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Happy (possibly belated) Halloween to all the boils, ghouls and… Hmm… Non-binary poltergeists out there..? There really needs to be a better and more inclusive version of the boils and ghouls greeting, but if there is one then I certainly don’t know it. Welcome, at any rate, to The Ominous October Spookathon II: The Double Feature Sickture Show. This article is your number one stop for reading miniature reviews and experiences from a wide array of horror games; Both old and new, polished and broken, and of excessively varied levels of quality.

For those of you who haven’t read part 1, (which can be found here: Boo!), let’s have a little recap, shall we? Back in 2012, the “Super Best Friends Play” YouTube channel started off a series called the “S**tstorm of Scariness”, where they played a different horror game every single day for the entire month of October. The series went on for seven years straight, with only slight deviations to the formula ever taking place. It was utterly hilarious, consistently scary, and it only got better as time went on.

This series inspired me to begin my own month-long event back in October of 2018, to be played on my own time and to be completely personal to me, rather than being for the purposes of YouTube, Twitch, or social media viewership. The idea was simple: A small bingo card of horror games from just about every subgenre imaginable, with the goal being for me to marathon as many of them as I possibly could, from start to finish, before the month came to an end. No easy feat, to say the least! In my article about the first Ominous October Spookathon, I spoke of how I completed seven out of the twelve games I had set out to complete, which was pretty good all things considered.

Image description: A large bingo card with 20 icons on it, each representing a horror game. Several of the squares have been ticked using little doodles of images that are directly relevant to the games they are covering.
Image description: A large bingo card with 20 icons on it, each representing a horror game. Several of the squares have been ticked using little doodles of images that are directly relevant to the games they are covering.

With our second article, however, it’s time to acknowledge something that horror has taught us time and time again: Sometimes the sequel really can be better… So here we have it: An increased count of twenty horror games, (no longer limited to games released on the Steam platform), of which I managed to complete a whopping twelve titles within the month-long time limit. This second annual event featured a vast collection of both AAA and indie experiences, but this time I didn’t have to tackle them alone, as I now had the aid of my fellow survivor and fiancée: PrincessLilyMTG, whom I had moved in with back in December of 2018.

But that’s a lot of horror games to tackle, so it’s time to get this article underway. Let’s make sure we stock up on ammunition, learn the locations of our nearest hiding spots and work out how to avoid submitting to the Elder Gods, as we dive right in. A bounty of frightfully ferocious fears and shockingly squeamish scares awaits!

Horns of Fear

Row 3, Column 4
Time Played: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Image description: The protagonist stands in the middle of a room that is seen from an isometric viewpoint. The room is filled with unusual horror tropes, such as the severed heads of four toy dolls, three headless mannequins and a statue of a clown with a warped face.
Image description: The protagonist stands in the middle of a room that is seen from an isometric viewpoint. The room is filled with unusual horror tropes, such as the severed heads of four toy dolls, three headless mannequins and a statue of a clown with a warped face.

Let us begin with a delightful, albeit obscure, indie game by a solo developer known as Pixoala. Horns of Fear is a short and experimental psychological horror game that really stood out to me when I first saw it. There’s a nice amount of gameplay variety between its atmospheric puzzle-oriented exploration and its intense Quick Time Event set pieces, but the main draw that caught my eye came from the wonderful art style, which really set it apart from several other games in the genre.

Everything in Horns of Fear is presented with bizarre painted visuals that straddle the line between hyper-realistic and “gross-up”. But what exactly do I mean by the term gross-up? Well, you may recall that certain cartoon TV shows, (most notably: The Ren and Stimpy Show or SpongeBob SquarePants), used to have these surreal visual gags where they’d show an extreme close-up visual of something disgusting. The idea was to invoke an extreme and memorable reaction to these visuals, primarily for the sake of shock factor and nausea fuel. A good example that just about everyone will remember is from the Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror XVII”, wherein Krusty the Clown announced that his show would finally start broadcasting in High Definition. Upon stepping in front of the camera, he was portrayed with extremely detailed wrinkly skin and terrifyingly bloodshot eyes, causing the audience to recoil and scream. A good episode? Not so much. A good example? Absolutely!

Long-winded explanation aside, Horns of Fear utilizes gross-up shots to an insanely effective degree. Gratuitous gore that would make even the Saw franchise grimace is plentiful amidst each of the game’s numerous fail states. Obviously, that may not be for everybody but I personally found that it added a lot to the harrowing nature of this stylish experience, as I can’t remember the last time that a game’s graphic content caused me to physically recoil, besides in this very game! Throw a surreal and interesting metanarrative on top of that, alongside a very immersive original soundtrack and some intelligent puzzle design, and you’ve got yourself a rather memorable and entertaining experience, despite the short runtime.

Splatterhouse (2010)

Row 1, Column 2
Time Played: 7 hours, 15 minutes

Image description: The extremely buff protagonist, Rick Taylor, punches a gooey monster by a cobblestone graveyard that has been overgrown by root-like tentacles.
Image description: The extremely buff protagonist, Rick Taylor, punches a gooey monster by a cobblestone graveyard that has been overgrown by root-like tentacles.

Both longer than expected and not as good as I’d hoped, the reboot of the Splatterhouse franchise became the next game on our horror event’s chopping block. Originally created as a trilogy of 2D horror-themed beat ’em ups for both arcades and home consoles, Splatterhouse was a series that completely passed me by on account of its age and subgenre. I’ve always liked a good 3D brawler, but side-scrolling beat ’em ups were never really my cup of tea. A surprising twist of fate in my favor though is that Splatterhouse 2010 was exactly that: A full 3D brawler that seemed right up my street.

Smashing, slicing, striking, and splattering your way through hundreds of opponents at a time may sound like an enticing and gratifying experience at first, but I personally found that Splatterhouse got very stale as time went on. Repetitive gameplay is admittedly at the forefront of most 3D brawlers from the 7th Generation of consoles, yet many games in this subgenre tended to have a ‘certain something’ in order to retain the audience’s interest and keep their content varied. Some of them have a short and fast-paced runtime so that they feature additional replayability or speedrun potential, whilst others feature some form of in-depth upgrade system filled with unlockable moves. Sadly, this game misses the mark when it comes to both of these aspects.

Sure, the game does have an upgrade system across 45 different skills, ranging from new moves, through health upgrades, to stat increases in terms of attack range and damage. The issue, however, is how it is presented… Whilst these 45 skills are split amidst 9 separate skill trees, they must each be purchased in the exact order that they are presented to you. This means that if you want a particular new move, (say, for example, an extension to your basic fast attack combo), then you’ll have to purchase 3 separate fast attack upgrades from the same category before you can get your hands on the one you actually want.

Furthermore, several of these moves are remarkably expensive and unlikely to be obtained within a single playthrough. One of the most memorable experiences that I can recall from Splatterhouse is spending much of my initial in-game currency exclusively on health upgrades for additional survivability. Not long afterward, I was looking forward to getting the aforementioned fast attack combo extension, only to find out that there wasn’t enough currency left in the entire game for me to purchase it before the credits rolled.

Lacking move variety completely kills the pacing of the gameplay, along with the player’s overall motivation to continue. By the final couple of hours, you often find yourself fighting wave after wave of enemies for up to fifteen minutes at a time, wherein spamming the same dozen attacks over and over again simply isn’t an enjoyable experience. I’d argue that this issue is amplified in Splatterhouse’s case, given just how long it takes to beat when there’s so little variety on offer. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it certainly overstayed its welcome in my books.

Splatterhouse does actually have some gorgeous CG cutscenes, along with some decent imagery in several of the environments and animations, but when the gameplay itself is so bland, repetitive, and often rather clunky, it just doesn’t manage to hold its own as a horror game, a brawler or an interesting narrative experience. Oh, and due to some seriously rushed development, there’s a startlingly large number of bugs standing between you and the end credits at any given moment. Pretty disappointing for this to be the finale of a series that was once so widely loved… I can’t help but feel bad for any true fans of the series if this is what they were left with.

Murdered: Soul Suspect

Row 4, Column 5
Time Played: 11 hours, 31 minutes

Image description: The ghost of our protagonist, dotted with 7 glowing bullet holes, watches as a passer-by investigates his real world corpse.
Image description: The ghost of our protagonist, dotted with 7 glowing bullet holes, watches as a passer-by investigates his real-world corpse.

Only a few days after the second Ominous October Spookathon, with Splatterhouse still on the go, we decided to begin a very arduous chapter in our horror event’s history: Murdered: Soul Suspect. By this point in time, PrincessLilyMTG and I had been living together for almost a year, meaning I’d already gotten her rather excited about the potential of the event, leading to a great eagerness for her own experience amidst these nerve-racking nightmares! Unfortunately, the first game she chose was a poor choice indeed…

So as to avoid misrepresenting her opinions, I approached Lily for comment in the exact way that a stereotypical journalist should: Armed with a giant novelty pencil in one hand and with a notebook clutched tightly in the other, all whilst wearing a comically oversized old-timey fedora with a “Press” label tucked in at one side. There’s no point in being a journalist if you can’t ensure you look authentically ridiculous enough to truly suit the role.

“What? Who are you? Why would you ask me about this?” She proclaimed, initially startled by the ambush technique of my interview. After a few moments of spooky contemplative silence, she started to provide her thoughts on the game. “Murdered: Soul Suspect is a bizarre combination of a detective investigation game and a narrative horror. It honestly amazes me that a game with such a prestigious publisher, [Square Enix], managed to do both of these gaming categories —both simple enough as individual concepts— so poorly. I award the game zero points and may God have mercy on its soul.”

In order to dig a little deeper, I asked her to explain what it was that didn’t work in the game. She quickly dropped the humor and spoke up. “Okay, real talk: Even general movement in the game feels difficult as you attempt to navigate the environment. The thing is that being a ghost allows you to walk straight through just about every wall or environmental obstacle that would usually stand in your way. This aspect made simply moving from one place to another a taxing experience, which negatively affected my enjoyment of the game on the whole.”

Just before I could ask for elaboration on the game’s other mechanics, she continued. “The puzzle system of linking evidence to motives, emotions, and thoughts does work well in theory, but in execution, it feels extremely limited. I think that’s because it requires a very strict mindset that leaves little room for creativity or human error. Oh, and forced stealth sequences don’t work well with the movement problems I mentioned earlier, particularly when they’re so frequent and badly handled. Murdered: Soul Suspect had a lot of great ideas, for sure, but it simply isn’t an enjoyable experience due to a lot of poor design philosophy.” I thanked her for the analysis and agreed wholeheartedly.

Bloodborne

Row 2, Column 5
Time Played: 36 hours, 5 minutes

Image description: The Hunter offers their hand to a life-sized doll, amidst a garden cemetery under an empty sky.
Image description: The Hunter offers their hand to a life-sized doll, amidst a garden cemetery under an empty sky.

Let’s move in a bit of a different direction now by talking about a much higher quality game; One that I would describe as being a legitimate masterpiece. Unfortunately, a bit of a dilemma arises every time I try to broach this topic, as what exactly can I say about Bloodborne that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? Personally, I love just about every Souls-like game out there, but the core franchises that FromSoftware has put out over the past twelve years, (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro), definitely take the cake as the best that the subgenre has to offer.

Yet so many gamers feel the exact same way about Souls-like games these days, so I’m deeply aware that just about every positive thing I can say about Bloodborne has already been mentioned time and time again, through hundreds of varying combinations that use the same descriptive terminology. I could write twenty different points about the game with a thesaurus by my side and still be faced with claims of plagiarism, simply due to how common and regularly stated these opinions are.

Suffice to say that Bloodborne does have it all; An extreme level of popularity included. If you dare to take on the challenge, you’ll find yourself enduring some of the most difficult yet entertaining combat in gaming, with creative boss battles that will measure both your skill as an individual and your specific ability to identify enemy weaknesses and gimmicks. It features a gorgeous soundtrack that ebbs and flows in order to give the visually stunning environments as much ambiance as they can possibly muster. The creative yet intuitive trick weapons all feel unique in their move sets, (particularly across their multiple forms), making them the perfect tools to venture through this eldritch tale, which captivates players with its vague mythos, juxtaposed against the vast, deep, and fascinating cosmic lore.

As I said, though… All of this has been stated before in one way or another. So what else is there for me to add? Well, I could talk briefly about the quality of the “Old Hunters” DLC, but even then I’d just be rehashing those same old points. I’d be talking about how Bloodborne’s expansion is every bit as intuitive, complex, immersive, and entertaining as the base game, but you’ve likely heard that before too. On the other hand, I could get a bit more personal on the topic, by mentioning that this was my seventh playthrough of the game because it’s just that good.

Or, bare with me here, I could say something very simple about the game that’s likely much more useful than just rambling any further… Just: Play it. If you haven’t already played it and have the means to do so, then play it. If you don’t have the means to do so? Perhaps watch a playthrough of it. And if you’ve already played it? Well, maybe it’s time for you to play it all again. Bloodborne is excellent, it’s as simple as that.

Clive Barker’s Jericho

Row 1, Column 1
Time Played: 7 hours, 46 minutes

Image description: From a first person perspective, we see a glowing hand reaching out to a monster, engulfing it in a second glowing light. Underfoot is a giant pool of blood, whilst a ruined castle stands in the distance.
Image description: From a first-person perspective, we see a glowing hand reaching out to a monster, engulfing it in a second glowing light. Underfoot is a giant pool of blood, whilst a ruined castle stands in the distance.

How about something far more obscure than a ground-breaking experience like Bloodborne, then? Clive Barker’s Jericho is a game you’ve probably seen countless times before without ever really noticing it. This is because, following its release in 2007, it could be found amidst bargain bins just about everywhere, alongside donning the “reduced price” shelves of almost every gaming store imaginable. I was actually still finding copies of Jericho for £2 in my local store as we were heralding the next console generation, as late as the end of 2013!

Flying in the face of the game’s meager and moderate reviews, I actually had a surprisingly good time playing Clive Barker’s Jericho with my PS3 copy, now a little worn at the edges from time and store mistreatment. It’s not a particularly scary game, nor is it distinctly well made, but it manages to evoke nostalgia for a very specific time during the 7th console generation. Back then, most first-person shooters were trying to match the grittiness of the third-person shooters that Gears of War had inspired, all whilst attempting to lean on singular unique gameplay mechanics in order to retain some sense of individuality.

In Jericho’s case, the unique gameplay mechanic was being able to swap between seven playable characters, each with their own weapons and abilities. One moment you’ll be controlling bullets mid-flight as the sniper known as Lt. Abigail Black, whilst another will see you playing as Father Paul Rawlings, who wields two pistols and has the power to heal his allies and curse his enemies. Honestly? It’s essentially a hero shooter game, (think Overwatch, Apex Legends, Team Fortress, etc.), but far ahead of its time and primarily focused on a single-player story.

I’d say that Jericho is well worth trying out if you can still find a cheap copy. It’s honestly a completely fine game as generic first-person horror shooters go. The story is quite interesting at times, the gameplay feels fine even though the performance can be pretty choppy on occasion, and the visuals are rather interesting if a little colorless. There’s not much else for me to say about this one, but you can certainly do worse, that’s for sure.

The Last DeadEnd

Row 2, Column 3
Time Played: 2 hours, 51 minutes

Image description: Farhad Novruzov stares at his former love interest, who stares back. They stand by the side of a long table in an intricate library which has paintings hung upon the wall.
Image description: Farhad Novruzov stares at his former love interest, who stares back. They stand by the side of a long table in an intricate library that has paintings hung upon the wall.

It’s so strange to get the opportunity to professionally talk about this game; One which Lily and I still joke about to this very day, despite two whole years have passed since we played through it. The Last DeadEnd, (Note: DeadEnd is correct, it’s presented as one word rather than two), is another first-person shooter with horror elements by a company called AzDimension, based in Azerbaijan. The game puts you in the role of Farhad Novruzov, a scientist who has just returned to his home city of Baku.

Whilst Farhad has a seemingly standard reason for returning, (I believe he’s filming a documentary if I recall correctly), he also owns a pair of bizarre high-tech super glasses for no real reason, which help him follow the trail of a seemingly demonic book based on Zoroastrianism. He receives this demonic book from his former love interest for, once again, seemingly no real reason. Once his journey is underway, he encounters numerous dangers in what can only be described as an evil alternate shadow dimension of Baku, facing off against cultural equivalents to zombies, trolls, and even a werewolf. Ugh… That werewolf… It was a boss fight that lasted so long it gave me literal hand cramps!

Anyway, it’s all very surreal, to say the least. The story is disjointed and makes very little sense, whilst the enemies are wacky in their thematic variations. Sometimes you’ll encounter a relatively realistic-looking enemy model, but other times they’ll look downright comical due to how out of place they appear within their respective environments. The extremely small selection of main characters have a tendency to change their entire personalities at the drop of a hat in order to perfectly deal with any given situation. Plus, their voice acting is respectably well-spoken, but due to some rather poor translation and such an unusual cadence and pace being used, it quickly becomes reminiscent of the hilariously directionless dialogue found in the original Resident Evil.

As for my best experience when playing The Last DeadEnd? Well, that’s an easy one: In the first five minutes of the game, there’s a cutscene that attempts to jumpscare you with the sudden appearance of a monster, who swings their giant weapon at you with a gentle wafting animation. A few seconds later as you regain consciousness, a doll’s severed head rolls down the street and opens its eyes before leaping at the screen, intended to be an immediate second jumpscare attempt. Finally, only a few seconds after that, your character opens their eyes yet again only to get loudly squawked at by a crow that has been positioned a few inches away from the screen, in a third consecutive attempt at a jumpscare! Seeing this sequence playout for the first time, wherein The Last DeadEnd was trying so very earnestly to be scary, was extremely endearing. I think it may honestly be one of the most bafflingly wonderful games I can think of, simply due to the charming nature of its low budget and mixed quality.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Row 4, Column 1
Time Played: 17 hours, 10 minutes

Image description: A man holding a torch runs across a statue laden bridge hanging over a foggy pit. Murals of skeletons line the walls to either side, whilst a skeletal altar waits at the end, clasping a tome in its gnarled embrace.
Image description: A man holding a torch runs across a statue-laden bridge hanging over a foggy pit. Murals of skeletons line the walls to either side, whilst a skeletal altar waits at the end, clasping a tome in its gnarled embrace.

There’s a lot to be said about Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Silicon Knights’ one and only foray into the survival horror genre before the company’s untimely demise in 2014. It’s renowned as both a classic and a masterpiece, (rightfully so), but due to the developer’s downwards spiral at the end of their lifespan, (releasing two extremely unfinished games in the form of Too Human and X-Men: Destiny), the company faded into obscurity and Eternal Darkness became a long and distant memory. It was certainly a widely known game in its time —a highly rated one at that— but nevertheless, it’s a game that is certainly considered to be a bit of a cult classic these days, due to how little it is talked about in the modern-day.

As Lily was on the controls for this one, I once again asked her for an opinion, and here’s what she had to say; “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is still to this day, twenty-something years on, one of the most groundbreaking and well crafted psychological horror games that I personally have ever played. Its use of mind-bending sanity effects, solid combat, interesting spellcasting, and Lovecraft-laden horror, combine into what I would call the crown jewel of the Nintendo GameCube’s library.”

I also asked her if she had any distinct memory of our playthrough that she’d like to share. “I have two actually!” She said with a chuckle, “There was this one moment quite early on where my GameCube stopped reading the disc due to some fluff in the disc tray, but since Eternal Darkness’ sanity effects are so meta, I assumed it was a deliberate trick by the game rather than an actual, factual crash! That and, of course, the infamous bathtub jumpscare which is now viewed as one of the greatest video game scares of all time. I knew when I started playing that it was in the game somewhere, but it still caught me off guard when it finally happened!”

Well, that just about wraps it up for Eternal Darkness, but the rights to the game are still out there, currently owned by Nintendo. Development on a sequel was underway by Silicon Knights prior to their closure, but it’s hard to imagine it living up to the quality of the original, considering the subpar standards of their other projects around that time. Not to mention that the development team’s resources were actually split between Eternal Darkness 2, Too Human 2, Too Human 3, and a Silent Hill spin-off game known only as “The Box.” Whether or not Nintendo will ever do anything with the IP, (be it a sequel or a much deserved remaster), remains to be seen. Never say never, hope for the best.

Siren: Blood Curse

Row 1, Column 5
Time Played: 12 hours, 31 minutes

Image description: In a grimy bathroom, an intelligent, zombie-like Shibito approaches a ten year old girl through a sliding screen door. She has a knife in her bloodied hand.
Image description: In a grimy bathroom, an intelligent, zombie-like Shibito approaches a ten year old girl through a sliding screen door. She has a knife in her bloodied hand.

Here’s a wonderful blast from the past. I remember purchasing this digitally on my PS3 with some leftover birthday money, just a few days before Halloween back in 2010. I bought it just before bed, got the download started, then got up extra early the following morning so that I could play the first hour before I had to set off to school. I hastily got into my uniform before brushing my teeth and sitting by the TV with the lights turned out, bathed in that mid-Autumn early morning darkness, prepared to finally play my first true horror game since Resident Evil: Deadly Silence.

And it. Was. Terrifying. The levels of discomfort that Siren: Blood Curse manages to muster through use of its throaty vocal soundtrack and the blood-red noise-filtered sky are only surpassed by its tense mix of stealth and combat, all set within several examples of fantastically claustrophobic level design. The Shibito that you are hunted by are equally horrifying in both their intelligent yet zombie-like states and in their more evolved insect-like forms. The wide range of Shibito variants present different levels of danger to you amidst your seven playable characters, ranging from professional badass Shibito hunter Seigo Saiga to defenseless ten-year-old schoolgirl Bella Monroe.

But, as the game was released in an episodic format and I had only purchased the first three episodes, my playthrough came to an abrupt stop only a few hours after it had begun. Thankfully, getting to return to it and finally finish the story in this particular Ominous October Spookathon was every bit as immersive and frightening as my childhood playthrough had suggested. I never got the opportunity to play through the original 2003 game “Siren”, of which Siren: Blood Curse is a remake, but I fully intend to do so in the near future, be it for another October event or just in my own personal time. Fact is: If it comes anywhere near the quality of the remake, then I know it’ll be well worth my time.

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School

Row 3, Column 1
Time Played: 7 hours, 59 minutes

Image description: From under the crack at the bottom of a bathroom stall, a woman hangs upside down, staring in directly at the player.
Image description: From under the crack at the bottom of a bathroom stall, a woman hangs upside down, staring in directly at the player.

Another remake joined the fray right alongside Siren: Blood Curse, in the form of 2017’s re-release of White Day: A Labyrinth Named School. The original 2001 game, (a Korean game made by Sonnori), was a notorious cult-classic experience; Filled to the brim with puzzles, chase sequences, branching choices, and multiple endings. Sadly, it was a perfect example of a game that aged poorly through no fault of its own.

As time progressed, White Day became largely inaccessible on modern Operating Systems whilst getting your hands on a copy of it got harder and harder. Thankfully, the re-release gave it the complete overhaul that it deserved with more modern optimization, a massive increase to its graphical fidelity, and a plentiful amount of quality of life improvements that make this classic feel better than ever to play. As a bonus alongside all of these improvements, White Day’s remaster has managed to retain all of the effective jumpscares and immersive story-telling that were found in the original release.

My biggest point of praise for this haunted labyrinth comes from the sheer amount of ghost variety found throughout. Much like The Coma: Recut —which we spoke about in our first Ominous October Spookathon article— White Day is a small glimpse into the ghost-based horror mythology found within Korean culture, consisting of spirits far different from those of our own urban legends. Certain horror tropes do repeat themselves from time to time in the game, thanks to an ever-present pursuer who trails your every movement, but if you’re willing to take your time and brave some optional exploration within these cursed halls, you’ll find a massive number of varied ghosts, ghouls and grudge-like entities just lying in wait for the perfect time to scare you. From cursed mermaids to the distorted figure of a girl stuffed in a locker, White Day may well have more ghost variety than I’ve seen in any other horror game, barring perhaps the Fatal Frame series.

Regarding a distinct memory I have of my experience, I’d have to voice how much I enjoyed reading through each of the game’s collectibles. Throughout New Yeondu high school there are a number of ghost stories to be found, bolstering the game’s lore and fear factor as they allude to the existence of other secret ghosts in the school, hinting at where they can be encountered on your journey if you dare to seek them out. These dauntingly demonic tales are wonderfully written and utterly captivating, strengthening the immersion of the base game but still managing to be enjoyable tales in their own right. As White Day is so enjoyable and has so many ghosts to encounter, (plus endings to unlock), the variety lends itself extremely well to replayability. I can’t recommend this particular experience enough, especially if you’re willing to play through it more than once.

BlackSite

Row 1, Column 3
Time Played: 6 hours, 4 minutes

Image description: From a first person perspective, we stand in a sun-dried canyon with barely any visible colour. We are holding a rifle, but besides some telephone poles, there is nothing noteworthy within our sightlines.
Image description: From a first person perspective, we stand in a sun-dried canyon with barely any visible colour. We are holding a rifle, but besides some telephone poles, there is nothing noteworthy within our sightlines.

Well, I held off on talking about this one for as long as I could, but… Here we are, so there’s no avoiding it now. BlackSite, (released in the US as BlackSite: Area 51), is an atrocious first-person shooter by Midway Austin, released all the way back in 2007 for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Perhaps higher quality can be found in the PC version, (I’m not sure), but the version that came out for the PlayStation 3 is quite frankly, a game that never should’ve been released. Extreme performance issues plague every square inch of this game in terms of a wildly inconsistent framerate, ludicrously distracting levels of screen tearing, a wide selection of bugs, and a plentiful amount of input delay to boot. Worst of all though is the fact that even if you’re willing to put up with these major issues, it’s not like they’re getting in the way of an even passable experience, as every other part of the game is just as dire in regards to quality.

As Captain Aeran “generic white military hero name” Pearce, your squad will investigate an alleged weapons bunker in 2003 Iraq, where you’ll spend the entire opening hour of this supposed horror game shouting “hoorah” every five minutes. This first hour will see you mowing down dozens of Iraqi soldiers without a care in the world, whilst your squadmates praise your performance. Suffice to say that there is no tact to be found in this take on the Iraq war…

There’s no deeper exploration of the misguided invasion, the human rights abuses that occurred therein, or the false statements and justifications that the Bush administration made to try and assuage the criticisms that were rightfully pointed their way… It’s quite simply a corrupt power fantasy that not only feels deeply inappropriate and misrepresentative but also massively overstays what little welcome it had. I really can’t stress enough that this opening section takes up a whole sixth of the game before you encounter any of the alien / extraterrestrial horror presence that the game was actually marketed with.

Surpassing this long-winded experience doesn’t make the game any better though, as the rest of BlackSite’s runtime consists primarily of boring, low-quality combat against a woefully unvaried selection of aliens, through the use of a severely lacking arsenal of generic real-world weaponry. Oh, and there are also several clunky vehicle sections that somehow manage to feel both far too open and far too restrictive at the exact same time. Honestly, just don’t touch this game.

There are so many better options in terms of anything you could get out of this experience. If you want a great horror narrative that also happens to deal with the Iraq war in 2003, then play Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes, which is a surprisingly poignant experience that deals with humanity and horror in far more interesting and respectful ways than BlackSite could ever muster. If you want a competent modern military shooter, try some of the highlights from the Call of Duty or Battlefield series, and if you want a good horror shooter that specifically has you fighting aliens then try out Half Life, Prey (2017), or Resistance: Fall of Man. Play anything really, and it’ll likely be a better use of your time than even so much as glancing in BlackSite’s direction.

Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn

Row 2, Column 4
Time Played: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Image description: Across a small river and completely coated in darkness sits a Näcken, surrounded with glowing red roses, by the side of a forest.
Image description: Across a small river and completely coated in darkness sits a Näcken, surrounded with glowing red roses, by the side of a forest.

Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn has some pretty unique mechanics when compared to some of the other games from this event. Sure, it is still a first-person exploration game with occasional chase sequences, but the primary puzzle-solving mechanic it entails, (which sees you playing different melodies on a lyre harp), feels very different. It’s somewhat reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s titular ocarina system, though the game is, of course, hardly comparable to a Zelda game in any other way. This certainly isn’t some upbeat and colorful adventure by any stretch of the imagination.

On the contrary, Unforgiving is a dark and brutal game. A couple of its early moments, whilst not particularly graphic, managed to churn my stomach with discomfort. Nevertheless: It’s clear where the instrumental puzzles have taken their inspiration from, which in turn sets the game aside from plenty of other similarly stylized experiences within the horror genre.

Once again, (much like White Day and The Coma: Recut), Unforgiving is a great glimpse into the folklore of another culture you may not be familiar with, though instead of sharing White Day’s Korean background, this is in fact a Swedish game by Angry Demon Studios, a team of developers based in Skövde. As such, Unforgiving pits you against such classic Scandinavian monsters as giants, Hulder, Näcken, and more, taking the game away from the formulaic confines of UK and USA horror. Sure, I love a good zombie, werewolf, or eerie Victorian ghost child story, but after so many different tales have been told with the exact same entities being focused on, taking some time to familiarize yourself with the horror works of other cultures is something I’ve always been a strong advocate for.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much else that can be said about Unforgiving without spoiling it. There’s a little bit of exploration to be found thanks to a small number of open areas, but this is an extremely short game no matter how you slice it. Still: I would indeed recommend it on the grounds of its unique and fascinating mythology, along with the satisfying way that lyre harp puzzles play out. If anything, I’d say that Unforgiving’s brief but high-quality experience was a perfect example of Angry Demon Studio’s capabilities, as evidenced by their next game “Apsulov: End of Gods”, which was far more fleshed out and demonstrated just how much the developers had learned during their time working on Unforgiving.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Row 1, Column 4
Time Played: 7 hours, 12 minutes

Image description: With several sparks like the beginning of a firework's explosion, our cheerleading protagonist Juliet Starling uses her magical pom-poms to explode six zombies at the same time.
Image description: With several sparks like the beginning of a firework’s explosion, our cheerleading protagonist Juliet Starling uses her magical pom-poms to explode six zombies at the same time.

Finally, we come to the end of the second Ominous October Spookathon. It’d been a long month of gaming by this point, filled to the brim with legitimately terrifying highs and bafflingly terrible lows, all of which were found across a wonderfully diverse assortment of mixed quality games. The length of this event wasn’t going to dissuade me though, as I dived chainsaw first into the chaotic experience of our final game: Lollipop Chainsaw. As a big fan of several prior Grasshopper Manufacture games such as Michigan: Report from Hell, Killer7, and to a much lesser extent Shadows of the Damned, I had high hopes for Lollipop Chainsaw. Unfortunately: These high hopes were remarkably misplaced.

Lollipop Chainsaw is the tale of Juliet Starling, an extremely over-sexualized high school student who also happens to be the latest in a long line of zombie hunters. In the game, Juliet must face the undead yet again on the day of her eighteenth birthday, armed only with her trusty chainsaw and the magically resurrected decapitated head of her boyfriend, Nick. All of this, of course, leads to a long-winded hack & slash / 3D brawler experience with plenty of colorful visuals and exciting licensed music. The problem? Lollipop Chainsaw often chooses to focus on providing gratuitous panty shots of its protagonist, rather than providing a well-rounded gameplay experience or a fleshed-out storyline.

The impression I got from Lollipop Chainsaw is that it was supposed to be cutting through the stereotype of the ‘unintelligent and over-sexualized blonde character’ that was often featured in horror B movies in a bygone era. It aimed to do this by creating a protagonist who was not only over-sexualized but also smart and capable. Sadly, the game often seems to forget this intention, opting instead to throw in the typical ‘ditzy dumb blonde’ humor, every half an hour or so, just for good measure.

Humour is, after all, Lollipop Chainsaw’s biggest downfall. Whilst a joke will land correctly from time to time and give you an unexpected chuckle, the vast majority of the game tries so hard to be funny that it never gives anyone joke the breathing room it deserves, before it blurts out another line from a different type of comedy. It’s almost like the game is constantly straining itself, desperately trying to appeal to fans of every type of comedy at the same time…

I recall one moment where Nick made a dark comedy comment on the topic of suicide in the apocalypse, but the tone abruptly shifted when Juliet made an unrelated “I don’t understand things because I’m a blonde woman” style comment only a few seconds later. Following these two “jokes”, a nearby NPC that I’d just rescued made a throwaway line about his plans to pleasure himself later on whilst thinking of being rescued by Juliet, meanwhile, another nearby NPC made an out of nowhere fatphobic comment for literally no reason at all. It’s a game that tries to straddle the line between sexy and sexist, (a task at which it consistently fails), and honestly the only time it ever becomes a genuine laughing stock is whenever it attempts to have a serious moment in its poorly written story.

But, as questioned by many of those who rushed to defend the game’s sexism and offensive commentary around the time of its release, “why does it matter? It’s all about the gameplay, not the story!” Well, the gameplay is mediocre at best. Some abilities feel satisfying to pull off but the majority feel either too floaty or too rigid, depending on what sort of combo you’re trying to accomplish. A number of mini-games stand between you and the finish line which is an admittedly enjoyable change of pace to the regular gameplay, but there isn’t much variety in them and you better be good at them because they’re mandatory. So what else is there to say, really? Hmm… Turns out Lollipop Chainsaw was co-written by James Gunn, so… What the Hell, right? How weird. Moving swiftly on!

Thus ends the tale of the second Ominous October Spookathon. Admittedly I had hoped to have released an article about the third installment of my annual event by this point, but real life got in the way this October, as it often does. Regardless, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the first two years of this spectacularly spooky season, and that you keep your eyes out for next year when I’ll surely get you all caught up on the full Ominous October Spookathon saga. Stay frightening you hauntingly wonderful people!

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SpeakableCassie

My name is Cassie and I'm a 23 year old British trans woman. I've been gaming since I was 4 years old and have loved every single second of it. She/Her

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