¡ Felíz Día de los Muertos ! Here it is then, the final installment of the second set of Gruesome Games! It's taken a while, but we're finally through them! Well, not quite yet of course, but here's the last lot coming now...see! Just down there......
8 - Realm Of The Dead (PS2) :
Endlessly looping music, terrible AI, invisible walls, a truly terrible camera and perspective....everything about this game means it should be a totally unenjoyable, mind-numbing experience. And it mostly is! Yet for some reason, I actually keep playing this game....
A terrible plague is sweeping the land turning everyone into zombies, and you take control of one of three different characters and battle your way through the game to rescue a noble count and uncover a conspiracy that threatens to bring chaos and turmoil to the whole realm! So off you trot on a beat-em-up / hack-n-slash type journey...
The three characters available to play are Greezer, a holy knight with a sword...Hiro, daughter of the demon lord, who has a big, scary demon hand and a massive scythe ...and Lyla Dol, a female Black Knight who uses a weapon like the spinny thing from Krull! My favourite to use is Hiro, as Greezer is a bit slow and Lyla a bit fiddly to control. There's a surprising amount of moves and combos to use against the enemies, but you'll probably only ever use a few as a lot of the others seem a bit rubbish.
The most frustrating thing about the game, is that it could have been really good! The enemy design is okay, the locations suitably moody, the amount of pick-ups and secret areas is commendable and there's quite a bit of fun to be had fighting through the baddies. But then you're hit with all the flaws...terrible viewpoints that obscure the action, enemies that stand still if you hide behind them, other enemies like the Wasp Men who are almost impossible to kill....
So is it worth playing at all? I would say yes, if you can find it for a pound or so. It has a certain charm despite all its flaws. Just expect to get what you pay for if you buy it at that price...a shame though, as it could have been so much better...
Back in the day I never owned an Xbox. I was a PS2 owner and quite happy with that as there was loads of great exclusives on Sony's machine. Every now & then though, a game would come out on the Xbox that would make me really jealous, and being a huge Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, this game was one such title..
Of course now I have the luxury of owning both systems and I'm finally able to see just what I was missing! And it turns out it's a pretty good game that does a great job of being a "lost" episode of the show, the story taking place at an early point in Series 3. You fill Buffy's shoes as she tries to defeat Spike, who tries to nab her friends to sacrifice to a demon called Lybach. Lybach has possessed Spike's girlfriend Drusilla to force him to help. As the story progresses you'll notice another few familiar faces, including one of Buffy's toughest ever adversaries, The Master!
You'll visit a lot of familiar locations from the show too, like the Bronze, Sunnydale High and the Cemetery. Vampires are stalking all of these areas, and as the Slayer you have a massive array of groovy vamp-killing moves to unleash on the waves of sun-dodgers! Of course, to properly finish them off you'll need a stake or similar point-edged weapons like rakes or broom handles, and you'll find lots of these lying around too.
There's also health pick-ups and elixirs that refill your slayer energy so you can pull off some particularly killer moves. There's also a few more weapons like double-edged blades and super-soakers filled with holy water! And it's not just blood suckers that Buffy will be facing either. Skeletons, Zombies, Demons & Hell-hounds are all out for some slayer-steak!
And the combat brings a lot of joy! Pummeling the enemies and finishing them off by flinging a stake through their heart is hugely satisfying, as is being lucky and landing them on a spiky piece of scenery or in front of a speeding train! Only some unbalanced tricky enemies and occasional camera quirks put a dampener on things, but these are mostly ignorable when you compare them to the rest of the game.
The sound work needs special mention too, with all of the original voice cast present bar Sarah Michelle Gellar, but her stand-in does a commendable job with only a few lines sounding a bit..odd! The theme tune is also thankfully present, and the other music does a fine job of setting the mood.
If you're a fan of the show, this game won't see you disappointed...and if you're not a fan, you'll still find an enjoyable beat-em-up with spooky settings well suited for the time of year! Definitely a recommended pick-up!
6 - Haunted House (MSX) :
A machine I know pretty much nothing about, the MSX has a huge amount of games I've never heard of or had the pleasure of playing. And so I decided to ask the guys over at MSX Resource Center if they had any recommendations for spooky games. Thanks to them, I'm now playing my way through a rather large list of freaky new finds, one of which we've already seen a few posts back...and now also including this wee gem!
Filling the boots of Joe Kowalski, you'll have to work out how to escape the spooky Haunted House! Various nasties are lurking around and you'll need to avoid them or work out what items to use to defeat them! Keys are required to open doors and switches can be flipped to drop walls or other such handy stuff.
Working out how to progress is great fun, and the superb spooky sound effects add a lot of atmosphere to the game. All the little animations are also charming, and again I suggest you download it and give it a bash! I will say that I've only got three screens in, having just started it, and I seem to be stuck...but I'm pretty sure I'll work out how to progress. Plus if you download it, you might know what to do and can tell me the answer in a comment!
5 - Alien Resurrection (PS1) :
As Alien films go, Resurrection was a fairly decent attempt I reckon...not a patch on the first two, but quite a great deal better than the third and those pretty dire Alien Vs Predator films. This game based on the film though, is probably my favourite Alien game ever!
Right from before you even start the game, it oozes atmosphere! Once you're in, the big booming voice of the USM Auriga spaceship's artificial intelligence, FA-TH-UR, fills your ears, as do the creepy sounds of bad things going down elsewhere on the ship.
Dead bodies are everywhere, and blood drips from holes in the ceiling where crew members have been dragged. Aliens can be heard hissing, and occasionally lights will cease to function as the ship succumbs to the alien infestation and you'll be plunged into darkness. Crawling through the air-ducts you'll also witness the horrific slaughter of some soldiers at the claws of the aliens...
Taking control of Ellen Ripley and three other characters from the film, you'll have to navigate treacherous drops, electrified floors, stupid soldiers who should be asking for your help instead of trying to kill you and of course the acid-blooded xenomorphs themselves, in this massively under-rated masterpiece of horror first person shooters!
Sure, its aged a bit over the years, but at the time magazine critics seemed to miss the fact that this was truly great. Some complained about the fiddly controls being mapped to the two analogue joysticks, something which is laughable now that it's become the standard method of control for pretty much every console shooter since!
The way the aliens hide in the dark and pounce from walls above and around you is truly terrifying, and if you're playing this in the dark with headphones (as you really should be playing any proper horror title) you'd have to be made of stone not to jump at least a few times as the aliens hunt you down and pierce your skull with their gnashers! There's even levels based underwater just like the movie, and these add extra atmosphere!
I really can't stress enough how much I want you to try this game for yourselves. It can be damned tricky, but this just adds to the fear factor, as you'll genuinely want to be careful how you proceed in case you die horribly! It can be a bit frustrating though, and occasional glitches can be annoying too, but I urge you to stick with it. It really is a hidden gem, and more people should be playing and talking about it!
Another Speccy game released last year up next, and this is a souped up version of an earlier game, but this uses the magnificent Bifrost* engine so as it can make the game more colourful without any of the Speccy's normal colour clash problems!
Your goal is to pick a side, either Knights or Demons and change all the characters on screen to that particular faction...actually not as simple as it sounds! As I'm short for time I'll just say it's an enjoyable puzzler with some cracking presentation, and is well worth downloading from Kabuto Factory's site... where you can read more about the development and the people behind the game!
3 - Death Jr. - Root Of Evil (Wii) :
I've just started this one, but so far it's been a pleasant surprise! It's a sequel to a game I've never played which was on Sony's PSP, so I had no idea what to expect. You fill the shoes of the Grim Reaper's son, Death Jr. as he tries to pass his Biology class by finding a cocoon to study. Unfortunately the cocoon he and his friend Pandora happen to disturb, turns out to be the very one housing evil villain Furi who is trying to metamorphisise into a more powerful baddie!
DJ and Pandora and their group of freaky friends have to find Furi and put a stop to her evil plans, and do so in a freaky, fun-filled platformer that is perfect for Halloween type shenanigans!
There's pumpkins to be smashed for extra energy, a graveyard filled with teddies that stick to your scythe as you try to hack them to bits and a huge scary doll head with laser eyes and all manner of other Tim-Burton-esque baddies and environments to work through!
There's a nice selection of weapons you can build by finding parts, like the amazing TP Launcher which hurls flaming toilet paper at enemies! The Wii controls work well, and you can shoot your guns a little like you would in a light-gun game...Swinging the Wii-mote makes the scythe slash..y'know, just what you'd expect really!
Like I said, it was a pleasant surprise as it's a pretty good little arcade adventure! I'm definitely having a lot of fun and look forward to getting back to it! It's nothing too startling, but what it does it does well, and if spookiness is your thing you should be suitably happy! Even if it isn't you should give this a go anyway, even if it's only to meet DJ's extremely charismatic friend Dead Guppy...who's...well, y'know...a dead fish....
2 - Scooby Doo Unmasked (PS2) :
Yay! I thought I'd better include Scooby and the gang again this time around, and here we have a pretty standard arcade adventure, clearly focused at the younger end of the market, but still enjoyable enough to be played by the older Scooby fans too!
Fred's cousin Jed makes monsters for a movie special effects company, and the gang decide to visit. But when the turn up at the studio, they find that Jed has gone missing and that his creations have run amok and everyone is blaming him for the chaos. Obviously Fred won't believe his cousin could be responsible for a second, so off our friends go to investigate, look for clues and try to find out just who is behind all this animatronic mayhem!
Players control Scooby himself, as he bounds around the levels collecting hundreds of Scooby Snacks and finding the odd clue, which he takes to Velma to analyse. Usually this unlocks another area, and Scoob gets back on the case! Food items can be found lying around, as can a gooey substance called Mubber which can apparently be shaped into anything, but here just works as a nice device to create random items.
The collected food can be delivered to Shaggy who'll cook up a recipe and restore some of Scooby's health, and Fred & Daphne can also be approached, but just like in the cartoon they tend to be mostly useless, mysteriously disappear together or end up getting "kidnapped"....Hmmm...
All the voices sound suitably accurate, with the exception of Scooby who can sometimes sound a bit strange, but not too noticeably so...and even ex-Batman Adam West voices the creator of Mubber! And at the start, the intro music to the show and intro itself are recreated in game, making it all very much like a proper episode of the cartoon!
It's a pity that the actual platforming, collecting, etc. is very standard stuff then. Scooby can dress up in a few outfits that give him extra abilities and that spices things up a little, but you'll have seen it all before. There's even sections that feel just like Crash Bandicoot, and you'll notice a few other ideas lifted from similar sources.
But it's fairly enjoyable even though it's highly unoriginal, and if you're a Scooby fan you could do a lot worse than this game to try and get a taste of what it's like to follow in his paws!
1 - Super Cauldron (Amiga) :
I thought it would be a nice idea to end this list with a sequel to the last game on the first set of Gruesome Games. Cauldron was a fun little game with subject matter perfect for Halloween..so surely a super-charged version on a beast so much more powerful than the Speccy as the Amiga would be brilliant, right!?
Well, oh dear....although first impressions are good as you feast your eyes on the gorgeous graphics, as soon as the heroine Zmira starts moving, it all starts to fall apart. Some weird kind of scrolling makes it really hard to tell what's happening on screen, and it jumps and lurches all over the place.
You start equipped with rocks as a weapon, which are pretty damn tricky to get to grips with due to their trajectory, but you'll get better with practice, and you can pick up broom icons and take to the skies, which is nice...but it was at that point I got confused...
Where the hell do I go? The level's only a few screens wide, and there didn't seem to be any exits? And so for about 20 minutes I tried to kill as many enemies as possible to see if anything happened. It was only by pure accident that I discovered the secret entrances to underground levels at the tree stumps! Now to be fair, I don't have the manual and maybe they're mentioned in that...but it seems a bit daft to hide the exits to a level in such obscure places!
And it's bloody tricky....and well, not very interesting! I dunno, it just seems to lack a certain something, and somehow seemed to irritate me right from the start...It's certainly not a patch on it's predecessor!
So there you go, a rather sad end to the second list of Gruesome Games, but there's still a huge amount of great games in there worthy of your time! For some reason, I've seen fit to punish myself again next year and have already started planning another 100 for next Halloween! So hopefully you'll join me then!
Hang on....what's that creeping towards us?? Over there, under that holly bush!? It looks a little like Christmas, only....darker.......