5 Halloween Horrors – The Season of Scares

It’s that time of year again!  The one with the pumpkins, the kids demanding free sugar and everyone dressing up as The Joker.  Reckon there will be a good number of Harley Quinn’s appearing this year too thanks to Suicide Squad.  Anyway, Halloween is probably the best time of year to look at games that will scare the bejesus out of you for one reason or another.

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The mouth used to terrify me as a child.

The usual rules: I have to have played the games, one game per series, and these are my opinions only!  If I’m honest, this was quite a hard one to narrow down.  Do keep in mind, that what one person finds scary my not bother someone else at all.  Fear is very subjective, so if you think one of these games is about as frightening as a puppy then that’s fine.  Just know that the puppy in question might have tried to rip my throat out.

Alone in the Dark

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Alone in the Dark (1992)

The granddaddy of them all.  One of the first (if not the first) 3D survival horror games terrified me as a child.  I can’t remember how I came to own a copy of it, but I suspect it may have been a copy copy.  At the time I hadn’t played anything quite like it.  I’d played Doom and so forth, games that had horrific elements, but nothing that could be considered a genuine horror game.  The feeling of vulnerability for most of the experience was something new that I wasn’t prepared for.

Alone in the Dark Attic Attack.
This art style had not aged well at all, but the horror is still there, mostly in the books and diaries you can find.

Right from the start you can be killed if you’re not careful, as monsters will burst through the window and up through a trapdoor resulting in a fight you’ll probably lose first time around unless you block them using nearby furniture.  From that point on you’ll realise the death can come from anywhere very suddenly (don’t even think about opening the front door) even once you’ve managed to acquire some weapons to defend yourself.  The story of a madman’s obsession with the occult is very engaging and all sorts of text will fill you in on the insanity that came about in the mansion.  In many cases, the horror comes from the writings of the previous occupants of the house: the horror is often that which you don’t see, but exists within the imagination.  The game is very Lovecraftian in that sense.  It’s just a shame that the franchise has landed on hard times for the past decade or so.

Dead Space

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Dead Space (2008)

A very different kind of survival horror this, and not only because it’s set in space.  Much of the horror you experience is very much in your face, with grotesque creatures leaping out at you, clawing at your face until you can put them down by removing their limbs using a host of weapons and equipment.  After a while this starts to lose its effect which should be a negative.  The developers though were smart enough to realise this, and used your expectations.  Suddenly vents were bursting open, but no Necromorphs (the monsters of the game) would come out.  Clanks would be heard up ahead, but there will be nothing there.  The way the game plays with what it has previously shown you helps keep up the tension.

Dead Space Inventory management
Cleverly, the developers used a similar method to Dark Souls: accessing your inventory does not pause the game.

Similar to Alone in the Dark, this game makes use of text logs to give you background to the goings on on the space craft, with stories of religious groups sacrificing themselves to the creatures due to an alien influence.  It’s here that the game allows itself to develop its horror into a different style.  The madness caused by this influence is effecting the protagonist as well, making what he is seeing become more and more unreliable.  This is explored rather well in the follow up.  The less said about the third game though, the better.  Dead Space and its direct follow up are worth a play at any rate.  Give them a go if you haven’t already.

Neverending Nightmares

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Neverending Nightmares (2014)

This is a bit of a niche one, but my god is it unsettling.  A horror game with a very bizarre art style, looking entirely as though it is made of a pencil scrawls.  The majority of horror on display here is a combination of body horror and unsettling environments.  The game begins with you waking up in bed and exploring the house in the dead of night (slowly, side-scrolling style), only to suffer an unpleasant demise.  Almost immediately, you’ll wake up in bed again, in a slightly different version of the house, ready to explore again.  The house becomes more and more corrupted as your deaths mount up, leading to disfigured babies, sinister ghosts hiding just out of view and an exploration of a brutal hospital.

Neverending Nightmares Ghost Girl
The darkness and scrawled pencil style can make it hard to see, but it all adds to the atmosphere.

The look of the game is quite unique, and its way of handling death is rather interesting.  The game features multiple endings based on the choices you make, although the first time you play through you may not even realise there were any choices.  This mostly boils down to you going to places you didn’t know you were allowed to access.  Hidden rooms and such.  The only really downside is its relatively short length and the fact it’s a bit of a walking simulator (if you consider that a negative).  You can die in the game, resulting in replaying some sections, but that’s uncommon so you can get through the game in about 90 minutes.  It’s quite a creepy experience whilst it lasts though; any longer and I think the impact would be lost.

Silent Hill 2

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Silent Hill 2 (2001)

I bet you all knew this one was coming.  Certainly one of the scariest games I ever played, to the point that I stopped playing it and came back to it over a year later.  I’m not even sure if I could explain now what it was specifically about it that made it so scary.  Was it the grotesque creatures?  The brooding, constantly unsettling atmosphere?  The simultaneously sinister and heartbreaking story?  Most likely a combination of the lot.  This was, and to an extent still is, the greatest survival horror game ever made as far as I’m concerned.  The horrifying monsters aren’t there just because something unpleasant was needed to add to the fear, or to have something leap out at you suddenly.  They serve a purpose to the story, tapping into the mindset of our protagonist.

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The game doesn’t look terrible by today’s standards, but it is showing its age. The fear is as effective as ever though.

The protagonist, James’, feeble combat abilities made you feel constantly vulnerable to the horrors (that were sparingly used I should add) of the titular town.  The uncertainty of what was happening and why he was trapped in this evil environment.  The soul crushing revelations towards the end.  Everything here combines to make something truly special, and at the same time, deeply unsettling.  There are scenes in this game that have stayed with me to this day.  And I don’t just mean that damn dog…

Alien: Isolation

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Alien Isolation (2014)

I struggled to settle on which game to put here.  I decided to go with the one that caused my wife to yell “OH ****!” at the top of her lungs one evening after the baby had gone to sleep.  Not the best moment for that exclamation, but oh so amusing.  The outcry was the result of my slipping along a corridor, only to have a hulking great Xenomorph slither out of a vent 3 feet in front of my face.  It mercifully didn’t notice me, but the shock of going from moving quietly to a huge murder-beast being inches from my nose was quite a surprise.

Alien Isolation motion tracker
The motion tracker is practically your only friend once you leave one of the few safe havens.

The best part of all, was that this moment was unscripted.  Throughout the game, you (as Ripley’s daughter, Amanda) are trying to escape a space station which is home to murderous robots, a few scared surviving humans, and an alien.  But from the moment the alien first appears, you will be hunted.  It can appear at almost any time, whether you are prepared or not.  The constant tension from knowing that is what this game is all about.  You can find and construct (because game must have crafting these days) weapons and items to protect yourself, but that Xenomorph will not quit.  It’s hard to describe the panic that sets in when you’re fighting a group of survivors that want you dead, only for the alien to turn up to the join the party.  Do you use manipulate it to kill your adversaries at the risk of your own demise?  Hide in a locker and wait for it to blow over?  Try to scare the alien away with fire?  How about slipping away with a smoke bomb or noise-maker?  All these options are viable, but one wrong move will result in a grisly death.  The tension rarely lets up, and always being moments away from death is terrifying.

Also, those robots freak me out!

Some honourable mentions.  I really struggled to narrow this list down so there are a few to include here!  Siren: Blood Curse was a damn scary game thanks to its atmosphere and feeling of vulnerability.  The “Sight-jacking” mechanic allowed you to see through the eyes of the creature hunting for you and really added to the tension.  Project Zero/Fatal Frame worked in a similar way in terms of feeling vulnerable, only you couldn’t see your enemies unless you stood still and looked through the lens of your camera (which doubled as your weapon).  Bloodborne i a different kind of horror, but every monster you faced beyond the initial humanoids were grotesque.  Huge, living boxes filled with corpses, half human half insect hybrids, and don’t even get me started on some of the bosses.  Tons more too! Call of Cthulhu, Layers of Fear, SCP Containment Breach and heaps more!  If you need a horror gaming fix this Halloween, pretty much any of them will do the job.

How about you?  What game gives you the shivers?  Is there one I should play this year that you think I may have missed?  Let me know!  I’m always after a good horror game.  Evil Within is lined up next…

 

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Outlast 2 Demo -A nice family friendly game about hugs. Honest…

Outlast was one of those polarising horror games that lead to arguments about what actually qualifies as scary as opposed to shocking.  Some people claimed it was simply YouTube fodder, designed to get online celebrities with face-cams to scream a lot for our amusement, whilst others would claim it was a real survival horror experience in which you felt genuinely vulnerable throughout.  Personally, I quite enjoyed it.  For a good proportion of the game I felt unsettled by the atmosphere and threatened by the denizens of the world, hunting down my defenseless cameraman.  Towards the end the game started to lose some pace, with the same tricks being thrown at you and the ability to exploit somewhat stupid AI reducing the fear factor significantly.  On the whole though, I felt it was a fun budget horror experience.  And now we have the inevitable sequel!  Because it’s 2016 and success = sequel.  This is going to be a look at the events of the demo and a quick overview on my feelings on it.  Enjoy!

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We start of the demo with a little preamble to set the scene. It doesn’t really tie into what happens in the demo much though.

If this game follows on from the story of the original game, it hides it well in the demo.  You’re a guy with a night vision camera (in keeping with the previous game’s theme) searching for his wife through a seemingly abandoned settlement in the hills of the Arizona desert.  Obviously all is not well as you gradually slip through the shacks, finding bodies in various states of dismemberment.  After a short while you come across a figure in the shadows watching you. Being an Outlast survivor, I expected to be rushed at immediately, but the figure just steps back, deeper into the blackness, almost demanding you follow him.  Being a game, you have little choice and you press onward, your camera’s night vision mode allowing you to see in the pitch black.

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My Latin is rather rusty, but I think this translates roughly as Satan is the enemy of God.

Before long you find yourself before a well.  As we all know, a well in a horror situation is something you tend to avoid, but investigate it we must!  Cue a huge…tongue…thing.  Possibly a tentacle?  I’m not too sure.  Anyway, it flies out and drags you into a vent, which collapses leaving you in a modern looking Catholic school.  This seems extremely out of place, but I’m sure there will be more detail on this come the full release.  You pass through the school, seeing some bizarre moments of a screaming child running past, a demon grabbing you and flinging you down the corridor, and a corpse hanging from the ceiling being dragged upwards by a cloud full of hands.  Finally, you walk through a locker (yes, through) into a room where you are attacked by the man you saw at the beginning.  He flings you down the stairs and the game prompts you to run!  Back into the mechanics of the original game then.

Outlast 2 corn field hunt.
The chase through the corn field is somewhat intense. You can just about make out a person hunting for me on the left.

You’re chased through a corn field, being hunted by multiple men with torches.  The use of light here is very effective here, as it dances off the plants whilst you sneak around.  There’s no direction here, it’s simply a case of trying to find a way out without being caught.  This culminates with a chase around some shacks before sliding down a slope to be confronted by a woman wielding an enormous axe.  An axe which comes down solidly onto you.  Onto your crotch specifically.  You get rather a graphic view of the results, before the axe swings into you one more time, cutting the demo to black.

Outlast 2 school
You can see the hanging body down the corridor here. This whole section is very much at odds with the other environments.

Some thoughts on the demo.  It gave me a good idea of what to expect from the game beyond the mechanics (which are mostly the same of the previous entry in the series).  The environments look really good and are far more open than before, allowing for enemies to sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention.  The lack of direction when being looked for is a double edged sword.  At first it’s intense as you have no idea where to go whilst being pursued, but before long the effect wore off and I became more irritated that I had to scour the area to find the way I was meant to go.  The previous game being mostly made up of corridors made navigation somewhat easier.  The school section was most interesting.  The demons and mysterious voices heard throughout it made me think this section is in the character’s head, or some alternate reality.  I’m curious as to how this ties into the story.  On the whole, I’m curious about Outlast 2 as a result of this, I do hope that there are more mechanics to the game than are present in the demo.  Otherwise it could be a case of more of the same.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I feel that it could become rather dull rather quickly if there isn’t more to it.

Outlast 2 catholic school scene
School. God damn terrifying!

Outlast 2 is being developed and published by Red Barrels.  I played the demo on Xbox One and would recommend you give it a try if you enjoyed the original.  If you didn’t then this is very unlikely to sway you!

5 Critically Acclaimed Games that I Didn’t Bother Playing – Critical Miss part 2.

We’ve already established that critics sometimes get things wrong.  They’re not exactly flawless, and have often undervalued games, regardless of what your opinion on scores or objectivity are.  Sometimes though, the foolishness goes the other way.  Rarely.  Very rarely in fact.  I’m nigh on infallible.  But every now and then, I decide to skip a game that, by all accounts, is absolutely incredible.  This list is dedicated to those games that I ignored in spite of the advice of all those experts in the field I enjoy.  Pfft, experts!

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I have to Fez up to having never played this one.

Unusually for my lists, these are all games I haven’t played!  But they are games that received very good reviews pretty much across the board or regularly appear on top 100 game lists.  I’ve tried to avoid games from genres that I generally don’t like.  So no Fez here!  I’m also skipping ones that I didn’t own the system for.  Can’t blame me for not playing Xenoblade when I don’t own a Wii U!  So here we go, 5 games I just didn’t bother playing, even though I probably should have.

The Last of Us

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The Last of Us (2013)

Right, I know pretty much everyone on planet Earth (and probably some people not on it) will tell me I’m absolutely wrong for having not played this before.  Everyone loves this game.  Critics, players, small animals, anyone who has played it has gone on to describe it as one of the greatest games ever made.  An adventure through a zombie apocalypse (of sorts) with a genuinely good story and well rounded characters.  I should want to play this.  But in spite of having two opportunities to play it via two separate console generations, I still haven’t bothered.

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Visions of an escort quest!

Part of the problem was that when this was coming out, I was about a month away from becoming a father to a daughter.  The constantly pushed emotional side of the story from the previews made me think that it might hit me a little too hard as a father.  It’s a hard one to explain, but that was certainly a factor.  The other reason was somewhat more rational: I’m not a fan of Naughty Dog’s games.  I find the controls less tight than they need to be, the shooting slippery and the stories less than engaging.  This is also why I’ve not played an Uncharted game since the second one.  I know I shouldn’t write off a supposedly tremendous game based on the developer, but they do seem to have a distinct style in their 3rd person games, that I simply don’t like.  Try to convince me otherwise if you’d like!

Shadow of the Colossus

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Shadow of the Colossus (2005/6)

A follow up to the wonderful Ico (which I played and really enjoyed as it happens) which has received high praise for more than a decade.  I think part of the reason for it being remembered for so long is the never ending development cycle of The Last Guardian, a spiritual sequel.  A grand adventure (that reminds me of Ocarina of Time every time I see it being played) across a barren landscape, to fight and destroy giant beasts that roam the world with the aim of reviving your partner.  It boils down to exploring a world and taking on a number of epic boss battles in which you find a creatures weak point to take them down by climbing across their gigantic form, avoiding limbs and clutching on to tufts of hair to avoid falling to your doom.  Few games have attempted to ape the style of game (Titan Souls is the only game that springs to mind) in which there is nothing but discovering more and more complex boss fights.  But I didn’t play this one, so I suppose I don’t know what I’m missing!

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Every boss has an epic scale and a different strategy for defeating them.  Not that I would know!

This one came out at a very unfortunate time for me.  I was just finishing university and thus had very little money.  What little money (and time) I had was going into my World of Warcraft addiction!  It also came out at an unfortunate time in Europe on the whole.  Coming out in February 2006 here meant that the next generation of consoles had released (with the XBox 360 having come out a couple of months before) and the previous generation had been left behind by many so it’s quite possible a number of players missed it at the time.  I do feel that I missed out on this one somewhat, and a re-release on this generation of consoles would probably catch my interest.  On the other hand, already knowing pretty much everything that happens in the game (this is the internet age after all) means that it might not have the same impact.

Red Dead Redemption

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Red Dead Redemption (2010)

It’s like a cowboy version of Grand Theft Auto they tell me!  With a riveting story, a huge world to explore, and interesting characters to meet.  There are plenty of secrets to find, animals to hunt, and the small matter of that very popular zombie expansion Undead Nightmare to play.  It’s received countless awards, requests from fans for sequels and remasters.  Recently it was added to the Xbox One Backwards compatibility list and saw a sudden spike in sales.  I’ve not played it and I probably never will either.

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It certainly looks to have aged pretty well.

I’m about to say something that is heresy in most gaming circles.  I don’t like Grand Theft Auto.  I’ve played a lot of them (GTA, 2, 3, and 4) but I don’t know why I keep allowing myself to be convinced to come back to the series when I just don’t enjoy them.  The stories have never gripped me, the characters I find reprehensible in most cases, the worlds don’t interest me and all I see outside the main story is busy work.  I skipped GTAV for this reason, and I skipped RDR for that as well.  Perhaps I just don’t like playing as a character that I find unpleasant.  This might mean I miss out on what others see as a great experience, but it wouldn’t be an experience I enjoy.  Rockstar has developed, and published, many games that I enjoy.  This will never be one of them.

Thief 2

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Thief 2 (2000)

Looking Glass Studios could do no wrong from the mid 90s to early 2000 and their untimely demise that same year.  System Shock 2 is a game that sticks with me to this day.  That SHODAN reveal gave me chills.  The Thief games were ones I never really played though.  I had a go at a demo of the original game, but that’s about as far as my experience with this series got (although I did download the most recent one when it was free on Games with Gold).

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This one has not aged as well.

In simple terms, I didn’t enjoy the demo of the first game.  That switched me off from the series almost immediately.  I suspect that, at the time, this wasn’t the right sort of game for me (or I wasn’t the right sort of gamer for this game) due to my not being a fan of slow methodical games back then.  System Shock worked for me as it was a bit faster paced, and the sci-fi setting was more to my liking.  If I had been a little older when this had been released I may well have enjoyed it more.  Going back to play the series now is probably not the best option as it will likely be very clunky by today’s standards.  I’m probably more than a little spoiled by modern games.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013)

I have a lot of respect and a lot of time for John Bain, aka Totalbiscuit.  I find his YouTube videos entertaining and enjoy listening to the Co-Optional podcast during my walk to work.  So when he described this as one of his all time favourite games I took a good long look at it…and then decided not to bother with it.  Not because it looked bad either, it looked like a tremendous game.  Just not something that I would enjoy.  And that’s saying something, as I normally thoroughly enjoy a game with a good story.

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I’ve heard that this scene is particularly clever, involving hiding behind snowmen.

There’s something unquantifiable about this one.  I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that turns me off from this game.  I’m not a fan of puzzle platformers, which this seems to have elements of, but it seems to be more than that genre.  I’ve grown a bit tired of silent protagonists, but this supposedly tells a fantastic story without voice acting.  I think the issue her is that I really dislike the idea of controlling each character with a different stick on the controller.  I remember a game on PS2 called Twin Calibre, which allowed you to control your character’s two guns independently by using the two thumbsticks.  It controlled horribly and made the game very hard to play.  I suspect it’s this issue with dual stick control that has turned me against this game before even trying it.  That may be a little irrational, but I think that’s what my issue is.  Convince me to try it out if you’d like!

Some other mentions.  Okami is one that I simply missed at the time.  It was another game to come out during university so it simply passed me by, in spite of being very impressed by the games art work.  Destiny is something of a polarising one with a lot of people.  I avoided it merely due to feeling I didn’t have the time to put in to get the most out of it.  I probably would have enjoyed the game, but it’s an issue gamers face as they get older.  The next one people may be surprised at: Undertale.  This is one that I really wanted to play, but there was so much mentioned in podcasts, write-ups and reviews that I feel I’d had a lot of it spoiled.  It is one that I may end up playing some day.

How about you?  Are there any games you regret missing out on?  Ones that you saw everyone enjoying but just couldn’t understand the buzz?  Let me know!

 

Amplitude (2016) – When is a remake not a remake?

I really like rhythm action.  Really, really like them.  Not in a weird way though.  I don’t stay up at night stroking my copy of the classic Gitaroo Man.  As far as you know anyway.  But it’s a genre that’s something of a go-to for me to play when I want a quick blast of something fun.  Guitar Hero, Rock Band (and the Blitz spin off!), the aforementioned Gitaroo Man, OSU, and of course Amplitude.  Which I played to death, along with its prequel Frequency, on PS2.  It worked in the same way as a lot of modern rhythm action games, shapes fly towards the screen in time to the music and you press the corresponding button to destroy them.  I had power-ups, bright visuals, and most importantly of all, a great soundtrack.

Amplitude 2016 Tracks
Just like many modern rhythm action games, notes travel towards you and you need to press buttons to destroy them and keep the song playing.

Here we have the obligatory remake from the same company that created the original back in 2003, but at a budget price.  In many ways it’s exactly the same game, along with new conveniences like leaderboards and pretty graphics.  In other ways it’s much, much weaker.  The premise is the same: there are 6 tracks in each song, representing different combinations of drum beats, synth, vocals and the like.  Completing a short chain of notes turns that track on for a while and increases your multiplier, missing a beat costs you some health.  After a while a turned on track will need to be activated again.  This carries on until the end of a song.  There are power-ups, such as cleanse (activates a track), multiplier (doubles your score), sedate (slows the song down) and others as you’d expect.  In the end it boils down to a score attack game which is just fine.

Amplitude 2016 Synth
Most songs have 6 tracks to keep activated to hear all parts of the music.  Power-ups can be collected in some sets of notes.

There’s also a story!  Something about a comatose patient and you’re flying through their brain activating different neural pathways through the power of music!  This is the excuse for there being a concept album to play through in the main campaign.  If I’m honest this is fairly forgettable, being a chain of 15 songs strung together with a brief scene of different parts of the brain.  The big problem is that the songs are all so forgettable.  Not just in the main campaign, but the track list as a whole.  All the songs fall into some variation of electro dance music, which is fine if you’re into the sort of thing.  I’m not but I know when I find a song memorable.

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There are 4 different ships to select, but they all function in the same way.

The previous games in the series often had a good variety of different songs, from little known artists to popular bands.  There was a good spread of genres, but now all the tracks seem to blend together, with each one sounding very similar to the last.  The only exception to this really is a couple of fun tracks buried in amongst the unlocks (an interesting jazz piece and a bizarre rap/rock song by Insomniac Games about software development).  This is a huge problem as when it comes down to it, a music game lives or dies on its track list.  And as far as I’m concerned, this game is on life support.  Much like the character in the story in fact…was that deliberate?  Did I miss that?  Is this game, in fact, super meta?!  No.  No, I don’t think it is.  The songs are just boring.

Amplitude 2016 Boss
The story has “boss stages” which are more challenging.  The final one has this incredibly annoying blur effect that makes it hard to see and will ruin your eyes.

The games mechanics are as fine as ever with everything functioning as it should.  The multiplayer is fairly fun with some nice weapons to use against your opponents in pursuit of the highest score.  The graphics are lovely, although you probably won’t have much time to look at the backgrounds.  The songs are challenging on the higher difficulty levels which could keep you coming back if you’re a completionist.  But all this is fairly meaningless when the songs themselves aren’t fun to listen to.  Rock Band and Guitar Hero cottoned on to the idea of having a good variety of genres in their track list, even though it didn’t tie into the “rock” thing they were going for.  Variety is the spice of life they say, and this is quite true when it comes to your rhythm action game’s playlist.

Amplitude 2016 Flow
The Flow power-up allows you to sly around without worrying about notes, gathering points as you go.  It also lets you get a good look at the pretty backgrounds.

Its for this reason that I included the question “When is a remake not a remake?”  A remake should, in my opinion, include at least something on a similar level to the original.  This game, budget price or otherwise, feels like a shell of the former games in the series due to its lack of content (30 very samey songs and not much to do once you’ve mastered them), variety and reason to play the tracks more than a couple of times.

Amplitude 2016 Background
Some of the backgrounds really do look good, with bizarre shapes and colour combinations.  You won’t see it much through normal gameplay though.

Amplitude was developed and published by Harmonix.  I played the game on PS4 and would not recommend this.  Perhaps if you’re crazy for electro music you may get some enjoyment from it, but to me it was a list of songs that all sounded the same.  Maybe I’m just getting old and don’t understand all this new music the kids are listening to.  Or maybe it’s just a bit rubbish.

The One Lovely Blogger Award – I suppose I am rather lovely.

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Again it seems that someone believes me worthy or an award!  In the short time I have been writing on here I have been nominated for several awards which is lovely!  Just as lovely as this award claims I am!  I’d like to thank the also lovely (and entertaining!) Retr0pia for nominating me for this.

This award entails sharing seven interesting facts about oneself, before nominating other lovely bloggers to join in the cycle.  So here are some things about me!

Fact 1: I am a teacher.

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This is not me.  I am older and more jaded than this chap seems to be.

Some of you may know this already, but I am a maths teacher of around 10 years now.  I teach kids between the ages of 11 and 18, many of whom are quite surprised to learn that I like video games perhaps more than they do.  Hopefully none of them have found this blog!

Fact 2: I love cooking.

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Some cakes I made for my wife’s charity night

I’m a big fan of cooking.  I like to try making something new from time to time.  Most days I make sure I’m home from work in time to cook dinner for the family, even if I only have about 30 minutes to get something made.  I have a tendency to make things up as I go along though, meaning if a meal turns out to be really good, I can’t remember what I did and we’ll never get it again.  Something to be said for the surprise though I suppose.

Fact3: I’m not just a fan of video games.

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Love this game.  Food plus gaming!

I also love board games.  I don’t get much of a chance to play them, but I do have some that I very much enjoy.  I also occasionally frequent a gaming group at a pub in the city.  Pandemic and Legendary are favourites, Burger Up has become one I’m a fan of recently.  I’m very much looking forward to the Dark Souls game coming out next year.

Fact 4: I’ve done a few charity gaming streams.

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These folks do some good work.

As part of Special Effect’s annual Gameblast event, I’ve done some 24 hour non-stop gaming marathons for charity.  Myself and a few others who join me have raised about £500 for the charity, who modify consoles to allow people with physical disabilities to play games too.  I may do another stream around February, so watch out for it!

Fact 5: I do not like musicals.

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No.

No.  Just no.  Don’t sing the plot to me, don’t try to make me understand through interpretive dance.  Just…just stop it!

Fact 6: I rarely go back to games I’ve finished.

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I’ve used this same picture in a previous blog.  I have no shame!

This is really down to time, but it’s not often I go back to a game I’ve finished, which means I tend to miss out on content in some cases.  This is also why I tend to avoid very long games.  I doubt I’ll ever play Witcher 3.

Fact 7: I’m a whisky drinker.

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This is one my wife got me some time ago.

Big fan of whisky, me!  Scotch to you Americans reading.  As an alcoholic drink it’s one with so much variety, with a type that will suit pretty much every palette.  Talisker is my personal favourite, with a nice smokey flavour.  Not that I’m a huge alcoholic!

Some nominees for this very same award!

Vahrkalla

Covell Capers

Conquering the Gaming Backlog

THE RULES:

  1. Write an article accepting the award.
  2. Thank the person you nominated you and put a link to their blog.
  3. Tell the reader seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate other blogs for the award.
  5. Let them know that you nominated them.
  6. Post the rules to let your followers know how it works.

5 Memorable Gaming Moments – Unforgettable!

Memories a funny thing isn’t it?  We have so many experiences every single day, in the real world and in our choice of entertainment, but we remember very little of it in real terms.  Most of what we experience gets filtered out and forgotten, leaving memories that tend to have a strong emotional reaction attached to them.  In games, especially ones released in recent years, there are so many high impact scenes constantly flashing before our eyes that we could be forgiven for allowing them to all blur into one.  However, some games have certain scenes that are so full of impact for many different reasons, that they stay with us for a long time.  This is dedicated to those scenes that will remain with you long into the future, whether you stay involved in gaming or not.

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Remarkably unmemorable.

As ever, I must have played the games I’m talking about.  I’m going with a one game per series rule for this one, otherwise certain game franchises could easily dominate!  Most importantly, whilst many of these moments will be familiar if you’ve played these games, this is a personal list.  My opinion only!

Oh, and spoilers.  Obviously.

Half Life 2 – Wake up and smell the ashes

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Half Life 2 (2004)

I could have easily gone for the tram ride, the tentacle creature or the canyon helicopter fight from Half Life.  Or perhaps the Super Gravity Gun, playing with Dog or (my god) Ravenholm from Half Life 2.  The series is packed with moments, scenes, areas and people that have lodged themselves in my brain, either from playing them so many times (I still go through Half Life 2 every now and then) or from the impact they had the first time (Ravenholm is still scary somehow).  But it’s the introduction to the second game in the series that still gives me chills when I load it up for another run through.

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The unsettling, not quite human look of the G-Man as he fades in and out of reality keeps a tight hold on your attention during the speech.

At the end of Half Life, the G-Man appears, giving you the choice of working for him and being put into suspended animation, or declining and dying at the hands (claws?) of the alien horde you just survived.  Canonically, Gordon Freeman chooses to work for the G-Man, which leads to the opening of Half Life 2.  Once again you are faced with the G-Man, giving a short, stilted monologue about how long you’ve been gone, culminating in the line “So, wake up, Mr. Freeman.  Wake up, and smell the ashes.” The implication that the world has gone to hell in the time you’ve been in stasis and the cold, alien way he speaks to you sets you up to rejoin the world you were taken from in the previous installment with an urge to find out just what happened.  The fact that the game that follows is one of the best games ever made makes it all the better.

Resident Evil – That first zombie

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Resident Evil (1996)

This is probably one the most iconic scenes of its generation in gaming terms.  Again, Resident Evil has a lot of moments that will have stuck with you if you ever played the game.  But it’s this short piece of (frankly ugly) FMV that will be most memorable.  Even more so that that cheesy live action intro movie!

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It looks even worse than I remember!

Resident Evil uses something that has been lost in modern mainstream horror games and movies, and that is not tipping its hand too early.  It takes quite some time before you even meet this first enemy, having spent time walking around parts of the mansion, exploring and building tension after seeing the chaos going on outside the mansion’s door.  After all this walking, you hear something at the end of a corridor, drawing you in.  Rounding the corner, you’re greeted by a creature, chewing on a corpse.  Interrupted, it turns slowly to face you, giving you a good look at the monster you’ll be fighting to survive.  For the time it was very much a creepy image, and the fact you were practically right on top of it (due to it being obscured by the wall) before triggering the video gave you very little room to work with as you grappled with the as yet unused combat controls.  A very well crafted moment of horror, something that the series seems to have lost in recent years.  Maybe Resident Evil VII will return to this.

Battlefield 4 – That helicopter bit

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Battlefield 4 (2013)

Now this one is a little bit different.  Most modern military FPS games these days have more big, bombastic moments than you can shake a Michael Bay at.  Some of them are genuinely memorable (the Modern Warfare series “Nuke” and “No Russian” scenes especially), but this one is a lot more personal.  No other player has had this exact moment, as it happened in the multiplayer.

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Standing up in a warzone.  Needless to say I died about 2 seconds after I took this.

I can’t remember the name of the map, but it’s set on a series of beaches and islands with a large (I think) hotel in the middle.  A holiday resort I suppose.  After a group of players and I cleared out the enemy team from the ground floor of the now ruined hotel, the sounds of a helicopter fill my speakers.  A enemy pilot swooped the vehicle into view at the demolished front of the hotel.  We were screwed, all the work of clearing the building going to waste and another respawn and long slog back to the building.  A few players start running, but it was clearly hopeless.  Then the helicopter inexplicably exploded.  Did the pilot clip the wall?  Did someone have a rocket launcher?  A friendly jet fighter rushes over the wrecked enemy vehicle, like something out of an action movie, to the relief of everyone involved.  It felt like the moment the heroes are rescued from certain doom by that renegade team member who happened to hotwire a plane in defiance of their orders.  A stunning, unscripted, almost movie like moment that won’t be replicated.

Bioshock – Would you kindly…

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Bioshock (2007)

Admit it, you knew this was coming.  Possibly one of the most shocking, unexpected reveals in gaming history.  The moment that makes you question almost every instruction you’ve ever followed in a video game to this point.  You’d spent hours fighting your way through Rapture, assuming you were helping Atlas who always prefaced his instructions with a charming “Would you kindly…”.  We thought you were helping.  We thought we had decided to assist this pleasant, heroic freedom fighter take down a tyrannical ruler.  We thought our actions were your own.  Oh, how wrong we were.

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It all comes flooding back!

It only took one audiolog to change everything.  An audiolog about a child being ordered to carry out actions against his will.  But only when a certain trigger phrase was uttered.  “Would you kindly…”.  The flashback to every order you’d been given completely rewrites everything you’d done throughout the game.  It wasn’t free will, it was indoctrination.  As it turns out, you were the illegitimate son of the tyrannical leader, taken by crime boss Fontaine, and indoctrinated to respond to the trigger phrase.  Fontaine, who happened to be masquerading as Atlas in an effort to remove the leader of Rapture, your father Andrew Ryan, so he could claim it for himself.  The moment of realisation is forever ingrained in my mind, and the implication that everything I’d done in this (and arguably every game I’d ever played) was all at someone else’s behest sticks with me to this day.  It’s just a pity that the remainder of the game failed to use this revelation in a smart way.

The Stanley Parable – Literally everything

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The Stanley Parable (2013)

I was quite torn over what to put in this last slot.  I had plenty of options, all of which are top games with great moments that will be lodged in my brain forever.  But the final spot goes to this game.  If you could even call it a game.  Interactive fiction maybe?  Walking simulator?  An experiment in gaming narrative?  No matter what you describe this as, pretty much everything in it is a memorable moment.  If you have played it, I’d wager that you can still remember what the first ending you reached was.  For me, it was the “suicide” ending, in which you defy the narrator to the point that he just lets you throw yourself off a ledge repeatedly until you finally expire.

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8!

This is another title that plays with the idea of choice within gaming, or the lack thereof.  The narrator instructs you, as Stanley, and you either do as you are told, or defy the instruction.  At first, I felt quite clever when I didn’t do as I was told.  “Aha!” I thought, “I bet they didn’t expect me to do that!”.  But at every turn, the narrator chides you for not following the story as it had been set out for you.  It can eventually lead to all manner of insanity, from a secret “making of” museum to escaping the game world by clipping through the wall, only to find that the narrator expected you to do that.  It really is quite genius at times, and half the fun comes from trying to find as many different endings as possible just to see what the developers had thought of.  A genuinely memorable, and fascinating, piece of interactive media.

As ever, here are some honourable mentions!  Silent Hill 2’s various appearances of Pyramid Head are quite unsettling, often distressing, and always memorable.  Who can forget his…interactions with some of the other creatures?  It’s a pity he almost became a running joke in the series as it went on.  The Scarecrow sequence in Arkham Asylum was absolutely fantastic, from its jump scares out of nowhere, to it’s “game crash”.  Even the platforming section that followed was excellent, and a great change of pace from the rest of the game.  I’m sure many of you will have these:  World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros. and Green Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog.  Is it the music?  The bright colours?  The fact that we’ve probably experienced the levels a hundred times?  Whatever it is, those stages are perfectly crafted to evoke memories of every inch of them from the moment that first note is played.

What about you?

That’s my list, but what about you?  Is there anything that you consider a moment in a game that will stay with you forever?  A piece of music combined with a scene?  Maybe a specific level or shocking reveal?  Let me know!