Archives for posts with tag: Horror games


You know a game takes its scares seriously when the first thing it asks you to do is turn off all the lights and refrain from tearing your gaze from the screen. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows even implores you to promise not to break these rules. You might wish you did.

Much like last year’s Yomawari: Night Alone, Midnight Shadows begins with a little girl and her dog. While we, unfortunately, had to witness the demise of the former protagonist’s cute little pup Poro, here we’re introduced to Yui, who has headed up into the mountains near her quiet little town to bury her beloved pet. I think Nippon Ichi might have something against dogs.

If you’re new to the Yomawari games, you might find yourself somewhat mollified by the cutesy chibi character designs and beautiful hand-drawn art. Do not be fooled. This is a bleak world where bad things happen. Much like the first game, that charming art gives way to an oppressive atmosphere, exaggerated by some incredibly minimalist audio – which frequently uses nothing but natural sounds like the rush of a river or the wind through the boughs of a tree – and some severe vignetting that darkens the periphery of your vision, forcing your focus to the centre of the screen, and hiding the terrors of the night in deep shadow. This is not a relaxing game to play. Even before you’ve seen anything out of the ordinary it’s put you on edge.

Of course, you’ll discover very early on that things are not normal in this town. The opening of Yomawari: Midnight Shadows – which I don’t want to spoil – might be the bleakest thing I’ve seen in a video game, and I honestly still don’t quite know how to feel about it. Dressing this segment up as the opening tutorial amplifies its effect substantially; “Ok,” you think, “the game’s teaching me how to play. I just hold X to pick this up. I push this over there. There were go. Aaaand… Oh. Oh God.” You’re lulled into a false sense of security, because you’re just being taught the controls, right? Nothing bad can happen in a tutorial. Yet with a few simple button presses, Yomawari: Midnight Shadows makes you complicit in a genuinely shocking act. And you’re only ten minutes in.

Returning players will note many similarities beyond just a little girl and her dog. Indeed, Midnight Shadows both looks and plays almost identically to the 2015 original, and that’s not a bad thing. What we have here is kind of an isometric 2D Silent Hill, where you’re tasked to explore an apparently-normal town where things have somehow gone very wrong. After the opening segment, we’re re-introduced to Yui, who has come to the mountain overlooking town with her friend Haru to watch a fireworks display. It turns out Haru is moving away and the girls are saddened that they will soon be separated. Haru, of course, doesn’t want to leave her friend, and declares that she’s not going anywhere. She’s going to stay with Yui forever.

As darkness falls and the girls head home through the woods, they begin to hear strange noises. Eerie apparitions flitter in the corners of their vision, and finally they hear a voice. Armed with a torch, Yui volunteers to go and take a look, and instructs Haru to hide in the bushes. Heading through the woods alone, she comes across something lying in the middle of the path. Bending to pick it up, she realises it’s the red leash she had used to walk her dog. We’re instructed to jump into the inventory to view it, so we do just that, reading the little text description and OH GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!

Christ. You’re not even safe in the menus.

We cut back to Haru, who emerges from the bush to find Yui gone, her discarded torch lying on the ground nearby. She sets off through the night to find her friend.

As you make your way around town, investigating points of interest for useful clues, you’ll note the cues Yomawari: Midnight Shadows takes from the earlier Silent Hill games. The inspiration is apparent too in that bleak, oppressive atmosphere, and there’s the roaming monsters and spirits that appear to block your path and chase you down. In Yomawari however, you feel more vulnerable than in, well, the vast majority of games, to be honest. It’s not just because you’re a little kid that can’t fight back, seemingly abandoned and alone in a town with no friends, no adults, no signs of normal life. Yomawari uses the children’s innocence to underscore just how miserable all this is; there are no adults around, strange spirits are roaming the streets, and yet for all that, the town looks normal, and Haru doesn’t even question it, doesn’t wonder where her parents are. She just wants to find Yui again.

The foreboding mood is fostered by that crushing sense of creeping dread that the best of Japanese horror cinema does so well, where even mundane, every day things will set your teeth to chattering, like the rustling of litter or the buzzing of a sodium streetlight. And of course there’s the scares. The majority tend to consist of jump scares, and I’m usually pretty immune to those, but there’s something about this game, something that makes me jump out of my skin whenever some multi-limbed grinning horror bursts from a seemingly-innocent little alleyway and chases me down a dark street when all I want to do is get back to the safety of home.

Luckily, Haru can hide in some of the scenery around town. If you see a bush or an A-board, you can duck behind it to escape the night, and you’ll see your chosen hiding place illuminated in the centre of a black background, the roving terrors that are following you picked out in red as they near your hiding place. You’ll hear Haru’s heartbeat pounding in your ears as they get closer, and even though you’re sure they can’t pull you from safety, your already-frayed nerves will be at breaking point until they start to move away, and you think it might be safe to emerge and continue your journey.

When you do, you’re just back out in the night, with the monsters, the dark, and the rushing of the wind.

It’s been a while since I posted about my YouTube channel, A Game with Chums, so I thought I’d throw up a short update.

As Hallowe’en is now upon us, I’d like to point out that we’ve been playing horror games all month on the channel, and tomorrow, October 31st, our final video goes up. We’ve been continuing with our let’s play of Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn on Mondays, and then uploading a random horror game every Wednesday and Friday, until last week when we decided to go all out in the run up to the day itself, and post a new one daily. Here’s our latest one, which went up yesterday.

This was our first time playing Forbidden Siren, so we weren’t great at it. It was pretty tense though! Below you can also find the latest part of out Until Dawn let’s play. Things escalated pretty damn fast.

Here’s the list of all the games we’ve played so far for our month of horror, as well as the platforms we played them on. Why not catch up before our final video goes up tomorrow? I’ll also have a timely review for you tomorrow as well.

Project Zero || OG Xbox
The Evil Within || Xbox One
The Thing || OG Xbox
Yomawari: Night Alone || PSTV
Layers of Fear || Xbox One
The Suffering: Ties That Bind || OG Xbox
Dead Space || Xbox One
Corpse Party || PSTV
Condemned: Criminal Origins || Xbox One
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth || OG Xbox
Resident Evil Revelations 2 || Xbox One
Silent Hill 2 || OG Xbox
Forbidden Siren || PS4

If you happen to check out any of our videos, please do let me know what you think below, and come back tomorrow for that final video and spooky review.


It’s been a while since I posted about the YouTube channel I run with a couple of friends, and today seems like a good day for an update.

Seeing as it’s the start of the spookiest month of the year, throughout October A Game with Chums will be playing horror games a couple of times a week. Also, having finished our let’s play of Life is Strange just last week (you can find the full playthrough right here!), we’ll be starting a new one tomorrow. Check back then to see what it’ll be, and our weekly schedule for the month of October will see a new episode of that LP every Monday, and random horror games on Wednesdays and Fridays. If we have a few left over, we may do a daily horror game in the final week, running up to Hallowe’en.

But today is the first of the month, and it happens to fall on a Sunday. So we’ve got a bonus episode for you today, to get your Hallowe’en Month off to a spooky start. Please join us as we absorb the spooky atmosphere of Tecmo’s excellent Project Zero (or, you know, Fatal Frame as it should really be known).

We hope you enjoy, and stick with us throughout the month for more. Oh, and we’re really sorry about that banner image. Dan is the real horror (sorry Dan).

One of the surprise inclusions at Sony’s Gamescom stage show was a bizarre trailer for a new horror IP called P.T. Announced via a teaser showing gameplay footage interspersed with audience reactions, the game was apparently being developed by an unheard-of team called 7780s studio. A playable teaser (oh, I see what they did there…) was then put up on the PlayStation store for people to try for themselves.

Making it to the end of the demo revealed that it was actually a teaser for Silent Hills, a new game in the much-loved franchise brought to us by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro, starring Norman Reedus. It’s not the first time that Kojima has used a fake game and developer to announce one of his titles – everyone remembers Moby Dick Studio’s The Phantom Pain – but this announcement took things even further; it’s actually a pretty genius piece of viral marketing – the demo was put on the store for all to download with the game announcement stuck on at the end, meaning that the first person to finish P.T. effectively got to announce a new game. That honour fell to the UK’s SoapyWarpig over on Twitch. Below, you’ll find the full teaser for Silent Hills.

But let’s talk about the teaser, as it bodes well for the direction of the full game. I’m superficially reminded of two games, the first of which is Silent Hill 4: The Room. Now, bear with me – I know SH4 wasn’t the most beloved of the series, but it does appear to take some cues from that. The demo essentially takes place in two rooms and an apartment corridor, and is in first-person like Silent Hill 4‘s apartment sequences. For me, those were the best parts of SH4, penning you into a small environment and making you watch through your character Henry’s eyes as strange occurrences and hauntings began to take over his home. P.T. achieves a similar tone here, though in far, far more unsettling ways.

Setting you loose in first-person in confined spaces really ratchets up the feeling of claustrophobia, and like Silent Hill 4 we also hear strange, disembodied snatches of audio (think along the lines of “Remember – I’m always watching you,” and you’ll have some idea). Then there’s the horrible scratchy, croaky breathing that will make you spin around, time after time, to try and see where it’s coming from. Sometimes you’ll even see what’s making the noise, and then wish you hadn’t; there’s a malevolent spirit stalking you in this place, and it seems to have something to do with the skinned horror in the bathroom…

This feeling of being enclosed is amplified by a minimal approach to interaction that brings to mind something like Slender: The Eight Pages – like that game, P.T. simply drops you into an area with no explanation and expects you to figure things out for yourself. You’ll walk that corridor many, many times, solving some kind of idiosyncratic puzzle to unlock the door at the end, often without even knowing what you’re supposed to be doing until you stumble upon it. The only thing you can really do is walk around and ‘zoom in’ to look closer at things, and the fact that you can’t really affect the world around you works in tandem with the claustrophobic, smothering atmosphere. For a video game – which so often are about power fantasies and wish fulfilment – it makes you feel uniquely powerless. All you can do is stare at things in the hope that you discern some clue, and who knows what’s happening behind you while your attention is locked on that curious photo on the wall.

It’s certainly an immersive experience, and it’s not just the first-person perspective that achieves that. The game features no HUD, no battery indicator for your flashlight – no screen furniture at all. You’re simply in a creepy place with an evil spirit, forced to look at everything through your characters eyes. It puts you right into the game, and some typically-Kojima tricks like messing with what you’re seeing through some visual effects (visual distortions, intentional screen tear – I even had the game white-screen on me once, and I genuinely wondered if it had crashed) really gets under your skin. It’s reminiscent of that classic Psycho Mantis battle from Metal Gear Solid, but it works so much better in a horror game, especially when you’re seeing through the eyes of the protagonist. You’ll be surprised how something as simple as changing the colour of the lighting can be quite so unsettling – just as you feel like you’re getting used to the environment, something in the way you perceive it shifts and it takes on a new kind of malevolence.

But how does this all tie into the greater Silent Hill franchise? Is it a reboot or a sequel? We’ll have to wait and see, though I did notice something during the demo – a message appears above the ‘safe’ door that reads, “Forgive me Lisa, there’s a monster inside of me.” This could be a reference to Lisa Garland, a character from the original Silent Hill who nursed Alessa Gillespie. I haven’t yet noticed anything else that would tie this game to events of the rest of the series, but I haven’t finished the demo yet so who knows what else I’ll see. I did manage to record some of my time with P.T. however, so if you don’t have access to it you can get a good feel for what’s going on by watching my video below. Be sure to use headphones.

Time will tell whether the Lisa mentioned here is the same one that Harry Mason stumbles across in Alchemilla Hospital, or whether there’s anything connecting this new entry to any of the older games. We can also hope that Akira Yamaoka will be returning to handle the soundtrack – the little teaser at the end of the trailer seems to suggest as much. But one thing’s for certain; Silent Hills is definitely in the right hands. Kojima knows how to mess with our minds, and that’s in full effect in P.T.

Nintendo and Tecmo Koei have announced the next instalment in the Project Zero series via a lengthy, creepy trailer.

Titled Zero: Nuregarasu no Miko (The Raven-haired Shrine Maiden), it will be released on September 27th in Japan (possibly in an effort to tie into the upcoming Zero film). As Nintendo co-owns the rights to future titles in the series, the game will of course be an exclusive for the Wii U.

The game stars protagonist Yuri Kozukata, who appears to have the ability to see those that are trapped in the land of the dead and return them to reality. As a result of this ability, she is asked to track someone down in Hikamiyami, a sacred mountain with a huge lake at its summit.

The game will apparently be the largest instalment yet in the series, and it seems from the trailer that water will play a large role, with the rain pouring down on Yuri certainly adding to the atmosphere as she wades through shallow pools and winds her way around dark, twisting mountain paths with only a torch to light her way. The series trademark camera obscura returns, and it seems that the Wii U’s gamepad will be used both for this mechanic as well as to show what the world looks like through Yuri’s eyes.

With Nintendo struggling to sell consoles and a number of third parties pushing releases back (or abandoning the platform altogether), it’s good to see a developer keeping the faith and announcing new projects. What’s even better is that their game will be using the GamePad for something other than simple off-screen play – though it’s to be expected, given Project Zero’s central camera gimmick; Tecmo Koei would be crazy not to leverage the second screen of the GamePad for the camera obscura view, and it’ll be interesting to see how they can keep players on their toes by dividing attention between the two screens.

cameraobscura

What’s surprising is how close to release Nuregarasu no Miko is. How often do we see a game being formally unveiled only two months before release? It’s worth remembering that Tecmo Koei also has Omega Force and Team Ninja working on fellow Wii U exclusive Hyrule Warriors, which will also see release in September.

Of course, what those of us outside of Japan have to worry about is whether the game will reach our shores at all. Nintendo decided not to release the last title in the series, 2008’s Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen, outside of their home territory at all, prompting a fan translation effort.

However, with over 100 million Wiis sold in the last generation of consoles, Nintendo could afford to ignore worldwide releases for the odd exclusive (indeed, the US branch originally had no plans to localise the Operation Rainfall titles for the North American region). But with the Wii U finding difficulty in the market, Nintendo will surely want to do everything they can to improve the image of the console among gamers. They had a fantastic E3, and opinions around the Wii U appear to be slowly changing. If they want to keep up the momentum, coming out and announcing a worldwide release for a new Project Zero would be a great way to do it.

Cross-posted on 16bitkings