Thursday, 6 October 2011

100 Gruesome Games for Halloween! (90-86)

90 - Call Of Cthulhu :- Dark Corners Of The Earth (Xbox):

Based on the works of American horror writer H.P.Lovecraft, Dark Corners Of The Earth tells the tale of Detective Jack Walters. After being called to come to a derelict mansion by the police, he discovers that the leader of a weird cult has asked for him by name. But Jack has no idea who the man is and has never met him before.

Currently the cult is in a siege situation with the cops and the leader says he will only talk to our detective chum! Entering the mansion just as a firefight starts, he finds photos of himself and newspaper clippings of cases he has worked on totally covering one of the rooms! Who are these guys, and why are they so interested in our hero??

Hearing a strange noise coming from a staircase leading to the basement, Jack (or you, as you're in control) decides to investigate! Amongst other gruesome things, you discover a strange electronic device and upon powering it up, seem to conjure forth some weird alien entities! Yipes! Passing out in sheer panic, the screen fades to black and it's another 6 years before we catch up with the story....

Recently released from an asylum where he has spent the last 6 years, Jack goes back to being a Private Investigator. Trying to forget about his horrifying ordeal, he takes on the case of a missing shopworker, and travels to the small fishing town of Innsmouth to discover what he can about the disappearance. The locals don't take too kindly to outsiders, and soon Jack is fighting for his life and trying to escape the town and it's creepy inhabitants. As the story unfolds, he struggles to maintain a grip on his sanity as he uncovers more and more terrible and unbelievable secrets....

When you first start the game up, you'll be forgiven for thinking it's going to be a first-person shooter...actually though, it plays more like an adventure game. You creep around investigating the town and it's locked buildings, trying to stealthily avoid the residents and work out various puzzles to help you with the case.

Early gameplay also involves escaping pursuers, and one piece has you running from your bedroom locking doors with bolts behind you as you go and pushing furniture in front of them to further hinder capture! It makes for some pretty atmospheric action, and although it's tricky you'll keep playing until you get past as you'll want to see what happens next...

The game does seem to be rather tricky in general, and I haven't got too far in it yet..but from what I have seen, it only gets crazier and crazier as it goes on. It's certainly atmospheric, and there's lots of fun to be had working out how to proceed past the puzzles. Jack will start panicking occasionally and the screen will blur, or he'll start muttering away to himself as his insanity increases..which is another nice touch!

I do have a few issues with it though...control can sometimes be a bit fiddly, and I especially had problems during the escape sequence mentioned above, but it seems to happen a bit randomly and doesn't really break the game.

The biggest problem for me though, is Jack's voice. Although not actually that badly voice acted, it seems somewhat disjointed from what's happening on screen. Your character can be scared stupid and trying to leg it through a door, but he'll just calmly say something like "'s locked. Maybe I should try somewhere else." As you can imagine, this affects the immersion of the game and makes you very aware that that's all it is...

Still, apart from those tiny flaws, it's another great spooky specimen and comes highly recommended!


89 - Body Harvest (N64) :

Halloween isn't just a great time for getting freaky with ghouls and ghosts, it's also the perfect time to indulge in a bit of alien hunting! And in this N64 title from DMA Designs ( who would later go on to become Rockstar North ) you can indulge in a great deal of bug-blasting shenanigans!

Since 1916, alien invaders have been visiting Earth every 25 years and harvesting it's inhabitants for food. In 2016, the last few human survivors are orbiting space in a space station and decide to send some Troopers back in time to try and prevent these body harvests from happening. However, the baddie bugs attack the station.. and our hero Adam Drake barely escapes into the past, being the only Trooper to do so! You then, must take control of Adam, and explore the areas where the aliens plan to invade and try to stop them munching their way through history!

Doing so involves some RPG-lite type exploration of buildings, chatting to the folks that populate these time-zones and seeking their help to battle the beasts. Some will loan you vehicles to use, or give you keys to secret passages or buildings that hold better weapons. The ultimate objective in these areas is to locate the Alien Generators that spawn the creatures and destroy them, whereupon you will gain access to the next area..

The aliens will attack in waves and attempt to capture humans and eat them. If you're to make it to the generators, you'll need to stop these waves! Running around on foot can be very dangerous, so it's very handy that there are all kinds of vehicles lying around the place and you can enter any one of these for a bit of extra health and firepower. Yes, that's right...just like Rockstar North's later titles you can hop into any vehicle you can see, and this game has loads....

Image - Mike Dailly
From Fire Engines to Fighter Planes, Tanks to Ice Cream Vans..there's load of different driving styles to master. It's easy to see that sandbox gaming is slightly older than most people think too, as the levels are huge and the vehicles allow you to explore them however you choose! It really is like GTA crossed with Earth Defence Force....

This is one of my favourite N64 games, and I can't recommend it enough! The levels get crazier and more filled with slimy alien bugs of increasing strength as the game goes on, and finding which weapons and vehicles to use and where is loads of fun. There are plenty of secrets to be found too, and it'll take you ages to see the end...

It's by no means perfect, and even at the time of it's release people found Adam to travel around a bit too slowly on foot...and it does have the occasional game-breaking bug, if you explore a bit too far from the course the game ideally wants you to take...but if if you give it a chance, stick with it and reach the later time-zones you should end up loving it as much as me! Go track it down and give it a blast!!

(Edit - Also click here to read a great article on the making of the game at Nintendo Life)


88 - Invasion Of The Zombie Monsters (ZX Spectrum, MSX) :

If you've been away from the Spectrum scene for a few years, you may be unaware that it still has a healthy amount of games being released for it each year! The next game on my list was released last year, and although originally only available to buy, thanks to it's generous creators you can now play it for free...and play it you should!

Young Ned is indulging in a bit of smoochy-smoochy with his girlfriend in the back seat of his car, when it suddenly gets struck by lightning! But this is no ordinary storm, and the lightning brings with it an evil shadow creature...who kidnaps Ned's girlie and reveals plans to conquer the world with an army of zombies!! What the shadow doesn't know though, is that in times of great danger Ned receives the wondrous "Moonshine" power, gaining energy and power bolts from the moon's rays! Off he goes to stop this evil fiend and get back his lady....

Presentation in this game is excellent, and if you didn't know any better you'd really think you were playing a big-budget release from back in the day! A funky tune and cool intro sequence start things off, and when you start the game proper you can expect colourful graphics and some great gameplay too!

It owes a lot to Capcom's Ghosts 'n' Goblins series, but is no worse for that! You traverse the platforms and pitfalls, battling zombies, monsters and killer plants and at the end of each level you'll face a boss, which you'll need to beat to progress to the next groovy level! Your bolts of energy can be made more powerful by picking up power ups along the way, of course...

Do yourself a favour and go find and play this gem right now! It's also available for the MSX (which has slightly groovier graphics) so if that's more your scene, go play it on that! And if you like it lots, you can still buy an actual physical copy from Relevo too, which comes with some extra goodies! Hurrah!!

87 - Zombie Raid (Arcade) :

This is a funky lightgun shooter that was released in the arcades in 1995 by Sammy ! It had a shotgun attached to the arcade cab apparently, although I've only discovered it's delights via MAME and use a mouse, so it's probably lost some of it's atmosphere there...

Set in England in the early years of the last century, you play the part of Detective Edward Windsor and go roaming around graveyards and sewers battling zombies, werewolves and other creatures of the night! The screen pans around letting you pick off the baddies, who like to hide behind trees, gravestones and the like before leaping at you and biting your face off or shredding you with their claws!
This is a truly gruesome game, with bits flying everywhere as you blast the baddies certainly isn't afraid to show you some gore! It has a nice variety of ghosties, ghoulies and long-leggity beasties to brutalize too which keeps it interesting as you advance through the game. It's all pretty standard lightgun-type stuff to be honest though, and there really isn't much more to say about it other than it's a lot of fun and should keep your trigger finger happy for a bit!

86 - Dead Rising (Xbox 360) :

Adding yet another zombie-filled game to the list, we have Dead Rising from the masters of survival horror Capcom ! This is a bit different from the usual zombie games the company produces though!

As photo-journalist Frank West, you hitch a ride in a helicopter to a town where you here strange things are happening. Hoping to get some good shots, you head to the roof of the local shopping mall and tell the pilot to come back for you in 3 you just have to stay alive that long!

It doesn't take long to realise that the place is crawling with zombies! You hole up with a few random survivors, some of whom seem to know more about the situation than they're telling. After a while you decide to head back into the mall to try and gather up any other survivors, and also to get those photos that'll guarantee you fame and fortune!

What makes this game stand out from the zombie horde is the ability to use pretty much anything you can find lying around in the mall to dispose of the brain-biting freaks! Lawnmowers, golf clubs, guitars, frying pans....even Servbot masks from the Mega Man games.... all of these can be used to fight the undead! And of course they'll also provide the perfect photo opportunity to get you some much needed points, which you can then use to beef up your skills!

Surviving for the 3 days is a tough job, and it isn't helped by certain survivors who have gone a little crazy. These are known as Psychopaths and must also be destroyed before they end your fun. Later on, a weird cult shows up too and they also try to stop you from finding out just how the hell all off this came to happen!?! Needless to say, you need to change your tactics when dealing with these foes, as they ain't no brainless brain-munchers....

The game is a huge load of fun, but it is stupidly difficult in parts. And it's not helped by a save system that only allows you one save slot, and if you die you can save your character but not your progress. This saw me starting the game at least 4 or 5 different times, but eventually I was able to progress all the way through having beefed up my stats enough to be able to take a bit of a beating!

Anyway, the story should keep you entertained enough..the mucking about in the mall definitely will..and you should definitely at least give it a go and see if it's your kind of thing! If it is, then there's a sequel ( which is about to get it's own updated version with the character from this game ) and 2 XBLA games to accompany it! You should try them out too, as they add to the fun by allowing you to create your own zombie-killing weapons!!

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