the Skull Cavern today. I was hoping to find more of that Iridium but maybe tomorrow instead. I decide to head back home and tie up any loose ends for the night. My darling Abigail has made me some soup which I’ll save for tomorrows expedition. My cheeses are ready from this morning and smelling good. I take them down to my cellar and stick them in a cask to age for a week or 2. My mayonnaise is ready too so I stick that in my shipping box along with the mussels I found at the beach.

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The clock is ticking but the night is still young. I can’t go on the bus but I can go to the local mine instead. I’m running low on bait for my crab pots and the bugs in the mines make excellent bait for fish. So I jump on Clip-Clop and we head to the dark and gloomy mines. Along the way I find some juicy grapes and realise I’ve not seen Linus for a while. He lives in a tent on the outskirts of town and I hardly come this way anymore. It’d be nice to see him to I poke my head into his tent and there he is. We have a brief talk and I give him the grapes. He’s kind as always and likes the grapes. He lives the foraging lifestyle anyway so I’m sure he appreciates the gesture and visit, especially given how isolated he is up here. We say our goodbyes and I venture into the mines.

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Not too deep as the bugs tend to hand around the early floors. I’m not at it long when I realise it’s past 10pm.  I’ve got to be up at 6am tomorrow so time to call it a night, leave the mines and head back home.

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Precious bug meat!

Once home I use the bug meat I found and use it to create some bait. That should do me a while now. I also see that some of my kegs are ready, so I take the wine from them and put my melons from this morning into them. I’m looking forward to trying some of that melon wine but for now, I’ll leave it to soak and ferment. Didn’t accomplish all that I wanted to today but it was nice having time to see people and to hear about their day. Tomorrow will be a busy day and I definitely need to get to the Skull Cavern at some point soon. But for now that is all. I’m going to go put all my stuff away for the day and get into bed. Until next time, Diary.

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I hope you enjoyed this look into what Stardew Valley has to offer and it’s different gameplay elements. This is just my playthrough too. You could specialize in crops, in fishing, you could have loads of barns full of cows and be a dairy farmer. I did a stint where I was producing tons of coffee and riding into town handing out fried eggs. There is so much to do and it’s interesting to see the growth over time. You may see another day in Year 3 at some point. But for now, take care.

 

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5 Protagonists That Changed in Their Sequels for Better Or Worse

Lately I’ve been playing Zelda: Breathe of the Wild and even though Link doesn’t talk in this game, he still expresses himself more than he has in other games. Many people clamour for Link to speak whilst others believe he should remain silent. There are both pros and cons to each outcome but I believe I’ll save that for another day.  Today I want to talk about other characters in gaming who underwent a significant change in behaviour.  Wearing new sunglasses or getting the latest trendy haircut doesn’t count. It needs to be a change that either impacts the gameplay or makes a stark contrast to previous iterations. So here are a few examples and if they worked or not.

Isaac Clark (Dead Space 2)

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The original Dead Space was a dark, tense and isolated game where you controlled ship engineer Isaac Clark, as he explores the derelict Ishimura spaceship. The Ishimra was a planet cracker on a mission, but something went horribly wrong and they released a distress signal. Isaac’s partner Nicole is aboard the Ishimura as part of the crew and so Isaac is eager to get aboard and rescue his beloved. Throughout this game Isaac doesn’t speak. He makes grunting noises when hit or when stomping corpses, as he loves to do. But there is no dialogue for him. Not only that but we barely see Isaac’s face at all. This is very reminiscent of Link in the Zelda games. Miyamoto wanted Link to be a connection to the player (Link, being wordplay on this idea) to the world of Hyrule.  He was made silent as a way for players to personify with him more with themselves. Similar to how Isaac if portrayed here.

In Dead Space 2, not only do we see Isaac without his helmet on. A lot, I might add. He also is a bit of a chatter box this time around. Full on conversations with other characters and in his visions too. Isaac goes from a silent protagonist to a regular engineer. The kind you get round your house to install a new phone line. They’re always up for a good gab so at least Isaac is more believable now. These changes I feel benefit Dead Space 2. (Spoilers for Dead Space 1 incoming) In the original Dead Space, Isaac is mostly alone, wandering through dark corridors of and unravelling the ill fate of its crew.  The only real dialogue is from his partner Nicole, when he finds her and helps her through the Ishimura. We later find out,  she has been dead this entire time.

So it makes sense for Isaac not to talk to her. He knows she’s dead, he’s in a state of denial but also deep down knows she can’t be. This combined with the fact that there is not really much character interactions with Isaac makes the mute decision a good one in my eyes. Sure the odd ‘What the hell?!’ as a necromorph lunges for him for the first time would be more realistic but for story purposes, a voice wasn’t needed. Dead Space 2 on the other hand starts with Isaac chatting with a psychologist. This theme that Isaac knows the danger, is trying to spread the word and stop the same fate the Ishimura had, works well. Nearly everyone Isaac meets, he informs of the dangers and horrors that are going to be unleashed unless he finds the Marker.  Dead Space 2 also doesn’t take place on an abandoned ship in space, it happens on The Sprawl which is basically like a complex in space. Full of apartments, shops and weird cults. Therefore, there are people to interact with. It would be frustrating for the player; as Isaac, to meet a new friend and poor, old Isaac to be silent and not warning the person to flee, get off The Sprawl. That is why I’m in favour of motormouth Isaac. It suits the context well.

Prince of Persia (Prince of Persia: Warrior Within)

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In Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Prince is a young descendant of royalty. He is cocky, brash and stubborn. His life has been handed to him on a platter. He and his father attack a local palace under the guidance of The Vizier of that palace. The Vizier tells of their pick of treasures housed within the palace. During this attack The Prince finds a dagger. Unbeknown to him at the beginning but this dagger holds the power to rewind time or to slow it down. Within the palace there lies an hourglass that stores the sands of time. It is then revealed that The Vizier is evil all along (surprise, surprise) and uses the sands to turn all inhabitants beside himself, The Prince and the Princess Farah to be turned into monsters. Shenanigans ensue and the Prince and Farah have to team up to take down The Vizier and fix the wrought they helped bring.

In this first game The Prince is arrogant. He believes he knows the world and what he says, goes.  This causes clashes between him and Farah who isn’t willing to follow orders just because he calls himself a prince. He doesn’t act like a representative for his people as royalty should. Throughout the game The Prince matures and understands more of the world around him. By the end of the game he has to make difficult decisions and does so in a respectable manner. He truly evolves as the game goes on and concludes. Then Warrior Within happens.

The Prince is now a bit older. About 7 years have passed since the last game. The Prince is now sporting a death metal look. Black flowing hair, dual wielding swords and has been to a belt sale and raided his wallet. The Prince is now a bitter, worn out man. Since the events of The Sands of Time, a great being has begun after our hero. The Dahaka is essentially a time guardian. It knows that The Prince cheated death and is here to amend that. And while I understand that The Prince has been getting less sleep and is fed up with his life and so that’s why he looks a bit moody. I don’t get the belts at all. If you’re having a nap and suddenly the Dahaka comes storming through your door, those belts aren’t quick to put on. Or does he just wear them constantly? Imagine the smell! Actually, don’t.

I don’t believe this change was needed. The game is gorier, has metal music playing during fights and is overall more mature. But not in a good way. It’s trying too hard to be edgy and the aesthetic of the game suffers. It’s hard to follow his characters arc since The Sands of Time to this. I just don’t buy it. Still a good game but I would have preferred a more mature Prince than this try hard. He’s the kid in school who turned up one day with black nails, eye-liner and wouldn’t shut up mentioning how he likes Linkin Park. But he only knows their top hits and nothing beyond that.

Jak (Jak 2)

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The Jak and Daxter series started as a fun romp of a game. An action/platformer that sees the player controlling Jak in a fictional, colour filled world, accompanied by his pal Daxter. At the start of the game Daxter falls into a pool of Dark Eco, Eco being a kind of energy resource and the dark variety being particularly hazardous. Daxter comes out of the pool unscathed but turned into an Ottsel. A weasel and otter combo for the ages. Together with Daxter, his motor mouth, and the silent Jak, our dynamic duo take off for hours of adventure exploring their world and trying to return Daxter to his former glory. Spoiler alert, he remains an ottsel for a lot of these games.

Jak 2 not only drops the ‘And Daxter’ line from its title. It also changes locale to a city structure world rather than the free range, natural world from the previous. The game takes place 500 years in the future in a city ruled by an evil Baron. When we first see Jak, he is tied to a table and being subjected to experiments with the dangerous dark eco. As a teenager when I played this game, the concept of the playable character being tortured wasn’t even a possibility to me. Especially not a sequel to a light-hearted, funny platformer. This combined with the new city hub, cars, guards with guns and Jak’s new ability to turn into Dark Jak: an enhanced, monster like version of himself, makes for a drastic tonal shift. One that works in my eyes.

Samus (Metroid: Other M)

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Samus is a silent, bold, strong willed bounty hunter. She scours the universe taking down foes, rivals, monsters with tact and precision. Government organisations know of her talents and even recruit her in their time of need. She is a professional through and through and one of gamings greatest heroes. Then Other M was made.

In Other M, Samus becomes meek somehow. Not in gameplay.  In gameplay she’s stylish and ruthless. But in the confines of cutscenes and the story, she turns into a scared rookie. When aliens appear she is seen to cower or run from a fight. There are times where she will not enable a function of her suit because her commanding officer hasn’t given her permission. Even, if her life is in danger. She refers to an alien Metroid that helps her in the opening of the game as ‘The Baby’. The Metroid’s are as race of aliens that are as detriment to the universe. Besides this singular Metroid helping Samus, they have constantly been a danger to her. The fact that she gets maternal about a former enemy is baffling. Not only that but the fact that she won’t perform actions unless her superior says so is a confusing character trait. Samus is turned from stoic warrior to a reluctant fighter who needs to be told what to do. An embarrassing portrayal of a classic hero that hopefully will never be repeated.

Ethan Thomas (Condemned 2: Bloodshot)

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Sharp detective Ethan Thomas is on the case! Crazy homeless and serial killers watch out! With his trusty flash light and board with nail or rusty pipe, those dark alley ways and warehouses have something to fear. In the first Condemned Ethan was a run of the mill detective. After investigating the latest in a string gruesome murders, Ethan finds himself framed for the murder of his comrades and must track down Serial Killer X to prove his innocence. What follows is a harrowing journey through dingy locations and encounters that test Ethan’s sanity.

In Condemned 2: Bloodshot, Ethan is a drunken mess of a man. After the events of the first game and being cleared of murder charges, Ethan retires as a detective and slinks into a life or drinking, pills and loneliness. He goes from a clean, well kept gent, to a red cheeked and messy looking loser. Ethan’s sanity is also so in disrepair as he frequently experiences hallucinations and sleepless nights. His character is more unhinged this time around and more brute than calculated detective.  And while I don’t think his look is an improvement over the original, I like the fact that he has baggage to him now. The weight of his actions and the knowledge he gained from the previous game has embedded within him and driven to slum city. After all he went through, I can believe his downfall and that for me is what makes this character change a good decision. Maybe not aesthetically but story and motive wise, I support the vision.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it and let me know what you think of the choices and if you have any to recommend.

 

 

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Gaming and Your Partner

If you’re reading this, you more than likely have an affinity for video games. With something that you enjoy, there’s always the desire to share it with you SO. But in the situation where your partner hasn’t had much experience in gaming, then finding the right games can be tricky. In this article I want to talk about co-op games and just games that offer a more basic approach. So first person shooters are out of the question. Maybe you’ve had better luck. But usually when I give a new gamer the controller to an FPS or over the shoulder perspective, they continually run into walls or run sideways into gunfire. The games I’ve selected are games that tend to not involve camera control. As novices seems to have issues with connecting the left stick to movement and the right stick to viewpoint. Lets delve in.

Overcooked (PS4, Xbox ONE, Switch and PC)

Make sure to play this only if your relationship is sturdy and ready for conflict. You have been warned. In Overcooked you and your partner take control of chefs in a kitchen. Orders come through and it’s up to you and your partner to prepare, cook and serve each order hastily. If a customer doesn’t receive their order in a set time, they’re out the door and you’re down a tip. Sounds simple enough so far but as you progress the kitchen place becomes more and more ludicrous. These kitchens range from the basic setup of a standard kitchen to a more challenging fare. Ice levels ensure a slippery time whilst lava levels spew magma which if touched, eliminates that chef for several seconds. You won’t know fury till you’re about to serve a meal and a stray fireball destroys you and your plate. It starts out as chop lettuce, chop tomatoes, BAM, salad done. Next order! The game ups the ante continuously by introducing new meals and new gimmicks. One challenge can see 3 different meals needing to be served, requiring intense co-ordination and communication to receive top marks. Another level might have the prep station on one moving lorry, while the hobs are on another lorry. The basic controls and isometric view means that the control scheme is simple and easy to learn. The game is easy to learn too, just hard to master. While some games like Mario Party can cause angry glares from your adjacent couch seat, Overcooked could potentially lead to some fiery words when someone (not naming who) burns the kitchen down. But the sense of accomplishment you and your partner will have when you 3 star a space mission, after the 8th try. You will definitely release a sigh of relief and a smile on both your faces.

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As an added bonus. This game can be played with up to four players. Making it an ideal double date night game.

WarioWare Smooth Moves (WII)

The Nintendo Wii was an immense success. Everyone and their cat had one. And while nowadays the Wii is looked back on as more of a gimmick console. It still had some stand out games. Nintendo really knew how to market it and get the ‘console for the whole family’ brought to reality. WarioWare Smooth Moves shows this to the fullest. With Wii remote in hand and a visual prompt card on the screen, what follows is an absurd mini game which needs to be completed within seconds with the action shown on the prompt card. If completed successfully, a new prompt card is shown and a new weird mini game lined up. As you complete each mini game they get more difficult and faster until you complete them all or fail. Usually because you chugged the water too quick and drenched your characters face. It always gets me that mini game. With a multitude of modes such as Survival where each person is an angel soaring through the air. You take turns at the random mini games and if you fail one, you descend lower and lower each time until you’re out the match. Or All Mixed Up where all mini games are up for play and you see how long you can go before you lose all 4 lives. This mode in particular is a great; pass the controller party game. I can’t recommend this enough for your SO or even a house party. The simple motion controls and absurdity on screen make for lots and lots of laughter. Here’s a video to show its uniqueness and it speaks for itself.

The Binding Of Isaac: Afterbirth (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

The Binding Of Isaac Rebirth, Afterbirth and Afterbirth+ are all fantastic versions. I’ve just listed Afterbirth as that’s the one I’m currently playing on PS4. They’re all great and so if you fancy getting it just get whichever version is available on your preferred platform. Afterbirth+ is the latest and has more content than the others so that’d probably be the best version to get. This game is primarily a single player game. It does have a couch co-op option but it’s more of a help option than a 2 player mode. This game is quite dark, has lots of gore and religious themes and so you yourself will have to gauge if this is an appropriate game for your situation. Isaac is a twin stick shooter. Left stick moves and right stick shoots. There are a few other buttons such as ‘use item’ and ‘use a bomb’ but you’ll figure that out when you play. The basics are you pick a character, start a run and are dropped into a randomly generated floor. You then control your character as you battle rooms of monsters and puzzles until you get to the boss of each floor. Defeat the boss, go down another floor and repeat until you either die or you succeed. Along your travels you will find money, keys, bombs to help you on your descent. You will also find items that not only offer new gameplay styles but also visually change your character. Sometimes into a grotesque, demonic child. As I said, the game is randomly generated. Each run is different but pertains to the same structure. And there lies the fun of The Binding Of Isaac. Every time you play is a different experience and although at the start it can be very difficult and confusing. With practice and time you learn the game mechanics and enemy patters. You learn which items to take and which to leave. This is why I recommend this game. To novices Isaac can be very daunting. There are over 300 items in the game and so many mysterious things that even after dozens of hours of playing you won’t have seen them all. Which is why this is the perfect back seat gaming game. Set you SO on a run and provide help. Tell her/him to save that key for the shop. Tell them that Isaac’s Heart is one of the worst items in the game and don’t pick it up.  Let them know the secrets to completing a run that you yourself have learned or are currently figuring out. It’s a great game and topic for discussion. Walking in from work and being told ‘I had a great run as The Lost today. Got to Hush and picked up Bob’s Brain by accident’, that means nothing to you if you haven’t played it. But to me that warrants a ‘Oh. Unlucky. Next time though’. It’s like talking in a secret code and it’s great. Highly recommend as long as it’s themes don’t cause offence.

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Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is an isometric, action RPG. You and your partner will pick a class, name your character and begin your quest. With 6 classes to choose from (7 if you get the DLC) you get a myriad of roles to play. Do you be a wizard and attack enemies from afar. Or go the barbarian route and get up close and personal to your foes. With this, a story mode, rare loot drops, randomised rifts to explore and a great online experience. Diablo 3 can keep you engaged for a long, long time. When you’ve levelled up your character as much as you want and got all the gear you’ve hunted for. You can start as a new class. See how that class’s style differs. When you level your characters you unlock access to new skills. What skills you choose is up to you. Communicate with your partner and choose skills that compliment her/his style. As a wizard I would slow enemies down while my partner rushed them as the barbarian. It’s this versatility and range that makes Diablo 3 a great couch co-op game. With tons of difficulties too, which the higher the better as it yields rarer loot. There is even the terrifying (to me anyway) hardcore mode. Which means that if your character dies, then that’s your character gone. Deleted from the system. If you and your partner wish to try this mode then you’re braver than we are. Diablo 3 also has a story which in of itself isn’t anything special. But it’s nice to be able to play a game with your SO that isn’t just mini games or a funny game. This is a fully fleshed game and with its easy to grasp controls and camera view, it makes for many hours of fun co op dungeon crawling.

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This game can be played with up to 4 players. Couch co-op, online or a mixture of the 2.

Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4, 3DS, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, PlayStation Vita, Switch)

Tetris! Released in 1984, this series has retained it’s addictive quality and basic concept. Shapes fall from the sky and you have to rotate, move and line them up to form rows so that they can disappear and you can rinse and repeat. The game gets speedier and you go until you can’t go anymore. This latest edition combines Puyo Puyo with the chaos for an even more frantic mayhem. Add in competitive multiplayer between friends/SO’s/AI and you have a great party game. Prior to this game I never played Puyo Puyo before but understood its concept. Connect 4 or more Puyos of the same color in a row, vertically or a combination of the 2, to make them disappear. Basically like Tetris except, in Tetris if you clear a line, nothing else happens to your playing field. Puyos on the other hand fall if the ones below them vanish. Which leads to strategies and forward thinking to win.  If you create chain reactions and cause multiple Puyo colors to disappear this sends obstacles to your opponents. Ruining their lavish design that would have rained hell on you, if they got that particular color they needed. With an ample choice of modes you can’t go wrong with this game. Simple controls and mechanics, but a lot to master. Not only do you have Tetris and Puyo Puyo modes but you also have the new Fusion mode. Which combines to the 2 elements for a confusing at first, but addictive mode, if you can grasp the concept. If you aren’t a competitive couple, then you can always team up and take on the computer. Or take turns in seeing who can last the longest in a certain mode. If you like puzzle games then I really recommend checking this game out.

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I think that’ll about do it for this post. I have other games in mind but will save them for possibly a sequel to this feature. Thank you for reading and if you wish to suggest any games ideal for discussion then feel free to leave a comment.

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Darkest Dungeon Review

Oh, Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon. What am I going to do about you? There’s something about a game that gives me heart palpitations that I love. And not the good heart palpitations either. This isn’t a holding hands with your new love speedy pitter-patter. It’s that feeling of your foot plunging to the ground when an unexpected drop or declining step appears. But prolonged at times and less sudden. You put yourself in this situation. And you will do again and again and again. You love it. I know I do. I am enraptured with this game. And yet I find myself unable to play it for long stretches. The sheer wave of relief after completing a taxing run in one of Darkest Dungeons……well dungeons, is always a welcome feeling but also a release button. ‘I’M OUT! That’s it, I’m done. I need to relax and unwind. This leisurely hour of Darkest Dungeon wasn’t relaxing it was strenuous and cruel. But I’ll be back. Maybe an hour later or the next day but I will return for me delicious punishment’.

Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike, turn based combat game. You are given a brief explanation of the happenings, 2 party members and a quick tutorial dungeon. Then the rest is up to you to decide. You have a combat phase and a micro-management/upgrade phase. You assemble your team of up to 4 members per expedition, their skills and their position in combat. There are over a dozen different hero types. Each with different roles in combat. As each character type is different, they all have different skills and preferred positions. The Crusader prefers to be up front where he deals the most damage. Whereas the Plague Doctor prefers to hang out in the back, chucking ailments at the enemies and buffs for your team. You venture out into whichever dungeon you subject them to and then at the end you pick up the pieces and tend to them. Each dungeon will have several options to choose from. Some of these include; a quick skirmish where you have to complete all the room battles. Explore, where a set percentage of rooms need to be passed through. And even Kill the (insert foul being for killing) which act as mini boss and boss encounters. These missions will require more planning as they tend to be longer but offer better rewards.

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This will become a sanctuary to all who play this game. Take a breather and get the kettle on.

After your mission, you’re automatically transported to your estate, in which your party recuperate and prepare for the next mission.  The central hub of this game is a town under threat from neighbouring dungeons. It is here that you’ll decide the down time for your team. Do you go to the caravan to recruit new members? The blacksmith to upgrade your heroes gear? Or maybe the pub or brothel for your weary warriors?  There is no time limit or AP gauge here so you can go at your own pace and think your choices through. It’s a nice, calm lull that offers relief for the player as well as your team. Once you’ve made all your choices it’s back out to the dungeons for another round.

There are 5 dungeons in total. With the titular Darkest Dungeon being the end goal. Each dungeon is randomly generated. Although the same, in corridors connected to rooms, each offer very different experiences and aesthetic. The Ruins offer Unholy beasties that attack your team’s sanity just as much as their health whilst the Weald’s enemies tend to inflict ailments such as blight and bleed upon your party. It’s these differences that require planning ahead, as picking a team willy-nilly will result in bad times or even death for your team. And in this game; when someone’s dead, they’re dead, Jim. Prepare to get attached and have your heart broken as your Highwayman, Greg gets shanked to death by a butcher in the Ruins. When an enemy dies, unless by blight or certain situations, their body will remain on the ground and in the spot they were standing. If you want to attack an enemy behind them in the line-up, your best option may be to get rid of that corpse as soon as. That way your close quarters Crusader can end him swiftly. This feature requires extra thought but can be switched off in the options, as well as a number of choices to make the game easier or harder for yourself.

I mentioned enemies attacking sanity before and that is a key feature of this game. When you enter the combat segment, your team each have a health meter and also a sanity meter. As you progress through the corridors and enemy encounters your team’s sanity will deteriorate. Sometimes because an enemy specifically cast a sanity affecting attack. Other times because the enemy landed a critical hit and now your hero’s confidence wavers. Even progressing through the dungeon puts a toll on your heroes. The light is your friend in this game. If that starts to fade so does your teams spirit. Luckily before each expedition you get to purchase provisions before you set off.  The usual antidotes for blight (this games version of poison ailment), bandages to stop bleeding and buff potions. Food can be purchased and eaten any time out of combat. This’ll heal your selected member a smidge. But don’t get greedy! As you progress through the dungeon your team may get hungry and require a piece of food each. If you’re short on rations, well too bad, your team take a hit to sanity and health for your lack of planning. Torches can be purchased too before you set off. The light provides another gameplay element, play it safe or go bold and daring. Your screen lit like a beacon will provide ease for your party and a less stressful venture. It may also provide mapping possibilities and a chance to startle an enemy team, giving you the upper hand. With less light though you have a higher chance of earning more loot and landing critical blows. But be afraid of the dark, as it can give the enemy the jump on your team and will cause their stress levels to rise quicker. If a character’s stress level is pushed too far they will have a moment of resolve, where they’re tested to see if they’re strong enough to power through their fe ars or if they’ll crumble and become a detriment to your team. They might power through though. Then they become stronger than before, able to hit harder, heal themselves randomly and increase morale among your team lowering stress for all. Should they fail though, then you might want to chuck them as soon as you get out that dungeon.

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My first death. Immortalised in a trophy screenshot. Go quietly into the night.

They will gain an affliction, such as Selfish, Fearful or Irrational. These may cause your worrywart to freeze up on their turn or switch places with one of your other party members. They can even run from combat and that’s them gone for this dungeon, you’re one man down now.  It’s not just the enemies out to get your team either. The corridors are littered with traps that’ll sneak up on you if the light is dim. Obstacles will appear such as a mound of bricks that you will need a shovel to dig through. ‘What, you didn’t bring a shovel or find one in your travels? Tough.’. You take so long clearing the way that the light goes dim and your team each loses sanity. The hallways are littered with temptations too. Curios they’re called in this game. Your team stumbles upon random stack of books. The choice is yours to make and for which member of your party. Do you let them investigate or play it safe and walk on? A quick glance can’t harm your Grave Robber, Gael much surely? Whoops, she reads and gains the quirk Night Blindness and so now if the light is below a certain amount, she does 10% damage less to opponents. And honestly that’s one of the better negative quirks to get.

Yes, you heard that right. Quirks. Each hero has a random set of quirks when you recruit them. These can be positive or negative.  A positive quirk can ensure that they fare better against certain monster types or have increased HP among other things. Negative quirks could mean that a particular hero is nerfed in a certain dungeon or under certain conditions such as low light. Sometimes they’ll have a quirk which makes them instantly investigates certain Curios if found, possibly gaining them another negative quirk. Or Flagellant, which means in town they’ll only go to the Penance Hall to de-stress, which may be occupied by the roaming caretaker who randomly takes up spots meant for your heroes to recover mentally in. And if quirks weren’t bad enough, there are also diseases that your team can contract. Diseases are rarer but can be gained through combat and Curios too. A party member might get afflicted with The Red Plague which decreases HP, critical chances and bleed resistance. It’s these possible pitfalls that make every dungeon venture a gamble and a constant assessment of your situation whilst exploring. Dread is the name of your friend when playing this game. ‘Hello Dread! My that’s a nice urn there. Mind if I have a cheeky peek inside?’ “Of course! Go right ahead, watch for syphilis though.”. ‘Sorry Dread, I didn’t quite catch that. Did you whisper syphilis? Am I going to get syphilis from this innocent urn?!’. And that’s how Reynauld the Crusader contracted that disease.

Thankfully the town offers cures and treatment for diseases and negative quirks. For a price, obviously. Treatment isn’t free and sometimes that Grave Robber you’ve had since your first real dungeon, who was always in your prime line-up.  Sometimes the damage of Darkest Dungeon is too great or costly and you have to make the choice. Spend your hard-earned money on fixing her up, back to beautiful Gael. Or dismiss your loyal member and recruit a new, less tainted by the harsh surroundings, hero.  Darkest Dungeon isn’t all evil though and does offer help too. After completing missions you’ll gain money, trinkets and upgrade material. The trinkets can be given to individual party members. Each member can hold 2 trinkets and some trinkets are classed based. They range in rarity and also effectiveness. Some will be great but others not so much. Sure, one may raise your characters HP by 10% but it’ll also reduce their speed by 2. But, aha! Find a hero with 0 speed already and suddenly that trinket doesn’t seem so bad. You can’t miss what you don’t have. The upgrade materials you earn can be used in town to upgrade the surrounding buildings. Upgrading the caravan will increase roster size or selection of heroes after each mission. Upgrade the blacksmith and he will allow you to buff your party members weapons for more damage, among other things. But establishments will only take certain upgrade material. And certain materials will be more available in certain dungeons. Thus, encouraging expeditions into the more unfamiliar dungeons.

Plague Doctor
One of my favourite classes. Blight the back 2 enemies and watch them wither away.

If this all sounds rather complex, it’s because it is. Darkest Dungeon isn’t an easy game. And there are lots of nuances to get used to and you will learn from mistakes you make.  I am playing the PS4 version and although the team, Red Hook Studios have done an admirable job porting a complex game to console. It does suffer from confusing controls. Something I have got used to but because there is a lot to manage on screen, it requires a lot of different inputs. And that can take some time and errors along the way to ingrain into your memory.

Overall, I would recommend Darkest Dungeon. But I would also recommend looking it up on YouTube or other game sites and watching some combat gameplay. If you like the look of it, can handle stress and won’t fling your controller across the room at the sometimes seemingly biased RNG then you’re in for a rewarding, gorgeously pleasing game that’s chock full of great visuals, animations and sound design. Text doesn’t do justice to the transition when you or an enemy performs an action. And there is a narrator of your quest who is ever present in town and in combat.  Wayne June is his name. He does a fantastic job of setting the mood and boosting your confidence. When you critical hit an enemy into the ground and you hear the powerful “Crush. Them. All” be commanded, you can’t help but feel riled up, imposing and ready to conquer the Darkest Dungeon of them all.

Trivia Time- I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, Un-achievable Ending

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a game based on the short story of the same name by Harlan Elison. It is a point and click adventure game by Cyberdreams and was released in 1995. The game is takes place in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has been wiped out by a diabolical computer called AM. The story of the game revolves around the last five people in existence. These people exist because AM wishes them to exist. For the past 109 years, AM has been subjected these individuals to pain and torture for its own amusement. These people cannot die as AM doesn’t allow it and so to save of its own boredom it cruelly tortures them and plays mind games on them.

It’s a very dark story.  Each of the five characters has a character flaw or weakness that AM continuously and methodically exploits and tortures them with. For instance Benny, a handsome man turned into an ape like human by AM’s doings, is a starving man but AM has constructed a reality where he struggles to eat food. Ellen was a woman who was a rape victim and associated her harrowing experience with the colour yellow. So AM sets her in an Egyptian setting where the colour yellow is very prominent. Nimdok is the character that I want to talk about today. Nimdok’s story has Nazi themes and takes place in the confines of a concentration camp. Understandably this setting is a rough subject matter. All 5 stories are but some more than others. Due to this storyline the entire Nimdok section of the game was completely removed from the French and German releases of the game. The section wasn’t replaced with a different story or setting and so Nimdok was a character that the player never played as.

Nimdok

This caused an issue with the best ending of the game. And by issue I mean, it was unobtainable. The French and German version’s exclusion of Nimdok’s chapter means that you can’t do the certain actions required to activate the best ending. And this was in 1995. If these situations happen today we can just go to YouTube and watch the ending but back then there wasn’t much you could do. For those intrigued by the story, I highly the game. I didn’t play it but I watched an LP of it and it is a wonderfully bleak setting. Fun little side note to end on, the author Harlan Elison helped on the development of the game. He wrote most of the dialogue and even voiced the evil computer AM. He did a great job too, giving AM’s voice that contempt for mankind that was ever present in its actions.