December 2018 Free Time

Wow, I’m late with this! I’m getting married tomorrow and writing has taken a backseat. To be more accurate, it’s several rows of seats back. When I started writing this post the sentence was originally: ‘I’m getting married next week’.  But, I’m here now to let you know how my lazy bum whittled away my spare time besides Christmas, work and seemingly endless wedding discussions and meetups. I’m sure you’re all dying to know. Expect this to be a shorter post as like I said, pre-wedding shenanigans have taken most of my time this month and I can’t spend too long on this otherwise my partner will kill me.

Games

super-smash-1153641I promised myself I wouldn’t buy Super Smash Bros Ultimate and a week after its release I crumbled. See, this is why I don’t do drugs or try anything with major addictive qualities, I have no will power. Except for video games. Games are my vice and I was handed a controller when I was 2 years old so I can’t be held accountable for that. I crave games and I craved Smash Bros so I bent the knee to my desires. And, I’m glad I did. Ultimate is a return to form in my opinion, after the disappointing Wii U game. If you’ve played Smash Bros, then you know what Ultimate is. It’s Smash Bros but overflowing with content, characters and modes. I recently completed the World of Light mode which I found very engrossing and fun. I even 100% that and fully enjoyed doing so. It plays well, it sounds amazing and it’s just good old Smash fun. I will say it is the perfect Switch game too. I’m a person who plays docked mode most of the time but the majority of my time with Ultimate has been lying on the couch, Youtube on in the background and the Switch in my greasy mitts. It’s perfect if you want to multitask with your limited time as you don’t need to fully commit your concentration to enjoy it. Gangplank Galleon Remix is awesome as well. I keep listening to this song over and over again. The best song in the game!

tetris effect

Tetris Effect has recently tantalised my mind in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I had heard great things praising its visuals and sound design but I didn’t quite understand it until I bought it. Accompany this game with some headphones and a dimly lit room and you’re in for an experience. The game is essentially Tetris and so if you’ve played Tetris before you know what you’re in for. What makes it stand out though is the surrounding aspects. Tetris Effect has a bunch of levels and each one has a theme or idea it is aiming to achieve. The more lines you clear the more the level evolves and changes before your eyes. When you flip Tetris blocks lights and sounds will happen and the controller will vibrate. It creates this cohesive feeling that I’m really struggling to explain. Great writing, I know but it really is something that plays so much better than what you watch of it. I’m having a blast with it and I’ve never really been a huge lover of Tetris. It’s a classic game, don’t get me wrong but I would always drift away from it after a couple of hours. Tetris Effect keeps drawing me back in even when I’ve seen all the levels it has to offer. The levels pull me back in, I want to experience what I first felt when I played each one. A unique experience meshed with a classic game that I fully recommend trying.

ac odyssey

The Assassin’s Creed series had worn out its welcome for me. I had played 2 and Brotherhood and thoroughly enjoyed Ezio’s journey but when it came to Revelations I couldn’t finish it. It felt so samey. 3 came along and I gave it a go for about 20 minutes and then never returned to the series. Even Black Flag I skipped which is heresy according to some people. When Origins came out people praised its change in design and so I thought I’d give the series another go at some point. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was my re-entry point to the series and so far, I’m eh about it. It’s a fine game but I don’t see much to it. Currently I’ve put in about 15 hours so I feel I’ve experienced most of what is on offer. I’m not going to write it off just yet as it’s still keeping me entertained for the most part. But it’s that reliable entertained. It’s a game that I put on when I’m tired from work and don’t want anything too taxing or a game that I’m heavily invested in. It’s like a McDonald’s meal. Does the job and it satisfies that itch when we crave something like that. Side note, the voice acting is awful in this game. Characters feel like they don’t know the scene they’re in and so either read their lines monotone or in the completely wrong tone. It’s laughably bad and irritating all in one.

red-dead-redemption-2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a difficult game for me. Aspects of the game I really enjoy and others infuriate me. Recently, I’ve come back to it after taking a month away from it because of my frustrations. I hoped I could come back to it with a new mindset and so far I am enjoying more than I was at the tail end of my playthrough a month ago but some feelings still remain unchanged. I’m going to keep playing it and I’ll either do a review or a write up on why I feel the way I do about RDR2. There’s a lot I want to discuss about it right now and only time will tell if I feel the same way when I complete it.

Films

halloween 2018

Halloween is an interesting concept, as the events of the film completely erase the original films sequels. It’s a neat idea to return the story back to a basic form as the Halloween franchise has had many sequels with varying peaks and lows in its lore. That brings me to Halloween (2018). Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for it. I found it very forgettable and not scary. Which, for a horror doesn’t bode well. The dialogue was very spotty at times for me with some cringe inducing lines and overall just weak characters. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t care for it at all. Not Recommended

kubo-and-the-two-strings-

3rd time watching Kubo And The Two Strings. Still love this film. If you’re a fan of the visual style of Coraline, then I highly suggest this. It looks amazing and tells a mature tale that is ideal for both, adults and children. Can’t praise the animation and the work Laika put into this project enough. Absolutely Recommend

Random Recommendation

reynolds-always-sunny

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is still one of the ongoing greatest shows. The series follows the exploits of the gang as they try to cheat, lie and steal their way through life, and trust me, there is no truce within the gang regarding that lifestyle. A large portion of why I love this show is because this group of friends are as quick to work on a crazy scheme together, as they are quick to stab each other in the back for minor gain. What I really love about the show is how the characters evolve over the seasons. And with 13 seasons, there is a lot of progression to be seen. From Charlie’s illiteracy to Dennis’s God complex. And sure, like similar shows the characters at times become caricatures of themselves similar to how Homer Simpson became insanely stupid in comparison to his earlier seasons. But, Sunny acknowledges this and its episode repetition as a character trait of the gang and so when doing that, there is some humour to be had. I can’t imagine going 13 seasons without some repetition and so it’s good to see a show adapt that fault into its episodes. All said though, if you want a funny and crass show about a bunch of selfish losers then you can’t do much better than It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and I’ll be posting more regular content soon. Take it easy.

Dead Space: 10 Years Ago I Screamed In Space

10 years ago on this day in North America, Dead Space was released. Do you feel old yet? I do. I remember playing this on the day it came out in the UK. I also remember playing this at night and then realising I’m too much of a coward to continue. The next day I returned however and continued my romp from the Ishimura.

With it being Halloween I thought it was only fitting to briefly talk about this fantastic and genuinely scary game. Dead Space was a 3rd person horror/action game by the studio now known as Visceral Games. Rather fitting name don’t you think? It originally released on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

The game closely resembles the Alien franchise specifically the 1st one. As a side note, Dead Space 2 continues this pattern as it was more action focused like Aliens. The gameplay is over the shoulder similar to Resident Evil 4. In the game, we played as Isaac Clarke, space engineer as he journeys through the Ishimura, a planet cracking vessel.

The story is very basic but works well with the atmosphere. This is a game that wants you to feel isolated. Isaac boards the ship as he had received a distress message from his partner, Nicole, who was aboard the vessel herself. When Isaac boards the ship all he finds is desolation, bodies and the Necromorphs.

Necromorphs

Necromorphs are a fantastic monster design. Throughout gaming we’ve been told to inflict pain on the head for big damage or aim for the biggest target, aka the body, usually. The Necromorphs are beings that you need to dismember to take out. Arms and legs are the first to go as these nightmares are dangerous but also agile.

Dead Space stands out because it did so many things different. It was horror in space which surprisingly was a barren zone for games. Isaac wasn’t a space marine, he was an engineer and the weapons he used were modified space tools. He didn’t board the Ishimura with intent to kill. He just thought the ship was malfunctioning and he’s the man to fix it. As I mentioned, there is little story or dialogue as the developers wanted the player to feel alone and vulnerable. But what they did put into their game, was oodles upon oodles of unease.

Mild spoilers for this game. I highly recommend you play it if you haven’t. Throughout the game Isaac catches glances of his partner Nicole. As you progress these sightings become more strange and unnerving. I won’t spoil it but the team did a great job with this aspect. And if you want an extra spoiler/tid bit have a look at this article from last year Trivia- Dead Space: Chapter Cryptology

Dead Space, for me, is a template for horror/action games. What it really hit on the head was the atmosphere and build up. You don’t go in guns blazing and the first hour of the game might be one of the scariest and most oppressive hours of my life. The creaks of the ventilation system (which the Necromorphs use to get around the ship), the mad scribbling’s on the walls and the lack of sound in the game just gives me that paranoid feeling where I’m inching around corners.

dead-space-limbs

Dead Space will forever be on the mantle of games that scared the hell out of me. It’s quite a crowded mantle but Dead Space is one of the best and its sequel is a fantastic follow up, building on the psychological aspect magnificently. I really do hope we see this series again some day. Thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts on Dead Space in the comments.

5 Fundamentals That Make A Great Horror Game Great

Frights are like a curry. Some people like a korma, nice and mild or a balti with a bit of a kick. Others prefer their horrors stronger like a vindaloo, both though still require a change of underwear. We all have limits though when it comes to them. Today I want to look at key components of horrors, the spices if you want to keep with the curry analogy. While all these components may not always be featured in every horror, when used well they can be good enough on their own.

Sounds

What goes bang bang bang in the night? My neighbours! Not the fun kind even, I mean stomping round like T-rex’s trying to squish a flea. Sound is among one of the strongest senses. If someone tries to describe a smell to you, a flavour or even a texture, it’s not an easy thing to replicate in your mind. We are more visual and sound based when it comes to imagination. It’s easier to associate that with a previous noise or image we’ve seen.

When it comes to imagination and horror games like to feed off of that talent of ours. Imagination is our own worst enemy at times and to be quite frank I thought of giving it its own space on this list but it factors into so much of horror games that it needs to be broken down with these choices I’ve made.

Sounds in games don’t have to do much. We do the rest. *Tink*, as something hits the floor in a game, I stand completely still and stare into that vicinity for minutes until I’m brave enough to move the character closer. What is there is a pesky rat, what I imagined, was 3 shark toothed goblins riding spiders. And I don’t mean 3 spiders, I mean a swarm of millions of arachnids lifting the goblins up with their long, black legs. Feeling itchy yet? Thank your imagination for that.

Dread

Now with sound and imagination, comes the dread. A typical horror will have sprawling levels with lots of nooks and crannies. More than likely the game will be dimly lit and lighting used effectively to bring the shadows out to play. That’s when the dread will set in.

This usually occurs happens pretty quickly in horror games. It doesn’t give you time to relax, especially in the beginning. At the start everything is new to you, you don’t have a lot of weapons or a weapon at all. The beasts or dangers lurking ahead may not be revealed yet and so whatever your mind concocts will be primed to your personal fears.

The start of the game is usually bombastic in the beginning. Something needs to set the pace and similar to books, games need to make a good first impression. The dread you feel imbues you with curiosity. You want to play the game and dread is similar to ripping off a plaster (band-aid), get it over with and hope for the best. But, a game done well will then lead to……

Build up

A horror game needs to retain its scare factor. Otherwise it isn’t a horror game any more. The original Bioshock had that issue for me. The first couple of hours I was a twitchy mess. After a certain point though and once I had more guns than the army I wasn’t phased any more.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing as Bioshock is a great FPS as well as a horror but a full horror needs to build on what it starts. From start to finish the player needs to nearly always be on edge. Having lulls is a good tactic though when used well, it doesn’t need to be 150mph every second. A haven is also a great time to do a cheap scare. Like Dead Space (2?) having a save spot with a surprise Necromorph. Cheap but memorable.

Resident Evil does a fantastic job of this with the safe rooms. That calming music, the opportunity to save and the brightly lit room give a chance of respite. Every player gives a sigh of relief when they find a new safe room. They can calm down for a bit but then they have to go back out into the mansion. That’s the build up aspect again, because if you’ve found a new safe room, that means you haven’t seen what is to come. The new horrors around the corner, which…..

Monsters

…….are waiting in the shadows for you. Monster designs are crucial. If a monster isn’t scary, it’s not a monster. There don’t need to be thousands of monsters or monster designs in your game. One truly terrifying beast can carry it.

What makes a good monster? The unknown or something so mundane that when it’s different it’s unnerving. Resident Evil Remake does a great job of this is my mind. Zombies on their own are a classic horror enemy. Slow, lumbering and resilient. That aspect of them is scary but the fact that they can infect a person so easily is where I think their terror stems from. Similar to how Dracula was an analogy to STI’s, zombies represent a sickness. Nobody wants to get sick. It’s practically universal among all life and so everyone fears that aspect of zombies.

But zombies are a tried and tested monster which some may be a bit bored with, that’s where the Crimson Heads come into play. We became so use to the zombies of Resident Evil that when a variation is thrown in, it scares the bejesus out of us. Me especially. It’s a classic monster taken to a new level. Slow is now fast, easy to dodge is now horrifying to run from.  That shake-up keeps things fresh and taps into a particular fear. We all fear something. Monsters are just things that take advantage of those fears.

Scares

It’s obvious really. Be it a diary entry detailing a man’s personal transformation into a brain dead zombie or a mechanical bear lunging at the screen. A horror game needs to be full of scares. They can be subtle and intended to get under your skin, or a full on jump scare.

While some may call jump scares cheap and I will admit the Five Night’s At Freddie’s series isn’t really my thing, they still get me good. They’re effective but not long lasting in my opinion. Resident Evil has very few jump scares and is remembered as one of the best horror series. Again, that is the dread and build-up in big effect.

But everyone who played the original RE remembers the dogs jumping through the window or the time in Resident Evil 2 where there is a zombie in the door transition screen. The entire game before it didn’t have that and so everyone assumed the door transition was a sanctuary. Wrong! Heart attack city that was. So jump scares are just as good but a balance is the perfect recipe.

You need the calm before the storm to truly appreciate the savagery of the storm.  But anyway I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and feel free to let me know yours in the comments. Did a particular monster scare you or what scares you the most in games? Halloween season is upon us, let’s get scared together.