The A is for AMERICA!....And Amnesia, I guess.

The suave, daring, unrivaled King of Video Games. He is on an EROTIC quest to see if lesbians indeed have the goods. BEWARE, the Moon.

I had a good introduction for this blog, but I forgot what it was. Instead, we'll just have to meand-OH, right! That thing about how I don't like survival horror games. Yea, about how only about twelve of them actually know how to craft a scary, well conceived atmosphere, and usually the remainder is just a mediocre action/adventure game that uses "it's supposed to be scary" as an excuse? Well, Amnesia isn't that. Like, at all. It's not even close. The developers of this game decided that they'd put some effort into making a scary yet believable world, and damn, did they succeed.(Now why did they have so much trouble with that when they were making Penumbra?)

Step one in crafting a believable world: making sure it looks pretty....sort of. Allow me to explain: from a technical side, it looks fantastic, the lighting being the strongest part. There's not a lot of it in the first place, so you bet they're going to make the little that's there look great. I don't even know how to describe it. Dank? Depressing? All around musty? That's the problem I encounter when describing this game: the world looks like shit. I want to compliment the game, but in doing so, I'd have to say how everything looks messy and generally unpopulated for some time. I'm quite aware that this is the point behind Amnesia, and that things are supposed to be gritty and all-around terrible, but it sure does make it hard to recommend the game without sounding like you're being an asshole about it. Rest assured, though, that I actually liked all the bad things I said about the game.

Damn it, Candle Jack! You're early! The 90s stuff is a couple of weeks from now!

So can you imagine how I'll feel about the good things I say about the game? The obvious answer is "good"; the less obvious answer is "sponge-worthy". Bonus points for the path less taken, because this is where I turn Amnesia into an episode of Seinfeld. Nothing really happens in Amnesia, and that's the strength behind the game: nothing. It may sound like a mind-screw, but just follow me on this one. You wander through the halls of Castle Brennenburg, just waiting for something, anything to happen, but the only thing that comes is nothing. With all this nothing bandying about, you're gonna pay really good attention to the somethings that happen...assuming something actually does happen. See, that's another good thing the game does: make you question the reality it presents. There's even a sanity meter dedicated to it, making things more and more surreal the longer you stay in the darkness. (More on the darkness later, though.) What does that mean, though? Well, if you don't want the entire fucking premise of the game ruined for you, busy yourself with a rapping Nanako while I say that the sanity feature just makes the walls squishy and sometimes hurts you for no real reason. That's it.

Wait, that's not it. I forgot to tell you about the Shadow following you throughout the game. Or maybe it's a Brute? I'm not sure, as the game isn't terribly clear on what the hell's tormenting you. I'd say that's a strength, and while it certainly is, there are better reasons why this guy is so damn scary. Simply looking at the monster, for instance, will summon its wrath, probably because he's completely butt-ass naked. The best part about the monsters in Amnesia: you can't fight back against him. If he sees you, you only have two options: die or pump up the Convoy for the enormous amounts of ass you're gonna have to haul. That's what makes him so scary. If you could defend yourself against him, then you'd defend yourself against him, reducing him to a regular annoyance rather than something to be feared.

NOT YOU, TOO, 2008 PRINCE OF PERSIA! HAVE YOU NO SHAME, SHADOW!?

Unfortunately, this brings us to a part of the game that feels an odd fit here: the actual game parts. I call it an odd fit for two reasons: the developers tell you upfront that this game isn't supposed to be fun, and there's not a lot to this outside the narrative in the first place. In fact, I can really only name three gameplay features: adventuring, lighting, and sanity...ing. I've already mentioned the sanity, so let's move on to the lighting, because I'm certain that requires some explaining. Remember that sanity feature? Well, light makes you more sane. Of course, solving puzzles also makes you more sane, so really, there's no reason to use your lantern and tinderboxes throughout the game. You can just bump your way through the dark with a decent amount of success. This isn't even a case of me bumping up the brightness to spite the game design; I put it at the recommended level, and I still cloaked myself in darkness with ease, amassing a stockpile of matches that would put an amateur pyromaniac to shame. I'd say that a lot of the game's tension disappears when darkness ceases to be terrifying, but given everything else I've said about the fear, it really is a testament to the game's quality that it can be scary without being dark.

Although that's not to say the game isn't dark.The st-wait, I forgot about the adventure game mechanics. You know, all that business about mashing a fish into a piece of wood until that solves a puzzle. That sentence right there is why I'm not an Amnesia designer: the puzzles there actually make some sense. Granted, they're less compelling and more an occupation of time, but everything's structurally sound. You won't pick up items until you've encountered a problem they can solve, and all the puzzles have an understandable logic to them. Also, ham. On the other hand, though, a lot of the game's challenge comes from poorly designed environments where I have no idea where I'm going. No, this has nothing to do with lighting, and more to do with how everything looks incredibly similar. I get it, Amnesia people: you want to make things feel desperate and scary, but this isn't the way to go about it. Having me wander around, wondering how to progress the story is ju-

RIGHT! The story! How could I forget about this? I mean, there are even a couple of PDF short stories included with the damn game. How much more focused on story could you be? And how much more repetitive can I sound, because I feel that whatever good things I say about the story are things I've said everywhere else. For instance, it's psychotic. You're just walking along your merry path, when suddenly, you get assaulted with the terrified screams of a lone mother or something like that, slowly being tortured by your past self. It only gets worse and worse over time, the terror growing greater, as does your hope that somehow, at some time, the protagonist redeems himself somehow. That's what he's doing, right? He's trying to take down some dude named Alexander because the main character's an incredibly naive prick, right? Well, anyway, you keep wandering through, hoping that the protagonist gets what he wants in the end, but he doesn't. It never happens. You're still an asshole (especially when you consider that the flashback storytelling means you're pretty much repeating all the assholeish things you've done before), and the world still sucks because of it. I guess my only complaint is....nah. Let's end on a positive note this time. The game certainly doesn't.

Review Synopsis

  • A game so dark that I can't even joke about it...anymore.
  • Hooray for a game that understands how fear works!
  • I'm willing to overlook the impressionless gameplay because of it.

I can't tell if this is scarier than the source material or if it's more delightful.

Why am I thinking of You're the Best (Around)? (No, that's not a link to the song.) I have at least some idea why: the "history repeats itself" line. Remember my Penumbra blog? Remember the second game there? Well, it's the same here (right down to this fucking "Remember X" bit on a patriotic American holiday), except for one key detail: I don't like Splatterhouse 2. It's not the best around and I'm gonna keep it down.

Well, except when it comes to the story, because that's harder to keep down. I mean, there's not a lot to keep down in the first place. Rick (I had to look up his name because it's never used once in the game) has to rescue his squeaky, tinny-voiced girlfriend from hell demons. Not the most compelling narrative in the world, and not the tightest, either (why are the demons capturing Jennifer in the first place?), but whatever. It works for the purposes of the game, those purposes being "combine brutal horror with some awesome moments". OK, you're not going to be scared, but you have to appreciate how far the developers go toward making things look like shit. I don't know how to explain it properly, so let's just leave it at "I really liked the icky horror movie portions". Yet even if that's not enough for you, there are always the brief cinematic portions throughout the game to keep you entertained.

Don't do it, man! It's a trap! A very poorly hidden trap!

Now I just wish the actual game could keep me entertained like the squid boat fights and hanging demon fetuses. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm probably being dishonest by calling this a game. What game is there here? You walk forward, punch things, sometimes press a jump button, and then continue for too long. Yea, there's something fun about brutally smacking fuckers about with your raw power, but you can only carry that so far, game. Normally, eight levels would be a healthy length for a game, but for something this shallow, it's just grotesquely obese......You know what I meant, damn it. What else do you have? Level variety? Given your "walking straight right" philosophy, this doesn't amount to much; merely changing up when you jump. What else? Weapons? That might actually work, at least on a superficial level. Sure, it changes nothing about the actual gameplay, but for whatever reason, it's more fun clubbing a guy to death than it is to punch them. The problem, though, is that the weapons that are in the game don't have much of a presence. The final boss notwithstanding, weapons in general seem to disappear after the first couple of levels, making you wonder why they were included in the first pla-

BOSSES! That's Splatterhouse's saving grace: the bosses. They're where the game shines. You get the cinematic beauty and disgusting visual design I described earlier, but not the brutish gameplay I described earlierer. Here, you actually have to pay attention to enemy patterns and devise a plan of attack, almost like you were playing a game of some type. The only problem I can think of is that you're a lumbering mess of a character who takes up half the screen, thus giving the enemy an unfair advantage in hitting you, but given how the bosses are the best thing going for the game, I'm willing to overlook such a blemish. What I'm not willing to overlook is everything else wrong with the game. Splatterhouse, why did you decide to focus so damn much on your story? Yes, it's enjoyable, but not enjoyable enough to mask everything else that's wrong with you, like the lack of variety and overly simplistic gameplay.....no pun intended.

Review Synopsis

  • It's like I'm playing a cheesy horror movie!
  • But only barely.
  • Cool bosses, though.
22 Comments
22 Comments
Posted by Claude

I bought Amnesia and for some reason, I can't bring myself to finish it. Hell, I've barely even scratched the surface of it. I think I know why. The mouse and keyboard have lost favor with me. I want all my pc games to have controller support.

Posted by cloudnineboya

i have never commented on your blogs before for the games you talk about don't interest me, but they are well written and enjoyable to read you are spot on about amnesia it was the first horror game i played on pc and have not come across a better one yet. totally correct about not having a clue where to go next but i think that adds to the crazzy.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@claude:

But it's a first person game; those are meant for mouse and keyboard.

Edited by CaLe

Amnesia isn't just a game that scared me, it's also the game that made me realize that I love the feeling of being scared. I had played the Penumbra games before and they brought me close to fear, but not to the same degree Amnesia did. In some ways I'm glad there are so few games capable of arousing that fear because I imagine it's a feeling that becomes numbed the more you experience it, like everything else really. To some extent you also have to meet the game half-way when it comes to this stuff because so much of it is the atmosphere and the build-up to those big moments. If someone plays it during the day, curtains open, music playing in the background, there's no way it's gonna have the same impact. You have to want the experience to get it. I suppose this too can be said for most things, but I feel there are probably fewer people who purposely seek fear over other emotions.

Edited by Video_Game_King

@cale said:

In some ways I'm glad there are so few games capable of arousing that fear because I imagine it's a feeling that becomes numbed the more you experience it, like everything else really.

I'd say it's more because a lot of games simply don't know how to be scary. The only one I can name that even came close to the level of fear that Amnesia has is Clock Tower (the original one, not the crappy PS1 sequel), and now that I think about it, they share a lot in common: a large mansion with a single scary monster roaming around, no combat, confusing environments (which I seem to be more willing to integrate into the experience now), ham. I'd go so far as to say that no combat is a requirement for a good survival horror game. Otherwise, the focus is going to shift toward the clunkiest action adventure game imaginable.

If someone plays it during the day, curtains open, music playing in the background, there's no way it's gonna have the same impact. You have to want the experience to get it.

Uh, that's actually how I played Amnesia, to some extent (without the music, of course; that's just dumb), and, well, I still liked it.

Edited by Mento

Yup, Amnesia. It's a shame when you can brace yourself from the darkness/insanity scares 'cause darting out from light source to light source was the best part of that game. I didn't care so much for when actual monsters started showing up (well, besides that awesome invisible fish thing), since the game's metaphysical antagonist was a much cooler idea: that you'd be in greater physical danger the more scared you were, and how it naturally followed that you'd get more scared the more danger you were in. It was nice of the game to break up the scary monster-infested areas with a few pleasant and well lit puzzle rooms (I'm thinking specifically of that area before the lift with all the gears and such) but I wonder what the goal of those rooms were considering how much of the rest of the game is focused on trying to make you have a dark descent in your pantaloons. Maybe temporarily reprieving you of the horror made it all seem fresh again when it came back? It's well-paced, whatever the case.

Splatterhouse I'm less familiar with. Does this mean you've just got the third one left to go? Apparently it was so violent it never saw a European release. Or maybe it just wasn't very good. Can't say that series has ever appealed to me.

Moderator
Posted by Video_Game_King

@mento said:

Splatterhouse I'm less familiar with. Does this mean you've just got the third one left to go?

Pretty much, but what to pair it with? Is A Machine for Pigs on the horizon any time soon?

Posted by Claude

@claude:

But it's a first person game; those are meant for mouse and keyboard.

It sucks that Giant Bomb is broken when it comes to letting me know when someone is talking to me. I might decide to let go the yearly membership. But the fuck they care...right? I'm small potatoes when it comes to the CBSi pie.

To answer your question. Fuck no. I love playing FPS games on my PC with a controller. For fucks sake, it's 2013, get the fuck over yourselves and give me my wants. I'm not playing some over the top hard motherfucking core competitive shooter online. I'm a casual gamer, wanting his PC to play on his TV with his controller. I'm looking for fun. For my immersion. Simple really.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@claude:

I was arguing more from a position of precision and just feeling natural. For instance, I didn't get why mouse/keyboard controls were all the rage until Half-Life 2 on the PC came along. You can never go back after something like that.

Posted by Claude

@claude:

I was arguing more from a position of precision and just feeling natural. For instance, I didn't get why mouse/keyboard controls were all the rage until Half-Life 2 on the PC came along. You can never go back after something like that.

That's bullshit. I was thinking the other day how Half-Life 2 would be cool to play again with analog controls. I've played that game at least 4 times to finish. I have never really felt comfortable with mouse and keyboard. I deal with it of course. I like games like Civ, Anno, and a few other games of that nature, but there again, Dawn of Discovery played great on the Wii. Cool game by the way.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Not really. Just pointing to where you want to look feels so much more natural than moving the stick in that direction. More direct; clearer feedback and whatnot.

Orange Box, dude. And the Xbox version. And just plugging in a gamepad.

I have not played that game, but feel like I should. (I also feel like "Crystal Chronicles" is somewhere in the title.)

Posted by stubbleman

So have you played Haunting Ground or ObsCure before? Because those are two of the first horror games I think of for not-clunky controls, though they do both have combat in them. I'm curious where they would rate on your not scary scale I guess. I still found them really scary and really fun at the same time.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@stubbleman:

I feel like I've heard of them (Haunting Ground is the PS2 successor to Clock Tower (or was that Rule of Rose?), Obscure's just some Wii game based on....something), but have yet to actually play them.

Edited by Mento

Nah, Dawn of Discovery was what Anno 1404 was called in the States. Claude's love of that historical building sim is well documented. By Claude.

I've kind of grown out of keyboard controls because it's less conducive to longer sessions of gaming. I feel there's a distant signpost with "genetically-predisposed rheumatoid arthritis" written on it that is being dug up and replanted closer and closer to my present location whenever I come off of an hours-long keyboard-based gaming session and my little finger feels all messed up.

Moderator
Posted by Claude

@video_game_king:

Poor translation to the consoles. Looking more toward gamepad support for the PC versions. It might be there my now, should check it out. Fuck the consoles in that department.

I love analog. Sorry. So shoot me.

Dawn of Discovery on the Wii is grand. Just an inch of salt, water and grain and it would have filled the field green with envy.

Posted by Yummylee

@stubbleman: Huh, I've recently been considering in giving Haunting Ground a look see after playing Clock Tower 3. Problem is it's always being sold for what I would consider to be too expensive for a so-many-years-old PS2 game. Usually at around £12-£15 mind, so it's not some triple digit nonsense number like you'd find on Ebay for certain classics, but still a bit pricey all the same. Especially since Clock Tower 3 was about £4 at that.

Posted by believer258

@claude said:

@video_game_king:

Poor translation to the consoles. Looking more toward gamepad support for the PC versions. It might be there my now, should check it out. Fuck the consoles in that department.

I love analog. Sorry. So shoot me.

Dawn of Discovery on the Wii is grand. Just an inch of salt, water and grain and it would have filled the field green with envy.


How was it poor? I played the Orange Box on 360 several times and it's a fine way to play the game if you don't have a PC or just prefer controller support. The only difference, from what I remember, is the framerate, which the console versions have locked at a rock-solid 30.

But if you must play the PC version with a controller, then click this link. Also,

@claude said:

@video_game_king said:

@claude:

But it's a first person game; those are meant for mouse and keyboard.

It sucks that Giant Bomb is broken when it comes to letting me know when someone is talking to me. I might decide to let go the yearly membership. But the fuck they care...right? I'm small potatoes when it comes to the CBSi pie.

Notifications were turned off for everybody when they messed up last week; you can go into settings and turn them back on.

Posted by Ravenlight
Posted by stubbleman

@yummylee: Yeah. It's probably more expensive because it's a much more recent game, and it's a much better game, in my opinion anyway. The story, graphics and gameplay are all simillar, just better done on the whole. I wouldn't say it's the best horror game of all time or anything, but it's definitely one of my favorites.

Posted by Slag

@video_game_king

I suspected that Splatterhouse might have been bad. Sounds like you think it is.

That is a series I've always meant to play out of curiosity. I remember the ad campaign for 1, ads were everywhere game was heavily promoted. I think there was even tv ads, which made local news stories about violent games being promoted to kids. It felt like their ad budget was nearly on par with a Sonic or Mario game. But 2 wasn't hyped at all, and it kind of disappeared out of public view after that which made me the ink the series failed.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@slag:

Apparently, not enough to kill the chance of getting a sequel years later which I think got some positive reception? Nothing notable; just people saying, "Yea, that looks alright".

Posted by Slag

@video_game_king:

yeah clearly not a total failure, but I bet it didn't do what they were expecting.

when people talk about mid-tier or "aa" console games or whatever you want to call them, games like Splatterhouse is what I think of. Start out with bigger aspirations but end up middle of the pack in terms of budget, critical acclaim and sales.