Archive for the ‘Survival Horror’ Category

The Slender Man mythos is one of the more remarkable creations of the internet at large. Born out of a photoshop contest on the Something Awful forums, the Slender Man has been the subject of videos, blog entries, stories, and now a game. The character is also one of the best-known examples of the internet-born take on urban legends, the Creepypasta.

But none of this knowledge is necessary to appreciate  Slender: The Eight Pages (although the game’s menu provides handy links to articles and videos on the Slender Man) . Slender is a simple first-person adventure that places you in the woods at night with nothing but a flashlight. Your goal is to find the titular eight pages, which chronicle another unfortunate soul’s encounters with the Slender Man. The location of the pages is randomized, although the layout of the woods doesn’t change from game to game. There are a few sheds, abandoned vehicles, and various buildings scattered about the map and the game leaves it up to the player to find their way around.

One notable feature of the game is its aversion of typical “Hollywood night”. You’re only able to see most things by the light of your flashlight. There are no weapons, no items, just you and the pages and the Slender Man. The game does an excellent job developing its atmosphere. You search, and you are watched, and followed. It builds upon many of the classic horror tropes: the feeling of being far from help, completely isolated, alone in the dark, and tracked by an entity whose motives you can’t fathom. The inherent wrongness of the Slender Man’s appearance- his proportions are just off enough that you know he’s inhuman- gives you a strong natural urge to get as far away from him as possible.

The creators of Slender (Parsec) should be commended for doing so much with so little. The rules and gameplay are simple, and from that simplicity is born a superbly terrifying game. In a way it’s somewhat reminiscent of John Carpenter’s original Halloween film– it favors mood and menace over gore (as in, there is none whatsoever), and the thrills are well earned. It engages the primal fear of what could be lurking in the darkness and triggers an impressive level of paranoia. I wasn’t expecting to be scared- and I was proven so, so, wrong.

Slender is available as a free download, and I highly recommend it. However, I waive any responsibility for soiled undergarments, heart attack or shock, or shouted profanities.

PROS: Absolutely terrifying. Simple but extremely effective. Plus, it’s free!

CONS: Small game world. You may have nightmares.

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Trapped in a creepy old house, far from civilization. Your only means of transportation has fled, your radio is broken, and you only had the presence of mind to bring one magazine for your Beretta.  Thus begins the first chapter of Capcom’s long-running Resident Evil franchise. It set the stage not only for a long-running (perhaps too long) franchise, but also popularized the survival horror genre.

The game begins with a live-action FMV scene of the Raccoon City S.T.A.R.S. team descending on the site of some grisly goings-on, where you find the half-eaten giblets of the Bravo Team. It’s an entertaining little Z-grade chunk of cinema (yes, it’s so far beyond B-movie quality that Reb Brown and Linnea Quigley would be embarrassed to be involved) with plenty of bad acting that of course, segues into the game’s legendarily awkward writing and goofy performances. And you know what? The cheesy dialogue and direct-to-video vibe that the original Resident Evil cultivates is one of its biggest appeals. Resident Evil as a whole is famous for its rather ludicrous plotlines, and the game that started it off is no exception. Yet it still manages to get its oddly convoluted story across even with a script that features such noted silliness as “It’s really powerful! Especially against living things!”.

The game starts you off with a choice of whether to play as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. While they control exactly the same, they both have slightly differing storylines and a few gameplay differences. Jill can carry 2 more items, can unlock some doors with a lockpick, and starts off with a pistol. She also gets the grenade launcher in the course of her game, which is a very useful weapon since it can fire a variety of ammo types. Chris has a smaller inventory and starts off with a (useless) knife and a lighter that gets used in one or two puzzles. He can take more of a beating than Jill can, but her game is generally accepted to be easier than his. They cover a lot of the same ground and visit most of the same places, but they interact with different characters and have slightly differing storylines.

Gameplay-wise, it doesn’t stray far from the survival horror hybrid of traditional adventure game and combat elements that Alone in the Dark originated, although it does have a more stable combat system with a focus on gunplay rather than Alone in the Dark‘s myriad melee arms. Indeed, the one close-combat weapon you’re given is a supposed combat knife that couldn’t butter bread, let alone kill a zombie. If that’s all you’ve got, you’re better off running until you can find some firepower. Of course, you can’t run and dodge your way through every problem: sometimes there’s a boss or a stubborn zombie in the way and you need to drop the hammer on them. While you can’t go around wasting ammo, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding enough to finish the game.

But there’s more than just gameplay- puzzles are an essential component of Resident Evil. You’ll likely spend as much time pondering puzzles (at least on your first time through) as you will gunning down the undead. Some puzzles require you to hunt down the right key items (some may even be used multiple times), and others require manipulation and examination of objects in your inventory. It’s fairly run of the mill stuff (and invites you to ponder just what kind of maniac builds a house where the biological affront-to-god lab is easier to get into than the kitchen), and provides decent if mundane challenge for those used to more complex adventures like Gabriel Knight or Monkey Island.

How scary is Resident Evil? Well…not all that frightening, really. The music often helps to strike a macabre tone, but sometimes- like when a room has garish turquoise wallpaper or when there’s a smoking carcass of a snake in the center of the room- it just can’t be helped. However, some parts of the game, such as the cabin, are pretty creepy in spite of some of the less-than-terrifying inhabitants. There are even a few memorable jump moments (some so famous that when the game was remade, they were altered to deliberately mess with players). It’s not the kind of horror that stays with you or has anything deeply disturbing about it, but it’s fun, even if it seems tame by current standards.

I like the original, unaltered cut of Resident Evil. It lacks the improvements made in the Directors Cut or the more serious take on the game that the Gamecube remake (quite successfully) attempted, but it falls into the same instantly likable kind of appeal that a cheesy imported zombie movie would have. I love that about it- it’s NOT by any means a game that’s going to disturb you for great lengths of time, but there are some good creepy moments and a few solid jump scares.

PROS: Solid Gameplay. Wonderfully cheesy presentation. Everything that comes out of Barry’s mouth is a slice of fried gold.

CONS: 1st-Generation 3D graphics and tank controls may not appeal to everyone.