Misc Blog 12 – Bring me my brown trousers!

Hi, Grant here again!

We’ve all been pretty busy on stuff we’re not quite ready to talk about just yet, so rather than a design blog I’m going to talk about some games that have scared me silly. I’m aiming for ones that you may not have heard of, so no mentions of Amnesia or Outlast here (except those ones). They’re all fairly old now, but I would absolutely still recommend them to fans of the horror genre.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth

What is it?

A horror game set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, in which you play as a detective sent to investigate the disappearance of a shop assistant in the reclusive fishing town of Innsmouth. As you explore it becomes clear that something is very wrong with the town and its people, and you soon find yourself running for your life from bizarre and alien creatures.

Why should I play it?

This game was actually my first ever taste of the Cthulhu mythos, so I have a soft spot in my heart for it. It opens strongly, and there is a chase sequence early on that remains one of my favourite moments in gaming. The game excels at stealth sections, and is at its best when you are running and hiding from crazed townspeople/eldritch abominations. This means it loses a bit of steam for me when you are given firearms, some of which are incredibly powerful and change the power dynamic more than I’d like. It does have its flaws, in particular the questionable voice acting and uncomfortably frequent bugs (including one notorious potential game-breaker), but there is still so much to like here. The environments are still wonderful even if the model detail is a little low, the soundtrack is terrific and sinister, and it has some pretty interesting interpretations of Lovecraft’s creations. Dark Corners of The Earth can be found on Steam.

Dark Fall: The Journal

What is it?

A first person point and click adventure game (think Myst) in which you explore an abandoned train station hotel after receiving a cryptic phone call from your brother asking for your help. Upon arrival he is nowhere to be found and you set about investigating his disappearance (this will be a running theme here, roll with it) and along the way learning about the dark past of the hotel.

Why should I play it?

If you’re not one for action-based terror with monsters chasing you about and prefer more slow, subtle horror, then this is the game for you. The atmosphere in this game is absolutely terrific, making you feel at once both completely alone and like you are being stalked. The point-and-click style interface means your vision is locked on one part of a room at any time, increasing the paranoia that things are going on behind you and the sound design complements this perfectly, with whispers, creaks, scratches and the like playing in the background. I also like the small bursts of humour that crop up from time to time, breaking the tension a little and allowing you to breathe. The game does have its weaknesses, for example there is no note/objective system in the game. This means that the player will have to make their own notes or memorize the details of puzzles they encounter (though that might be your thing, in which case this is definitely for you). This wouldn’t be too big of a problem if all the puzzles were fairly straightforward and only had a few components, but mother of God there are some obscure puzzles here. Dark Fall can be found on Steam and GOG.com.

Realms of the Haunting

What is it?

Released in 1997, this is the oldest game on the list. In another ‘investigate what happened’ opening, the main character arrives at a strange house to try and uncover more details about his father’s death. What makes this plot particularly interesting is the wonderfully insane level of escalation it undergoes. Within a couple hours of the game, you’ve gone from exploring a creepy house to jumping across dimensions to save the universe.

Why should I play it?

In addition to the bizarre and interesting story, the puzzles in this game are fun and satisfying to solve (with only a couple of exceptions). While up to this point I have described this as an adventure/puzzle game, it is still a horror at heart. There is a constant undertone of dread, reflected by the level design and there are some great creepy set pieces, a couple of early examples involving a typewriter and a gramophone. The sudden appearance of the enemies made me jump more than once, thankfully they don’t respawn when killed (for the most part). The main issues with this game are down to its age. The graphics are pretty dated now and time has not been kind to the goofy, low-res FMV cutscenes. The game was also made before WASD became standard practice for first person shooters, so I hope you’re not too hung up on the idea of strafing. Realms of the Haunting can be found on Steam and GOG.com

 

Honorary Mentions

Exmortis 1&2

  • Short online flash games similar to Dark Fall, but with ‘subtle creepiness’ replaced with ‘insane gore’

System Shock 2

  • Any game that can be scary with a soundtrack like this is doing something right:

S.T.A.L.K.E.R Series

  • Pitch black underground sections filled with invisible cthulhu monsters. Enough said.

Tomb Raider 2

  • As a child I had nightmares about that butler

 

More Monstrum info coming soon,

Grant