An evening of Halloween gaming.

As I wrote in a previous blog post, I've had a small stack of horor-themed games pile up on me over the past year or so.  I never had enough time to get into any of them, so I decided to spend my Halloween night playing a chunk of each of them in turn.  Most of the games were only played for no more than roughly an hour or so, but given that's roughly the long end of the average Quick Look, I think it's fair for me to post some impressions on each of them in turn.  However, I can say that the results of my experiment were largely positive.
 

Costume Quest: Prologue to Halloween

 Imagination is awesome.
Before Halloween kicked off today, I got an early start and spent the evening of October 30th playing through the first section of Costume Quest.  I should say up front that I had never actually played a Double Fine game before.  The platforming gameplay of Psychonauts is not something I'm particularly into, and Brutal Legend fell off my radar the moment that the prominent RTS elements were revealed.  (For me, any attempt to play a game of that genre is like trying to mix oil and water.)  That being said, Costume Quest is a charming little game.  The RPG combat is simple, but effective for a short downloadable game, the graphics are adorable, and the premise is lighthearted and silly.  Nothing laugh out loud funny as far as I've played, but the Halloween-themed absurdities and other bizarre happenings (using the Statue of Liberty costume's "Anthem" healing ability never gets old), give it a sense of goofiness that doesn't need to rely on a big budget (or a long list of celebrity heavy metal cameos).
 
Creep Factor:  N/A  ('Tis a silly game!)
 
And now for the main event!
 

Dead Rising 2

 Chuck Green, fighting like real men fight.
I never played the original Dead Rising, but I did have a chance to play a demo of the sequel at PAX for fifteen minutes.  Not much happened.  I ran around, beat up zombies, engaged in some delightful cross-dressing, beat up some more zombies, and died.  I'm playing the PS3 version, so I did not have the opportunity to play through Case Zero or get that early level boost.  So how did my first time playing the actual game go?
 
I beat up a lot of zombies, and I died.  Not at the hands of zombies mind you, but at the hands of looters.  That'll teach me not to enter a pharmacy without a weapon.
 
I reloaded my save file and tried again.  I killed the looters, found my first survivor and some Zombrex, and then made a run for the safe house.  The zombies were everywhere.  And they chewed me up good.  I got to a bathroom with one blinking square of health left.  Then I died and reloaded three times before I made it back to the safe house.  On the other hand, the survivor made it in, I got some bonus PP, the kid got her Zombrex, and I now have twenty-four hours until her next dosage is due.  Also, fuck Rebecca Chang and her participating in my framing.  Oh well.  I probably won't get much further into the game until after I've spent a lot of time mowing down zombies and leveling up.  That game is brutal.
 
Creep Factor:  1 Exploded Zombie Head.  This is not a bad thing.  Dead Rising 2 isn't so much creepy as much as it basks in the absurdity of a zombie apocalypse.
 

Calling

 That looks like it hurt.  Briefly.
Some of you might remember Calling from Giant Bomb's Quick Look of the demo.  They didn't seem to impressed by it, to be honest.  As it turns out, playing the full game, it is really fucking creepy oh Jesus is it ever.  The game isn't so much a traditional survival horror game as much as it is a horror adventure.  The entire game is played from first-person, and the demo in the Quick Look consists of what amounts to the first chapter of the game.  Before I started, I went into the options and switched the voices to Japanese (which is fitting, seeing as the game is set in Japan and the English voice acting in the demo was not that impressive).
 
Now, having watched the Quick Look, I had a fair recollection of how the first chapter plays out and went about my business.  There's a jump scare that occurs roughly halfway through the chapter that I knew was coming.  It is triggered by looking at a specific place, and it is telegraphed rather obviously.  In short, what's to be scared of?
 
I jumped out of my chair.  It got me good.
 
After playing through the end of the chapter, I started the second chapter, which had me take control of a second character in a different location; a female high school student at a rather creepy high school at night.  And my character very naturally wondered what in the hell she was doing there upon waking up.  I find a ringing cell phone and answer it.  A voice on the other end proclaims it to be his cell phone, and he's coming back to claim it.  Oh, and he's at the school entrance.  Then he calls again while I'm fumbling around a dark classroom and says he's in the stairwell to the second floor.  Then again about thirty seconds later.  He's at the third floor landing.
 
Shit.  I don't think this guy is the Vindow Viper.
 
Me being on the fourth floor, I explore the hallways and come across a classroom with an eerie glow coming from the window.  I look through a crack in the glass.  There's a misty spirit thing in one corner, and a couple of schoolgirls in the other.  Then they disappear.  Oh great.
 
Then they reappear, right on the other side of the window.
 
OH SHI--
 
Cue me running like a terrified schoolgirl and looking for a way out of this mess.  The ghosts can't be killed.  When they latch on to you, you can only try to shake them off before they scare you to death.  I run back and forth and around in circles until I catch sight of a light indicating that a door to the stairs is open.  I run down stairs.  Safety at last.
 
Wait.  That guy that owns the cell phone is supposedly down here.  Oh, dear.
 
I come across another glowing door.  It's locked and needs a key.  I find a save point and call it a night on that game.
 
Creep Factor:  4 out of 5 Scary Japanese Girls
 

Cursed Mountain

 This mountain is seriously messed up.
Cursed Mountain is another fairly obscure Wii horror title.  Unlike Calling, it's a more traditional third-person action-adventure game.  And unlike most western forms of entertainment, it doesn't treat Buddhism as some form of kitschy eastern philosophy that exists purely to make  you feel good.  Like any religion, it has its darker points.  Anyway, the premise of the game is that your a mountaineer that has been called in to search for your younger brother Frank, who went climbing on a short-notice expedition in order to find a mysterious artifact.  Frank and his partner got into a fight, and only the partner came back.  Frank is still somewhere on the mountain, and it looks like he's gotten himself into a whole heap of trouble.
 
After a brief prologue with Frank climbing the mountain, the action begins in the city at the mountain's base, where I need to locate the house of the expedition's benefactor.  Only no one else is around to point out the way.  They've either all fled the town, leaving behind everything, or their dead.  Fantastic.  This rescue mission is already smelling like wine and roses that have been left out in the open air for a year and coated in maggots.
 
So the game starts off simple enough.  You find a pick-axe that serves as your primary weapon, and some incense that can be burned at shrines to restore health.  Then the ghosts start coming out of the woodwork.  At first, they leave me well enough alone, and I make my way through the dilapidated city in search of the benefactor's home.  Then they slowly become more aggressive.  It builds like this for a while.  And then I'm jumped by a particularly nasty one.  Aw, nuts.
 
Oh, wait.  A Buddhist monk marches in and saves the day by performing a ritual to get rid of it.  Excellent.  Then he teaches me how to see with my third eye so that I can combat the spirits with greater focus.  Even more excellent.  Then he randomly disappears and all further instruction he provides is through disembodied voiceover.
 
...Excellent?  Hmm.
 
I finally made it to the benefactor's house, only he's used a special seal that requires I upgrade my pick-axe if I ever want to see the inside.  I think on it, and then decide to turn the game off.
 
Creep Factor:  2 out of 5 Angry Buddhist Spirits.
 
Next!
 

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

 Aren't you cold, officer?
Here it is, folks.  The Queen Mother of the Wii's horror library.  Like Calling, Silent Hill:  Shattered Memories is a game which I had previously seen the opening portion of in Quick Look form.  Going in, I knew in basics what to expect, including the fact that what I see and do won't necessarily conform to what Brad did.  And based on what I've played so far, this game deserves every accolade it received.
 
I start off by watching the car crash, and then enter the therapist's office.  I answer his questionnaire.  Highlights?  I don't drink, I role-play in the bedroom, and I've never cheated on a partner.  (My game self, not necessarily my actual self.  Please don't get confused here.)  I recounted those opening minutes after the car crash and the search for Cheryl.  I climbed walls, opened doors, listened to a very testy message on an answering machine from a woman none too happy to find that her wedding video was recorded over, and make it to a bar.  I ask the bartender if she's seen my daughter.  She says no, then I find out that I actually live in a house on Levin Street.  Why is this news to me?  Wow, I'm messed up.  I try to get home.
 
And shit gets nuts.  Ice everywhere.  Monsters chasing me.  I run like hell.  I miraculously make it out alive.  Oh, god, that was crazy.
 
The flashback ends.  I'm back in the therapist's office.  He asks me some questions, then tells me to color in a picture of a nice, pleasant home.  I do so.
 
The next scene starts.  Home at last!  Only wait, who are these people, and what are they doing in my house?  GTFO, you squatting bastards.  Wait, you've been here for fourteen years?  What the heck is going on here?
 
Cut to later, and a cop shows up.  (Just how long was Harry waiting out there in the cold?)  Cybil gets out of the car, and oh my god what have I been doing?  She looks more like a pornographic parody of law enforcement than an actual police officer.  Get your mind out of the gutter, Harry.  Geez.
 
She takes me for a ride (in her car).  Stops to check the road.  Doesn't come back.
 
Well, this is awkward now, isn't it?  I climb into the front seat and get out.  Not quite ready for another tense session of running like hell, I decide to save and call it a night.
 
Creep Factor:  5/5 Sexy Policewomen
 

What Have I Learned?

In some ways, I learned the obvious.  Costume Quest is silly fun.  Silent Hill:  Shattered Memories is a high quality game that alternates between strange mind games and tense chase sequences.  (Also, sexy policewomen.)  Dead Rising 2 is comprised of killing zombies left and right and trying not to die in the process.  Cursed Mountain, while promising, doesn't quite have the polish to live up to its potential.
 
But to be honest, the most surprising game of the night was Calling.  It's not a high budget game, and the plot is told in an awkward fashion that contains some unintentional silliness.  I was also running around in that school hallway far longer than I really should have.  But it was tense, and it scared me.  Where Shattered Memories is an adrenaline-fueled mindfuck, Calling is a more traditional form of ghost story that would be familiar to anyone that's ever seen a movie like The Ring or Dark Water.  Also, it left a creepy picture on my Wii console's message board.  Yikes.
 
In short, despite the game's clunkiness, it's one I'll have to play more of later, along with Silent Hill, Dead Rising, and Costume Quest.
 
Whenever it is that I'll get enough time to play all of these games.
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16 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

As I wrote in a previous blog post, I've had a small stack of horor-themed games pile up on me over the past year or so.  I never had enough time to get into any of them, so I decided to spend my Halloween night playing a chunk of each of them in turn.  Most of the games were only played for no more than roughly an hour or so, but given that's roughly the long end of the average Quick Look, I think it's fair for me to post some impressions on each of them in turn.  However, I can say that the results of my experiment were largely positive.
 

Costume Quest: Prologue to Halloween

 Imagination is awesome.
Before Halloween kicked off today, I got an early start and spent the evening of October 30th playing through the first section of Costume Quest.  I should say up front that I had never actually played a Double Fine game before.  The platforming gameplay of Psychonauts is not something I'm particularly into, and Brutal Legend fell off my radar the moment that the prominent RTS elements were revealed.  (For me, any attempt to play a game of that genre is like trying to mix oil and water.)  That being said, Costume Quest is a charming little game.  The RPG combat is simple, but effective for a short downloadable game, the graphics are adorable, and the premise is lighthearted and silly.  Nothing laugh out loud funny as far as I've played, but the Halloween-themed absurdities and other bizarre happenings (using the Statue of Liberty costume's "Anthem" healing ability never gets old), give it a sense of goofiness that doesn't need to rely on a big budget (or a long list of celebrity heavy metal cameos).
 
Creep Factor:  N/A  ('Tis a silly game!)
 
And now for the main event!
 

Dead Rising 2

 Chuck Green, fighting like real men fight.
I never played the original Dead Rising, but I did have a chance to play a demo of the sequel at PAX for fifteen minutes.  Not much happened.  I ran around, beat up zombies, engaged in some delightful cross-dressing, beat up some more zombies, and died.  I'm playing the PS3 version, so I did not have the opportunity to play through Case Zero or get that early level boost.  So how did my first time playing the actual game go?
 
I beat up a lot of zombies, and I died.  Not at the hands of zombies mind you, but at the hands of looters.  That'll teach me not to enter a pharmacy without a weapon.
 
I reloaded my save file and tried again.  I killed the looters, found my first survivor and some Zombrex, and then made a run for the safe house.  The zombies were everywhere.  And they chewed me up good.  I got to a bathroom with one blinking square of health left.  Then I died and reloaded three times before I made it back to the safe house.  On the other hand, the survivor made it in, I got some bonus PP, the kid got her Zombrex, and I now have twenty-four hours until her next dosage is due.  Also, fuck Rebecca Chang and her participating in my framing.  Oh well.  I probably won't get much further into the game until after I've spent a lot of time mowing down zombies and leveling up.  That game is brutal.
 
Creep Factor:  1 Exploded Zombie Head.  This is not a bad thing.  Dead Rising 2 isn't so much creepy as much as it basks in the absurdity of a zombie apocalypse.
 

Calling

 That looks like it hurt.  Briefly.
Some of you might remember Calling from Giant Bomb's Quick Look of the demo.  They didn't seem to impressed by it, to be honest.  As it turns out, playing the full game, it is really fucking creepy oh Jesus is it ever.  The game isn't so much a traditional survival horror game as much as it is a horror adventure.  The entire game is played from first-person, and the demo in the Quick Look consists of what amounts to the first chapter of the game.  Before I started, I went into the options and switched the voices to Japanese (which is fitting, seeing as the game is set in Japan and the English voice acting in the demo was not that impressive).
 
Now, having watched the Quick Look, I had a fair recollection of how the first chapter plays out and went about my business.  There's a jump scare that occurs roughly halfway through the chapter that I knew was coming.  It is triggered by looking at a specific place, and it is telegraphed rather obviously.  In short, what's to be scared of?
 
I jumped out of my chair.  It got me good.
 
After playing through the end of the chapter, I started the second chapter, which had me take control of a second character in a different location; a female high school student at a rather creepy high school at night.  And my character very naturally wondered what in the hell she was doing there upon waking up.  I find a ringing cell phone and answer it.  A voice on the other end proclaims it to be his cell phone, and he's coming back to claim it.  Oh, and he's at the school entrance.  Then he calls again while I'm fumbling around a dark classroom and says he's in the stairwell to the second floor.  Then again about thirty seconds later.  He's at the third floor landing.
 
Shit.  I don't think this guy is the Vindow Viper.
 
Me being on the fourth floor, I explore the hallways and come across a classroom with an eerie glow coming from the window.  I look through a crack in the glass.  There's a misty spirit thing in one corner, and a couple of schoolgirls in the other.  Then they disappear.  Oh great.
 
Then they reappear, right on the other side of the window.
 
OH SHI--
 
Cue me running like a terrified schoolgirl and looking for a way out of this mess.  The ghosts can't be killed.  When they latch on to you, you can only try to shake them off before they scare you to death.  I run back and forth and around in circles until I catch sight of a light indicating that a door to the stairs is open.  I run down stairs.  Safety at last.
 
Wait.  That guy that owns the cell phone is supposedly down here.  Oh, dear.
 
I come across another glowing door.  It's locked and needs a key.  I find a save point and call it a night on that game.
 
Creep Factor:  4 out of 5 Scary Japanese Girls
 

Cursed Mountain

 This mountain is seriously messed up.
Cursed Mountain is another fairly obscure Wii horror title.  Unlike Calling, it's a more traditional third-person action-adventure game.  And unlike most western forms of entertainment, it doesn't treat Buddhism as some form of kitschy eastern philosophy that exists purely to make  you feel good.  Like any religion, it has its darker points.  Anyway, the premise of the game is that your a mountaineer that has been called in to search for your younger brother Frank, who went climbing on a short-notice expedition in order to find a mysterious artifact.  Frank and his partner got into a fight, and only the partner came back.  Frank is still somewhere on the mountain, and it looks like he's gotten himself into a whole heap of trouble.
 
After a brief prologue with Frank climbing the mountain, the action begins in the city at the mountain's base, where I need to locate the house of the expedition's benefactor.  Only no one else is around to point out the way.  They've either all fled the town, leaving behind everything, or their dead.  Fantastic.  This rescue mission is already smelling like wine and roses that have been left out in the open air for a year and coated in maggots.
 
So the game starts off simple enough.  You find a pick-axe that serves as your primary weapon, and some incense that can be burned at shrines to restore health.  Then the ghosts start coming out of the woodwork.  At first, they leave me well enough alone, and I make my way through the dilapidated city in search of the benefactor's home.  Then they slowly become more aggressive.  It builds like this for a while.  And then I'm jumped by a particularly nasty one.  Aw, nuts.
 
Oh, wait.  A Buddhist monk marches in and saves the day by performing a ritual to get rid of it.  Excellent.  Then he teaches me how to see with my third eye so that I can combat the spirits with greater focus.  Even more excellent.  Then he randomly disappears and all further instruction he provides is through disembodied voiceover.
 
...Excellent?  Hmm.
 
I finally made it to the benefactor's house, only he's used a special seal that requires I upgrade my pick-axe if I ever want to see the inside.  I think on it, and then decide to turn the game off.
 
Creep Factor:  2 out of 5 Angry Buddhist Spirits.
 
Next!
 

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

 Aren't you cold, officer?
Here it is, folks.  The Queen Mother of the Wii's horror library.  Like Calling, Silent Hill:  Shattered Memories is a game which I had previously seen the opening portion of in Quick Look form.  Going in, I knew in basics what to expect, including the fact that what I see and do won't necessarily conform to what Brad did.  And based on what I've played so far, this game deserves every accolade it received.
 
I start off by watching the car crash, and then enter the therapist's office.  I answer his questionnaire.  Highlights?  I don't drink, I role-play in the bedroom, and I've never cheated on a partner.  (My game self, not necessarily my actual self.  Please don't get confused here.)  I recounted those opening minutes after the car crash and the search for Cheryl.  I climbed walls, opened doors, listened to a very testy message on an answering machine from a woman none too happy to find that her wedding video was recorded over, and make it to a bar.  I ask the bartender if she's seen my daughter.  She says no, then I find out that I actually live in a house on Levin Street.  Why is this news to me?  Wow, I'm messed up.  I try to get home.
 
And shit gets nuts.  Ice everywhere.  Monsters chasing me.  I run like hell.  I miraculously make it out alive.  Oh, god, that was crazy.
 
The flashback ends.  I'm back in the therapist's office.  He asks me some questions, then tells me to color in a picture of a nice, pleasant home.  I do so.
 
The next scene starts.  Home at last!  Only wait, who are these people, and what are they doing in my house?  GTFO, you squatting bastards.  Wait, you've been here for fourteen years?  What the heck is going on here?
 
Cut to later, and a cop shows up.  (Just how long was Harry waiting out there in the cold?)  Cybil gets out of the car, and oh my god what have I been doing?  She looks more like a pornographic parody of law enforcement than an actual police officer.  Get your mind out of the gutter, Harry.  Geez.
 
She takes me for a ride (in her car).  Stops to check the road.  Doesn't come back.
 
Well, this is awkward now, isn't it?  I climb into the front seat and get out.  Not quite ready for another tense session of running like hell, I decide to save and call it a night.
 
Creep Factor:  5/5 Sexy Policewomen
 

What Have I Learned?

In some ways, I learned the obvious.  Costume Quest is silly fun.  Silent Hill:  Shattered Memories is a high quality game that alternates between strange mind games and tense chase sequences.  (Also, sexy policewomen.)  Dead Rising 2 is comprised of killing zombies left and right and trying not to die in the process.  Cursed Mountain, while promising, doesn't quite have the polish to live up to its potential.
 
But to be honest, the most surprising game of the night was Calling.  It's not a high budget game, and the plot is told in an awkward fashion that contains some unintentional silliness.  I was also running around in that school hallway far longer than I really should have.  But it was tense, and it scared me.  Where Shattered Memories is an adrenaline-fueled mindfuck, Calling is a more traditional form of ghost story that would be familiar to anyone that's ever seen a movie like The Ring or Dark Water.  Also, it left a creepy picture on my Wii console's message board.  Yikes.
 
In short, despite the game's clunkiness, it's one I'll have to play more of later, along with Silent Hill, Dead Rising, and Costume Quest.
 
Whenever it is that I'll get enough time to play all of these games.
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Posted by iam3green

nice blog, i played left 4 dead 2 on Halloween. it was fun like i played the other times. for some reason there was a douche who played a trick on us. he was at the start complaining that he couldn't pick up a weapon. other people were doing our parts. hordes and hordes started coming he picked up the weapon made us die and left the game. i was kind of pissed off about that. 
 
i played a different level with a bunch of people that didn't know what they were doing. i kept on dieing. they kept on doing their own thing. there was one person still here and other people behind and me ahead.  i think there were noobs that had what i had in mind and play on halloween.

Posted by Hailinel
@iam3green:   Ouch.  Bad luck there.  Hopefully you have better luck most of the time you play it.
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Posted by Jasta

I'm glad someone put the Halloween theme to good use, I came in from work and fell asleep, what a waste! 


Posted by jonnyboy

The only non-Japanese game on here is a turn based RPG. Irony eh?

Posted by Shadow

I just spent most of the last 6 hours beating one of the 3 larger tournaments in the Mad Moxxie Borderlands DLC.  Now is THAT scary, or what?

Posted by Romination

I'm glad to see more praise for Shattered Memories. Great game, and I love Wii games getting praise usually saved for other consoles.

Posted by Hailinel
@jonnyboy said:
" The only non-Japanese game on here is a turn based RPG. Irony eh? "
Huh?  The only game on that list that was developed in Japan is Calling.
 
@Shadow said:
" I just spent most of the last 6 hours beating one of the 3 larger tournaments in the Mad Moxxie Borderlands DLC.  Now is THAT scary, or what? "

You masochist. :P
 
@Romination said:
" I'm glad to see more praise for Shattered Memories. Great game, and I love Wii games getting praise usually saved for other consoles. "

Yeah, Shattered Memories really surprised a lot of people.
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Posted by MooseyMcMan

I spent Halloween playing RDR: Undead Nightmare, Castlevania Lords of Shadow, and watching The Munsters on TV. Most Halloween-y Halloween I've had in years.  
 
Also, good post. 

Posted by Hailinel
@MooseyMcMan said:
" I spent Halloween playing RDR: Undead Nightmare, Castlevania Lords of Shadow, and watching The Munsters on TV. Most Halloween-y Halloween I've had in years.   Also, good post.  "
They still air The Munsters on TV?  Was this a special Halloween thing?
 
Also, thanks.
Online
Posted by Apathylad

This needs moar Fatal Frame 4 hax0rz tutorials! And I would play through the Penumbra games I bought yesterday but I'm scared that the games will scare me.  
 
The Calling looked fascinating to me. It doesn't look like a good "game", but it's unique enough that I'd consider playing it for a low price. 

Posted by Hailinel
@Apathylad said:
" This needs moar Fatal Frame 4 hax0rz tutorials! And I would play through the Penumbra games I bought yesterday but I'm scared that the games will scare me.   The Calling looked fascinating to me. It doesn't look like a good "game", but it's unique enough that I'd consider playing it for a low price.  "
I imagine that Calling would have to be available for cheap by now unless some bizarre sense of collectibility caused its price to go up.
 
I've heard a lot of good things about the Penumbra games, but I don't know if I could get through them.  Amnesia alone is terrifying, from everything I've seen and heard about it.
Online
Posted by Romination
@Hailinel: Surprises continue! Judging by reports from the not-always-trustworthy VGChartz, it sold more copies than Silent Hill Homecoming!
Posted by Hailinel
@Romination said:
" @Hailinel: Surprises continue! Judging by reports from the not-always-trustworthy VGChartz, it sold more copies than Silent Hill Homecoming! "
If that's true, my mind is officially blown.
Online
Posted by Make_Me_Mad

Good blog.  In recent years it's gotten so that the best part of playing horror games, to me, is actually just watching other people play them, or playing them with someone else in the room.  There's hardly anything better than having your friends scream their heads off while you battle ghosts via photography or run from a tiny demented guy with a pair of oversized scissors.

Posted by Hailinel
@Make_Me_Mad said:
" Good blog.  In recent years it's gotten so that the best part of playing horror games, to me, is actually just watching other people play them, or playing them with someone else in the room.  There's hardly anything better than having your friends scream their heads off while you battle ghosts via photography or run from a tiny demented guy with a pair of oversized scissors. "
I know that feeling.  As much as I like playing horror games, sometimes there's more entertainment in watching them.  I remember watching a roommate play through the original Fatal Frame and through Silent Hill 2 in a darkened room when I was in college.  Both games scared the absolute crap out of me.  It was pretty awesome.
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