Samhain Games 2016

 

20161028154156_1You’re alone, aren’t you? Of course you are. You know you’re the only person in the building. It was a draft that slammed the cupboard door shut. The soft creaking is just the floorboards settling into the colder weather that arrived with the autumnal darkness. As the nights begin to stretch into infinity. You’re alone, but was that a shadow that danced at the edges of your vision? Laughter now, coming from the other side of the door. You grip the handle. Slowly the door is pushed open. The room slides into view. Squinting into the gloom, movement in the corner. A cold breath on the nape of your neck. A scream. Black.

You are alone. 

Hide and Shriek is a Halloween treat. Arriving just in time for the spookiest holiday around, it tasks its players with indulging in some mischief. A two player game, you have the run of 4 rooms set in a school and a central, locker lined corrider. Opponents are invisible to each other, the task being to find them, and scare them. Simple.

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Though it relies on jump scares it is not a hard horror aesthetic, buying into the plastic skeleton kitsch that will now be adorning many a corner shop and front lawn. Laughing jack o lanterns. Rubber masks. It’s a lighthearted affair that provides just enough of a thrill with its cat and mouse routine to get the blood pumping.

Runes allow for the setting of traps. Doors and cupboards can be manipulated as such it looks like there’s a bored poltergeist floating about. While there is only one level and there’s perhaps not as much interactivity in the level to really make it shine, there are enough spell and trap combinations to keep things fresh. The score attack nature of the game balances accruing points and going for scares well enough to keep both players moving, and making themselves known so that the leader cannot rest on their laurels and wait out the clock. You won’t be playing Hide and Shriek into the long months ahead, but you won’t need to. For under £5 there are worse ways to while away October evenings, especially if you have two PCs in the house it can make for a nice wee party game. Everyone laughing and jumping together. Frantically pointing to imagined traces of the other player. That was movement, wasn’t it

There in thecourner. bEhinf yoU

yuort nt alONeE                                  SHADOWS

BEHIND YOU

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What had once been a bustling hotel, filled with energy and vibrance had grown still. You had longed to get away from the hectic busy work that a socialite like yourself had to endure day in and out. Photoshoots, soirees, and petty politics. It could be overwhelming. As you push the food around your plate, relaxed solitude had turned to loneliness. Where had Mr Rabbit disappeared to, his parlour tricks had been quite entertaining. And Mr Boar, an oaf for sure, but always ready to let slip some juicy gossip about our political elites. Provided his throat was kept well watered. All gone now. The conversation had dried up along with your appetite.

Besides, the meat tonight was particularly rare.

20161016114817_1Rusty Lake Hotel is a game in which you are tasked with the smooth running of the titular establishment. The days revolve around preparing for the momentous occasion that is dinner time every evening. The chef needs his ingredients, and it’s up to you to gather them. Five exquisite dinners for five honourable guests.

It’s just a shame the guests keep leaving before they can sample them all. Mr Deer missed out on a particularly wonderful venison dish, and Mr Boar failed to show for the pork ribs. The meat practically fell off the bone! Oh, and the rabbit stew, to die for!

Whatever happens though, we’re all about creating special memories, here at the Rusty Lake Hotel.

Games discussed in the audio podcast are Anatomy and Dead End Road.

20160708183407_1“It is neither future nor past, and yet a bit of each. It is neither East nor West, but could be Belgrade or Scunthorpe on a drizzly day in February. Or Cicero, Illinois, seen through the bottom of a beer bottle.” Brazil – 2nd Draft

The most frightening thing about Inside is the utterly rote nature of its puzzles. They stand out like a bloodied, misshapen thumb. All my time with Inside I could not escape the feeling that I was being tasked with various dull physics based puzzles because without them this could not be classified as a game. If the Gamersspent their money they cannot be expected to walk to the right. The journey has to be punctuated with puzzles, no matter how rote!

Inside is at its best when it’s being quiet. Running through a rain slicked countryside, that brings to mind the desolate, dystopian Britain featured in works like Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men or Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The innocent pursuit of childlike discovery is often interrupted by small chase scenes early in the game. The rhythm of the world is upended by rabid dogs and gun wielding masked figures, before settling down again. Being menaced by imposing industrial structures of unknown utility. These organic moments give way quickly to traditional puzzle solving and block pushing, and the game is poorer for it. A cynic might say they just needed to make it look exciting for the preview reels. The less said about the pace and atmosphere obliterating submarine section, the better.

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Thematically Inside tries its hand at big themes like free will and player agency. Its big finale is at first somewhat shocking to behold, but peters out quickly when realisation dawns and it’s clear that the game isn’t going to make any statements on its subject, mistaking hollow ambiguity for sophistication. The game’s nihilism is naked and muted for all to see. Developers Playdead trade an oppressive and thoughtful guided tour in the first act for cheap shocks, and the experience suffers for it.

Sitting discarded by a dreary shoreline, utterly numb, you can’t help feeling like you’ve been played. And for what?

the-sacrifice

Do not worry my friends, we will all get through this, as our ancestors did.

How far do you go to ensure the survival of your village? In The Sacrifice this responsibility falls to you. The harsh winter months are approaching and tasks need to be prioritised. Should shelters be constructed to provide protection against the elements, or should the food supply be bolstered lest the harvest fail? Most importantly, which one of your humble village folk are you going to sacrifice at the altar to the great and powerful CHERNOBOG.

The Sacrifice is a resource management game that mixes battling the elements with appeasing the apocalyptic Old Ones to ensure your people’s continued existence. Created in 3 days for the Ludum Dare 33: You Are The Monster game jam, it is perhaps those limitations that reinforce the cyclical nature of the game. Delving into ritualistic living and the sometimes stagnating effects of Tradition.

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No matter what you do, failure is ever present and inevitable. It is only a matter of time before you earn the ire of CHERNOBOG, and it awakens to destroy everything you’ve built. Many of the characters from the five main families express remorse over the disappearance of villagers, often wondering if there is a better way, but confident they can ride out the storm as their ancestors did.

These people are trapped. They know what end will come. As do you. Yet the chains of tradition bind them. No attempt is made to deviate from the path as they do what has always been done. Tradition is a fine thing. It can bring people together. It provides a roadmap of where we’ve come from. The terror comes when it is deemed the only map. When it becomes the cement to keep you in your place. Even as the walls crumble, there will be no escape.

The Sacrifice will be getting a full release as The Shrouded Isle come February 2017. Glory be to CHERNOBOG.  

20161014154043_1For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment

Every year we come to beg at the bloody altar. Dressing our mortality in festive spirits as we seek out terror and excitement. This is our ritual. Devil Daggers cares not for such fluff. It is a void that is filled with speed. Out of the blackness come the demons. Hellspawn. So that you may prostrate thy body before the kineticism that you sought.

Hell has potency in abstractness. There is something childish about evil imps dancing amongst the brimstone to punish damned souls. The torments in line with their sins. There is no such frivolity in the abyss. Unending darkness. There is a small room in Minnesota that blocks out 99% of all sound, and people can’t bear to stay any longer than 45 minutes. They crumble against the roar of silence. So too does total darkness effect the mind.

As concious, thinking creatures the loss of self is terrifying. Our brains will conjure up sounds and presences that are not there simply to fill the space. We were not meant to dwell within a void. In Devil Daggers we fill the space with violence. The blood splashes and we feed our lust. Our hands now mutilated claws. Like so many others, the form is monstrous.

This is why we have all come. To fill hell with violence. Have we not sought out this accursed plane so that we can run and gun and feel alive. And after all of that, in the midst of screams and chaos, we are rewarded with death. So that we can begin the ritual anew. An endless cycle.

Are we doomed to relive our glory eternal?

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