Friday, 5 October 2018

Skull (ZX Spectrum / Commodore 64)

Skull (ZX Spectrum / C64) :-

The plot for this 1984 title from Games Machine is pretty much what you read on the front cover (see above)......Enter The Catacombs, Hunt The Treasure, Avoid the Traps....Watch Out For The Skull!

So with this straightforward set-up, you start with your character in a first-person view and wander through the 3D catacomb maze, in the hunt for said loot to boost your score! The traps that you have to avoid come in the form of gaping holes in the ground, trapdoors that open up randomly to reveal more gaping holes in the ground, portcullises that will sometimes trip when you walk past and trap you...and of course, the giant wandering Skulls Of Doom!

Portcullises can opened or closed by using keys, which you'll find lying around in the maze too, but if you get trapped behind one without a key you'll have to wait until a trapdoor opens up beneath you and kills you, resetting you elsewhere in the maze. You can trap the skulls with clever use of the portcullises and keys too though!

If you hang around above a trapdoor, they'll open up and plunge you to your demise, so it's best to hurry past those! Whenever you fall through a hole, you get treated to a psychedelic, multi-coloured screen flash before you kick the bucket!

The skulls can be attacked, but not got rid of, by picking up green crosses that are also scattered about, and these work like the power-pills in Pac-Man, giving you a short amount of time (about 15 seconds) to chase down the skulls and collect the gems that their eyes become when you collect the cross! You'll need to be really quick though, and careful that they don't suddenly change back just as you reach them!

To help you out, you also have a lucky charm bracelet that you can see below your view. On this you'll see any skulls that are nearby, and you can tell how far away the are by the colour of the skull...

CYAN - 4 or more steps away
GREEN - 3 steps away
MAGENTA - 2 steps away
RED  - 1 step away

There's also a map at the side of the screen, but that quickly becomes obscured by some sort of dark magic, so if you want to view the map you need to fork out some of your cash for a plan! This shows you where the treasure is, your position on the map, the position of all the skulls and traps and also any ladders that will allow you to descend to lower levels of the maze safely...

And that's pretty much the gist of the game! I played the Speccy version first and whilst finding it to be quite enjoyable, it was a bit tricky at first due to the key layout. But once I set up my joystick as Cursor it became a lot easier. I'd still probably pick the Commodore version over the Speccy one though, as it has more spooky sound effects and the trippy drop-sequence is even more psychedelic and noisy! 

The game won't blow you away with it's amazing-ness, as it doesn't really have any! But if you fancy a fairly-standard-if-sometimes-awkward-to-control  jaunt around a 3D maze avoiding giant skulls this Halloween, you could do a lot worse than this! 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Evil Within (Xbox 360)

The Evil Within (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3. PS4. PC) :-

It would be safe to say that Detective Sebastian Castellanos is having 'one of those days'....thinking his work was done and looking forward to relaxing with a nice cup of cocoa and a read of his favourite self-help book "How To Sound Like A Gritty Video-Game Character", he and his colleagues, Detective Joseph Oda and Junior Detective Juli Kidman, are diverted from their journey home to go and investigate a multiple murder at a nearby asylum...

A grisly scene of mutilated bodies and blood-splattered benches awaited at Beacon Mental Hospital, and after witnessing some very odd happenings via the hospital security cameras, he now finds himself hanging upside down from a hook, surrounded by similarly hanging corpses, whilst a large, disfigured-brute-of-a-chap with a cleaver starts hacking away at one of the aforementioned deceased....

Luckily, he remembers reading another self-help book, "How To Escape Cleaver Wielding Disfigured-Brute-Of-A-Chaps", and makes his escape! Unfortunately, he cancelled his subscription to these self-help books and missed out on the one he really needed to read....."How To Escape From Weird Disorienting Hospitals With Rooms That Seem To Lead Outside Or Through Time Or To The Insides Of People's Heads And Are Populated By Even Weirder Zombies, Monsters And Traps That Were Deemed Too Gruesome To Appear In The Saw Movies"...

And so it is that you'll have to take control of Sebastian through the magic of your game controller, and work out what the hell is actually going on and how to put an end to it all...navigating him through all these nasty traps and mind-bending portals to other places, and using the small amounts of ammo you find to try and defeat the swarms of mutilated monstrosities that are determined to see you fail!

Every now and again you'll hear Claude Debussy's Clair De Lune playing, and if you follow the music you'll find yourself at blood-spattered doors that open to rooms containing a cracked mirror. Examining these mirrors will transport you to another section of the asylum, watched over by the mysterious nurse Tatiana Gutierrez. She helps you out by letting you save your game, and by introducing you to the Upgrade Chair that lets you improve your abilities by injecting Green Goo into your brain!

This green gloop can be found lying around the environments in jars, or left behind after defeating enemies, and can also be used to upgrade weapons and give them more firepower, accuracy or ammo capacity. Another thing you can access in the safe haven of Tatiana's rooms are a set of lockers that hold various treats to help you on your journey. Keys for these lockers can be found hidden in Statues littered throughout the main game in obscure nooks and crannies...

Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil, directed this game and you can really sense him trying to recapture the feel of those early survival horror games...Limited ammo, claustrophobic spaces, camera angles that don't quite show you everything you want to see..and for the most part this works wonderfully at creating feelings of panic and dread.

Occasionally though, you'll get frustrated at the camera or controls, especially when you come to the boss fights or brutally hard sections of the game. And there are plenty of those! I played through on the easiest setting, but I still found myself running out of ammo and having lots of near-controller-throwing moments when I kept running into the same traps over and over again.

Persevere though, and it shouldn't take you too long to get past these obstacles and get back to enjoying the twisted, topsy-turvey environments that may or may not be real, and get on with the quest to find out who the mysterious Ruvik is, what he has to do with all this and what part the other patient Leslie has to play in uncovering the truth...

The Evil Within is a proper survival horror game and was described by some as 'what Resident Evil 5 should have been'. If you've been missing the old feel of the Resident Evil games, this should be more your cup of tea, and you should enjoy working out how to solve the puzzles and squirreling enough ammo away to take out the giant, jaw-dropping boss creatures! 

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and having finally finished last Halloween, I'm lamenting the fact I've yet to purchase an Xbox One so I can enjoy the sequel.... Never mind, maybe I'll get to play it next year....but all of you with newer machines can revel in the fact that Sebastian also missed out on another self-help book, "How Not To End Up In The Entirely Same F**ked Up Situation You Found Yourself In Three Years Ago"......

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Overblood (PlayStation)

Overblood (PS1) :-

I don't know how many computer game characters start off their games having lost their memory, but it must be at least in the triple figures...and that is exactly the predicament that the hero of Overblood finds themselves in when you load it up on your Playstation...

Waking up in a freezing spaceship from a cryogenic sleep, his first priority is getting a source of heat, and after hunting around he finds a jacket, and also a new friend in the form of Pipo the robot! After you get him started up and he gets done with his best R2D2 impression, Pipo can also be controlled, and turns out to be rather handy at opening doors and getting into spaces that our main hero (who has discovered his name is Raz) can't squeeze into...

After wandering around the spaceship a bit more, it soon becomes apparent that something has gone very wrong and weird zombie-type creatures are wandering around, seemingly infected with some sort of virus...a virus that Raz also seems to have contracted...

And so Raz, Pipo and eventually another amnesia-ridden playable character Milly, explore the ship to try and figure out what the hell is going on, whilst trying their best not to be killed by monsters, traps and the rather nasty environment they find themselves inhabiting!

Overblood was released only a few months after the original Resident Evil, and is quite similar in terms of tank-controls, viewpoints and atmosphere. It does have quite a few interesting differences all of it's own though. For starters, you don't have to stay looking at those spooky camera angles, as you can change the view to either being directly behind your character, or even a first-person camera that lets you move and look around from the characters viewpoint.

Also, rather than have you play through the game again as another character, the ability to swap between them is a nice feature that Resident Evil would borrow in later games. And instead of hunting around for ink ribbons, a voice recorder lets you save the game at any point that you're not in danger.

Unfortunately, the game has a couple of other ideas that don't work quite as well. The biggest problem is that a lot of the items aren't noticeable on the a key could be sitting on a shelf, but you won't see it sitting there, you'll only find it by searching the shelf! And you pretty much have to be at exactly the right part of the shelf to examine it! Needless to say, this is very annoying and makes you get stuck when you really shouldn't be getting stuck.

This problem is added to by the fact that if an item is on a lower shelf, or indeed on the ground, you have to kneel before the character will pick it up! I can see what they were trying to make it more realistic by adding this, but again it just leads to a lot of frustration when you realise you've missed something and need to backtrack.

Another issue is with the 'push' function not having a button, and every time Raz or Milly go near anything other than a wide corridor, they start trying to push things that aren't there! Again, this is a bit annoying, but you could argue that Resident Evil also had this issue, but to a much lesser degree. And some of the animations can look a bit daft, with characters looking like they're constantly pointing their hands, hoping that monsters don't realise they don't actually have a gun sometimes, perhaps....

Having said all that, the gloomy, sci-fi atmosphere and odd story do mean that you'll want to keep playing, and when you add in the comical animations and some terrible voice acting that almost manages to top Resi  for cheesiness, it's a survival horror game that does show some rewards for perseverance. And when you finally get to grips with the mechanics of searching eveywhere and everything (and using the internet when you get really stuck) it actually becomes quite enjoyable! 

Worth a look then, and probably a lot better than most folks these days give it credit for!


Please remember to go and check out the other groovy ghouls and boils that are taking part in the Countdown To Halloween, as they're posting lots of cool stuff on their blogs too!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Guns 'n' Ghosts (Commodore 64)

Guns 'n' Ghosts (Commodore 64) :-

I always like to include Homebrew games in my Gruesome Game recommendations whenever possible, as there will still be some people out there unaware that there are still games being made for their favourite old computers! And while quite a few of these new games are only available for digital download to play in emulators, there are also some homebrewers that release their games on actual cassettes, disks or carts so that you can load them up on the original hardware and experience them properly!

Psytronik & RGCD are a couple of groups that do just that, and this 2013 collaboration by both and by developers Georg Rottensteiner & Trevor Storey, can be bought either on disk or cassette, or from RGCD on C64 Cartridge! It is available to buy via digital download too though, which is the version I picked up a while back....

So what's it all about then? Well, Trev and Georg, as well as being a bit handy at programming groovy C64 games, also have a nice side-line going as Paranormal Investigators! After a series of reports of supernatural shenanigans come in from all over the country, our daring duo decide to get on the case and give these spooks a piece of their mind....

Especially Trev, who with his special psychic powers that give him a link to the spirit-plane, can send these demons back to the hell that spawned them just by thinking about it! Georg prefers to use his trusty boom-stick though, and blast the bogeymen to billions of bits!

There are a number of ways to enjoy the game, as it has several game modes....

1 Player Trev - As Georg with his shotgun, you start as a single player with two shots and best dispatch of the beasties at long range...

1 Player Trev - A single player uses Trev's freaky mind blasts to melt the monsters, and is best used at short range!

Brothers - A two player mode where you and a friend take control of a hero each, and use their powers independently to free the land of the paranormal pests!

Cooperative Play - A mode where player one is Georg, player two is Trev, and the baddies must be held in place by Trev's psychic power so that Georg can shoot them! This is the trickiest way to play, but probably the best fun!

Double Georg - Both players play as Georg and use shotguns!

Double Trev - Both players play as Trev and use psychic powers!

During the game there are also a number of power ups that help our pals defeat the hordes of zombies, spooks and failed lab experiments, such as special bullets for Georg and potions that increase Trev's psychic powers, and also the usual extra lives and invincibility power ups!

As you can see from the screenshots, the levels are lain out as a series of platforms, and the enemies appear on these various platforms and then try and make their way to you to stop you in your quest to be a paranormal party-pooper!

While it starts off quite easy and you'll have no problems defeating them, the game increasingly ramps up the difficulty, adding more enemies like the skeletons that rush at you when you're in their line of sight, or the bullet-spongy Frankenstein Monster type enemies that require several shots to destroy!

 It never gets so tricky that it stops being fun though, and if you've read my blog for a while you know that I struggle sometimes with the difficulty of some C64 games! Thankfully, I feel this is pitched just right, and I get a little further every time I play!

And so I can heartily recommend that you follow the links by clicking the Psytronik and RGCD names at the start of this post and purchase a copy for yourselves...and while you're there you should probably check out their other releases, look for other homebrew developers elsewhere online, and sample their wares and go shout about them from the rooftops too! 

Friday, 27 October 2017

Nightmare Creatures (PS1, N64, PC)

Nightmare Creatures (PS1, N64, PC) :

Adam Crowley is a bit of a git! He's only gone and released a nightmarish Transmortification virus on old 19th Century London town, and it's turning all the cockneys into hideous, deformed creatures of the night! Unlike Eastenders though, it's going to take more than a cup of tea to sort out this load of slobbering, gibbering, undead moaners....

Step forward our two brave heroes, Father Ignatius Blackward , a priest with more than a little knowledge of the occult and magic...and Nadia Franciscus , a vengeful daughter out to put a stop to Crowley's plans and make him pay for her immunologist father's death!

Third-person, hacky-slashy, action-adventuring is the way forward...through 18 levels of London fog, creepy cemeteries, stinky sewers and the like. Switches must be flicked to open gates, holes in floors jumped over and all manner of creatures hacked limb from limb using the various items lying around and some funky fighting moves made possible by using different button combos...

You also have to make sure and keep killing the various fiends and keep your adrenaline meter high, or you'll end up succumbing to Crowley's virus yourself! This adds a bit of urgency to the game, and also makes it a bit more difficult...

Roaming about in the London fog and creeping through rat-infested sewers makes for an atmospheric adventure, and the John Carpenter-esque soundtrack and random spooky sounds also help make you feel favourably freaked out!

There are sometimes a few camera issues, and the controls cans occasionally be a bit unwieldy..and like other PS1 games it's beginning to show it's age a little..but it still stands up as a decent and fun example of the genre! And you could always try the slightly better looking N64 or PC versions!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Resident Evil - Dead Aim (Playstation 2)

Resident Evil Dead Aim (PS2) :-

Now if you know your horror games, you'll know all about the Resident Evil series..With 9 proper games (including 0Code Veronica) and numerous spin offs, HD Remakes, etc...if you've been playing games at all for the past 20 years or so it'll be pretty remarkable if you haven't heard of at least one of them. One that you might not be familiar with though, is this light-gun enabled one on the PS2 !

An Umbrella employee named Morpheus has gone a bit off the rails (what a surprise!) and has nabbed a bit of the G-Virus..a newly modified version of the T-virus that saw Raccoon City wiped from the Earth...and has hopped aboard an Umbrella owned luxury cruise ship to escape, but also decided to use the virus to experiment upon himself and the other passengers!

The American government sends in special Anti-Umbrella Pursuit Investigation Team member, Bruce McGivern, to retrieve the virus and stop the threat. Also onboard is Fong Ling, a Chinese government agent who is also out to stop Morpheus her own way. Cue much tumbling around and flirting from both agents as they have the usual love/hate relationship type thing that always seems to occur in such situations...

Unlike the other Survivor lightgun games in the Resident Evil series, this one allows you to walk around in 3rd person mode using the GunCon 2 or a standard PS2 controller. This helps it feel more like a proper RE game, and makes it far easier to explore and pick up items.

When you do come across the inevitable zombie baddies, a quick press of the trigger on the lightgun sees you enter 1st person mode, and you can blast away the undead numpties at your leisure before popping back into 3rd person to leg it away again.

The game is filled with the usual rubbish, campy dialogue and the environments can sometimes feel a bit empty, but the story does feel like a proper offshoot of the numbered RE sequels, and has the usual increasingly difficult and weird bosses to defeat. It makes an interesting and enjoyable change from the usual Resi stuff, so if you own a lightgun and a PS2 you should definitely get this one in your sights...

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Dead Rising (Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, PC)

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 few sequels 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!!